Following a tough 72-77 loss on Tuesday to Dayton, Alabama will look to bounce back on Friday night vs the Ball State Cardinals in the final campus game of the MGM Main Event. Ball State has already knocked off Saint Louis, one of the host schools in the event. With a non-conference schedule that is only going to get tougher moving forward, Alabama needs a bounce-back win on its home floor.
Alabama Ball State
My Two Cents: Like Coastal Carolina, Ball State is a under-the-radar mid-major that has the goods to come into Tuscaloosa and compete with our guys. They won 21 games a season ago, and they opened this season with a 21-point win at Saint Louis, one of the host schools in this event. Through two games, their 3-point shooting (42.5%) and rebounding (42 per game) numbers look good, which are two areas that Alabama has struggled with in the first two games. The 3-point defense in particular needs to be strong in this game or our guys are in for another 40 minute game.
The first two games have shown that the offensive troubles for Bama of the last few seasons are not yet a thing of the past. As DJC pointed out in his always-great recap, this roster seemingly lacks a guy like a Retin Obasohan that can create a shot opportunity for himself and others. With a lack of guys in the post that can generate consistent offense, it's going to fall on the guards/wings to make this offense go. That means the tentativeness to shoot the ball that our guys showed in the 2nd half vs Dayton cannot be a factor going forward. Avery allows his team freedom in the offense if they get good, open shot attempts. Even if these shots aren't falling, our guys have to keep shooting. Once the team lost confidence in its shooting, the offense became noticeably stagnant as none of the ball-handlers could or would penetrate the Dayton defense.
Players to Watch: Braxton Key has been ahead of schedule so far in his freshman season, averaging 10.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg, and 2.0 apg. With Avery and the staff still trying to nail down a rotation, Braxton has put himself in position to play more minutes, maybe even start when the game tips off Friday.
Through two games, Ball State has two 20+ point scorers in Tayler Persons (23.5) and Franko House (22.0). House is also averaging 10 rebounds per game so far. To say that Alabama needs to contain these two guys is an understatement.
Prediction: Avery mentioned in his press conference that he held Dazon, Riley and Corban out of practice on Wednesday because they needed to "recover". It's early in the season so this team should be fresh, but that's something to watch on Friday. If our guys come out with tired legs, it could lead to a slow start and the last thing we want to see on Friday, a grinder. I like this team, I expect them to improve as the season progresses. I think they bring their defense and bounce back Friday night. Alabama - 79 - Ball State - 68