Thursday, March 30, 2017

Anthony Grant rumored for the Dayton job

Actually looks like it's about to be official. It's a good hire for Dayton and IMO Grant is probably best in the mid-major role.

Grant frontrunner for Dayton job

Regardless of what he did (or didn't do) here I wish him the best if he is in fact the next Dayton HC.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Schedule rumor: Alabama will open 17-18 season vs Memphis

Speaking with local media today, Memphis head coach Tubby Smith mentioned that his team will face Alabama in a neutral site game at the Naval Academy. Tubby did not confirm, but the location of the game suggests the two teams will take part in the Veterans Classic. This event has been in place for three seasons with one team squaring off against Navy, with an additional game. This past season, Vanderbilt faced Marquette in the event. It's been a season-opening event in its three seasons so it would appear that Alabama will open the 17-18 season vs Memphis.

Tubby Smith just finished his first season in Memphis. The program is rebuilding. The Tigers finished with a 19-13 record, and no postseason. Attrition is expected so it's hard to project what Memphis will look like next season. Nevertheless, Memphis is an established program, and Tubby has won every place he's been (and he's been to many places at this point) so this would be a solid opener for our guys.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Nick King and Brandon Austin to transfer

I wish them both the best of luck.  This leaves us with one open scholarship for an incoming transfer. I hope we can find another Bola out there somewhere.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

2017 End of Season Recap and State of the Program Manifesto

This year's team over achieved in some ways, but disappointed in others.  In the end, the overall results were about where most reasonable people would expect for this squad.  Solidly in the NIT, but not a serious contender for the NCAA tournament.

There was reason for excitement heading into Coach Johnson's second year.  Most of last year's team returned and we added Braxton Key and a presumably healthy Dazon Ingram among others.  We added depth with guys like Bola, Corban, and Davis.  There were also a lot of questions marks, the biggest of which was could we replace Retin Obasohan as our leader and go-to scoring option?

Key tried to take over that role as the go-to scorer, and did well at times, but that is not really the role best suited for his skill set.  Dazon proved to be a solid point guard and improved throughout the year, and Corban provided vocal leadership and had a few great games, but we obviously missed Retin's production.  I was hoping Shannon Hale would step up and have a big senior year, but instead he regressed even further before finally getting suspended and essentially booted from the team.  Nick King was rumored to be very good in practice last year, but we still don't know what he can provide since he was out most of the season with a lung infection.

With Donta Hall's continued development, Jimmie's experience as a senior, and the addition of Bola, we had some nice depth in the post.  Coach Johnson saw the potential and emphasized rebounding early on.  This team struggled with shooting, passing, and handling the basketball, so defense and rebounding had to carry the day.  I give credit to the coaching staff for recognizing their strengths and weaknesses, and to the players for working hard to develop their identity.

It took a while for things to come together.  The pre-conference schedule was a disaster.  We seemed to try endless substitution patterns and lineups in an attempt to find some chemistry.  The tournament in Vegas was an embarrassment, and we were lucky to beat St. Louis.  After the Clemson debacle in Birmingham; I didn't think we would finish in the top half of the SEC.

We managed to finish 5th in the SEC, but admittedly part of that was due to scheduling.  We played bottom feeders Mizzou, Mississippi $tate, LSU, and auburn twice each.  Still, we had some nice wins including beating South Carolina on the road and knocking off NCAA tournament participant Vandy at home.  We even briefly got into the bubble discussion for the second year in a row, but losses to Georgia, Texas A&M, and Tennessee down the stretch did us in.

The team played it's best basketball of the season in the SEC tournament, cruising past Mississippi $tate for the 3rd time in the season and defeating sweet 16 participant South Carolina a second time before coming up short in a competitive game against Kentucky.  Unfortunately, the team did not bounce back well from that loss and looked out of sorts, going out quietly in the first round of the NIT.

In conclusion, it was an up down year with some notable high points including two wins over South Carolina, but with a disappointing end to the regular season and some bad losses, including two to auburn.

