Thursday, November 26, 2015

Game Preview: Wichita State

Following a disappointing showing against Xavier, the Alabama men's basketball team will attempt to bounce back in Orlando against yet another quality foe in Wichita State. Obviously there will be plenty of talk about Alabama's courtship of Gregg Marshall before turning to Avery Johnson. But I believe the more important discussion is why Alabama has looked seemingly so clueless in two games against quality competition so far. The next couple of days are important for this Alabama team. Alabama has looked, more or less, pitiful against quality competition so far. Did I expect them to win at Dayton or on a neutral floor against Xavier? No. I did expect them to be more competitive, and not lose both games by a combined 51 points! This team has some holes, no doubt about it, but I believe they're better than what we've seen. In my humble opinion, the problem is Avery is asking this team to play a brand of basketball it's simply not capable of playing; and by doing so he's giving them no chance to compete against better teams. I'm all for him recruiting players for the brand of basketball he wants to play and playing that style. But, as the head coach, he owes it to the current players to game plan in a way that allows them the best chance to win. This team isn't capable of consistently shooting the ball well so I fail to understand the logic in playing fast and creating more possessions for the opposing team, particularly when this Alabama team is far from lockdown on the defensive end (Xavier's second half numbers - 56% FG, 45% 3pt% - along with the 19 free throw attempts in the 1st half when Alabama had a chance to build a sizable lead due to Xavier's poor shooting).  Playing fast is great in theory, but in both the Dayton and Xavier games, when adjustments were made on the defensive end by those teams, Alabama did not respond well. It's only four games in, but the playing fast for the sake of playing fast needs to be shelved until Avery has players with a better skill set to play that way. Otherwise blowout defeats are going to be the rule, not the exception, and this team is going to be lucky to finish .500. Who cares how pretty or "fun" it is if the end result (losses) is the same as it was under Grant?

Wichita State enters this game following a loss to USC on Thursday. Wichita is ranked 20th in the AP poll, but will likely exit the next poll as they currently sit at 2-2. The Shockers are vulnerable right now as Fred Van Vleet, their starting point guard, and arguably their best overall player, is sitting out with a hamstring injury. Nevertheless, they're still a veteran, well-coached team with a fanbase that travels, and there will be pressure for them to bounce back and finish strong this weekend. For all intents and purposes, tomorrow will be like a true road game environment for Alabama as the Shocker fans will easily outnumber the Crimson Tide supporters in attendance. This Bama team showed an ability to bounce back following the loss at Dayton. Let's hope they can do it again. 

Wichita State

68.8 PPG 75.0
75.2 OPP 66.5
.417 FG% .401
.417 OPP .422
.322 3PT% .313
.378 OPP .388
.629 FT% .745
.670 OPP .656
33.8 RPG .398
44.0 OPP 35.0
15.3 TOPG 11.5
16.8 OPP 16.3

Ron Baker has been forced to take up the slack while Van Vleet sits out. He's responded by averaging 21.5 ppg, 4.3 rpg, 3.3 apg and has knocked down 43% of his 3 point shots. Alabama must limit his production tomorrow.  The other double figure scorer for Wichita State is Anton Grady. He's averaging 10.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg, and 1.0 bpg. In total, Wichita State has seven players that are averaging 5 points or higher so there is balance on the offensive end. As of now, Van Vleet is expected to miss all three games in Orlando. His backup, Landry Shamet, also sat out the USC game. His status for the remainder of the event is unknown. In their place, Wichita has been playing Baker and Ty Taylor II, a freshman, at the point. Alabama needs to exploit Wichita's weakness and inexperience at that position. Forcing turnovers while not allowing Wichita State to control the pace of the game will be imperative for Alabama. Post scoring has also been an issue for Alabama. It would be nice to see more touches for Jimmie (only 4.25 field goal attempts per game so far) and Mike (2.25 field goal attempts per game, despite the fact that Mike has converted 88% of his field goals). 

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