State of the Program

The Coach Johnson hire was seen as "high risk/high reward," by many, due to his inexperience at the college level.  After two seasons, the jury is still out, but at this point he still deserves the support of the fan base.  I will remain "buckled up," for now.  

The biggest concern was whether or not he would be able to recruit.  Dazon and Key have already proven to be more than capable SEC players, but Collin Sexton and John Petty highlight the most anticipated and highly rated incoming recruiting class in decades.  With a full roster of capable guys and presumably more scoring options, it will be interesting to see if the team's identity changes a bit next year to the more up-tempo style Coach Johnson has talked about implementing since his arrival.  
Next season is a pivotal year for Coach Johnson.  He's done an outstanding job of promoting the program on a national level and trying to generate more fan interest.  To the extent any of that has paid off; I don't think it's sustainable if we miss the NCAA tournament again after three years.  Next year's team is no lock to make the tournament at this point; we will be relying heavily on freshman and a lot will depend on how quickly they can adapt to the speed of the college game.  It's imperative that this staff finds a way to get everyone on the same page sooner rather than later so we aren't playing behind the 8 ball when conference season starts.  

My only somewhat major concerns are that we haven't dealt well with pressure situations the last two years.  In both of the last two seasons, we immediately had some bad games after hearing our name in the tournament conversation.  We need to win some meaningful big games at home and play better under pressure to keep the program's momentum moving in the right direction.  

I'm hopeful the addition of Collin Sexton will be a game changer.  If you've watched any of his clips; he appears to be an aggressive, explosive scorer from anywhere on the court.  He's also not the least bit shy about talking trash, to anyone, including opposing coaches and fans.  This may rub people the wrong way, and obviously he'll have to contain some of that, but I think a little bit of a cocky attitude can be a good thing.  I love our team, but we always seem to have a bunch of nice guys, and I think you need an alpha dog or two who can get under your opponent's skin when the chips are down.  

I'm excited about the future.  If anybody has any ideas for things you would like to see here on the blog in the future, please let me know.  I enjoyed seeing Bobbyjack in Vegas and Oregon this year, and catching a couple of games with MSmilie in Texas, even if our combined records were not that great.  Thanks to everyone for reading and contributing in the comments, and I look forward to seeing you all again next season.  

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Arachnids Abolish Alabama, Richmond 71 Bama 64

The roller coaster season came to an end in the first round of the NIT as Bama had no answer for the Spiders' offense.

Donta, Jimmie, and Key all did a fairly good job on Cline for most of the first half.  He only had 2 points and 2 fouls in the first half.  Unfortunately, he is a great passer, and  was able to get his shooters some open looks in their hybrid Princeton offense.  Jones and Buckingham really made us pay from the 3 point line.

When we went smaller, playing Bola at the center trying to match their quickness, we went on a 12-0 at the end of the first half and start of the second half to briefly take the lead.  Give credit to Richmond for making the counter-adjustment, and using Cline more in the post.  Personally, I think staying with the smaller lineup as long as we did was a mistake.  We were trying to play their style of game and could not match their quickness or chemistry.  Cline ended up with 15 points and at least half of those were with Corban or Riley trying to guard him one on one in the post in the low block.  To go small against a skilled big man like that you either need to play zone defense or front him to prevent him from getting the ball, and/or double-team him when he gets the ball in the post.   We did neither.  In fairness, given the way they were shooting the ball, I understand being reluctant to play zone, but I think a matchup zone would have been worth trying, at least.

Offensively, we failed to take advantage of our size advantage.  We passed up too many shots and made too many bad passes, resulting in 16 turnovers.  Richmond's help side defense was great, and they really hindered our ability to score in the paint.  I thought we should have posted up Key and Ingram more as they had a nice size advantage on their defender, even though neither is particularly comfortable playing with their backs to the basket.

Corban gave it all he had and ended up with 19 points.  He was inconsistent over the course of the year, but nobody could question his effort and leadership.  He was the last one to walk off the floor and looked totally devasted; I felt awful for him.  Dazon had a solid game with 11 points and I thought Donta had a nice overall game with 9 points.  Key had one of his worst games of the year.  His shot selection was terrible, he had 5 turnovers, many of them unforced, and looked unfocused at times.  AJ, Riley, and Bola all played with great effort despite not putting up the best numbers.

I liked the experimental rules and hope they adapt something similar full time.  The game had a better flow, even if the tempo did not work to our advantage.  There were much fewer free throws shot as a result, and of course this would be the one game we somehow go 7 of 7 at the line.  

The official attendance was 4,041, about a thousand less than I would have guessed.  The general admission gets everyone closer to the floor and creates a louder environment, though I felt the crowd was more subdued than in some past NIT games we've hosted.  I was fortunate to get great floor seats, and it's amazing how much faster the game moves from that perspective.  I could sense Coach Johnson was frustrated throughout the game, he spent almost the entire time trying direct the guys on where to go offensively, and it just seemed like he was never able to get everyone on the same page.

Up next, the off season, and I will turn my sports attention primarily to baseball over the next few months.  At some point next week, after I return from watching the WORLD CHAMPION CHICAGO CUBS in Arizona this weekend, I will post my annual "End of the season recap and state of the progam manifesto" before disappearing for a while.  Until then, enjoy the tournament and good luck on your brackets!

Monday, March 13, 2017

Game Preview - Richmond [NIT 1st Round]

Alabama has been selected to participate in the NIT for the third straight season. This also marks the sixth time in ten seasons that the Alabama program has participated in a national postseason tournament. The Tide are a 3 seed in the "Iowa Quadrant". You can find the full bracket here. Their first round opponent on Tuesday are the Richmond Spiders from the Atlantic 10 conference. Richmond finished the season with a 20-12 overall record, and a 13-5 conference record. Game time is 8:15 PM CT. The game will be televised on ESPN2, but I encourage all those in the Tuscaloosa area to attend the game. Tickets are only 10 bucks, and it's general admission seating. If you're a student, the first 500 students will be admitted for free (it should be all students get in free, but whatever).


68.7 PPG 74.1

64.5 OPP 71.5

42.4 FG% 46.6

40.1 OPP 44

48.3 EFG% 53.5

45.7 OPP 49.6

31.8 3PT% 34.2

33.2 OPP 31.6

65 FT% 71.2

67 OPP 72.3

39.9 FTRATE 32.1

40.5 OPP 36

39.2 RPG 31.2

33.6 OPP 36.7

34.1 OREB% 20.9

26.8 OPP 30.3

13.9 TOPG 11.7

13.6 OPP 14.2

20.3 TO% 16.5

19.8 OPP 20.2

54 KenPom Ranking 90

My Two Cents: After a season of ups and downs, this Alabama team finally seemed to turn a corner in Nashville last week. Can they maintain that level of play in the NIT? If so, this team can win multiple games in this tournament. Richmond should be a good first test. I haven't had an opportunity to watch this Richmond team, but the Spiders have typically been a well-coached team from an underrated conference in the A-10. Head Coach Chris Mooney played for Pete Carril at Princeton, incorporating aspects of the famed "Princeton offense"  (a disciplined style of play that emphasizes constant motion and passing, picks, and back-door cuts) at Air Force and now at Richmond. Unlike those great Princeton teams under Carril, Mooney's teams play at a much faster tempo (this team is ranked just outside the top 100 of adjusted tempo at KenPom; Alabama by comparison is ranked 301). High tempo teams have been an issue for this Alabama team. With such a short turnaround, it will be a tough match-up to prepare for. Avery Johnson has mentioned in his press conferences that his team is ready to play more basketball. That's good. The mental hurdle of the disappointment of missing the NCAA Tournament is always the first step to competing in this tournament. It will take a focused effort for Alabama to win this game and advance.

Players to Watch: Dazon Ingram had a great SEC Tournament, finishing with averages of 13.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.3 apg, and only 1.3 turnovers per game (he did not turn the ball over in Alabama's two wins in the tournament). I think we all agree that Dazon has the potential to be a special player if he ever puts it all together. There were sustained glimpses of that last week. Let's hope there is more to come. I also want to give props to Riley Norris who also had a nice week in Nashville, averaging 9.6 ppg and 6 rpg. We know that Riley does a lot of little things to help this team win, but when he's making shots, this Alabama team becomes a very capable offensive unit.

T.J. Cline is going to be a problem. The 6'9, 230 lb senior has an impressive stat line: 18 ppg (51% FG), 7.8 rpg, and leads the team with 5.6 apg. And if Cline isn't intimidating enough on paper, ShawnDre' Jones adds 16.8 ppg, 3.9 apg and makes just under 40% of his 3-point attempts. Limiting those two guys is a priority to say the least.

Prediction: I always like teams that enter the postseason playing at a high level, and Alabama certainly appears to be playing their best basketball of the season coming into this tournament. That said, I like what Richmond has on paper, and the Spiders did have a 5-game win streak before losing an OT game to VCU in the A-10 semifinals. While Richmond's tempo could be a problem, I think our defense and rebounding could be the difference. Alabama could have a battle on their hands here, but I'm going to stick with the good guys to continue their improved play. Alabama - 69 - Richmond - 61

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Alabama selected for third straight NIT appearance.

We are the 3 seed in the Iowa quadrant, which means we will host the Richmond Spiders at 8:15 pm Tuesday night.  The game will be televised on ESPN2.  I haven't heard anything official yet, but I assume tickets will be general admission with the exception of the folks on the floor who will have first dibs at their regular seats as they have done in the past.

If we win Tuesday night we are looking at a possible rematch against Clemson if they can get by Oakland.  Also, keep in mind the experimental rules will be in effect, including re-setting team fouls at the 10 minute mark, and a 20 second shot clock when the ball is in-bounded in the front court.

I know we all wanted to get into the big show, but this is a good tournament with a lot of quality teams and a chance to gain valuable experience for our young team.  I would love to see this team make a run and keep playing as long as they can.

Cats Slap Tide, Kentucky 79 Alabama 74

Sometimes your best just isn't good enough.  Alabama played as hard and as well as could reasonably be expected, but Kentucky was just too good.

We had another great defensive performance to start the game.  The zone was very effective and we managed to rebound well out of it.  We jumped out to a 9-2 lead and even had a 10 point lead before the dreaded but predictable 4 minute scoring drought erased that.  The team showed a lot of poise when UK took a 7 point lead in the first half with their crowd into the game.  We battled back and got into the locker room trailing by only 1.

I agree with MSmilie's comment about there being two key plays to the game.  We played solid defense for 29.5 seconds but then fouled a jump shooter for an "and one" that sparked a UK run.  We battled back from that, but free throw shooting bit us again.  While we were a respectable 15 of 20 from the line, we missed some big ones down the stretch.  Trailing 64 to 61 with just under 4 minutes left, the Cats foolishly fouled Key as he put up a desperation 3 with the shot clock expiring.  With a chance to tie the game, Key made only 1 out of the 3, and Kentucky got a 3 point play at the other end.  The next possession Riley got to the line but only made one out of two, so it remained a two possession game, and then Fox took over and that was that.

Dazon had a great game scoring 17 points before fouling out.  Corban gave us a solid 15 minutes.  Key was in double digits with 11 points but he didn't have one of his better games.  We had a nice balanced attack with 7 guys scoring 7 or more points.  I was a little surprised Lawson Schaffer got into the game late ahead of Brandon Austin when Dazon fouled out.  I question why Davis did not get into the game at the very end, and I also didn't like our strategy the final minute. We were content to take the quick 2 and hope UK would miss free throws when I think we should have taken our chances with some 3s at some point.

The arena was packed and was over 90% Kentucky fans.  Even sitting in the Alabama section we were outnumbered, but the 700 or so Bama fans there did our best to be heard.  The UK fans around us were knowledgeable and classy as usual, and they were very complimentary of our team.  Thanks again to my friend for hooking me up with an awesome ticket for face value.

Up next, it's selection Sunday.  Though we won't be invited to the big dance, we are likely headed to the NIT.  I am hoping for a 3 seed and hosting the first round.  The NIT selection show will air at 7:30 pm on ESPNU.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Bama Beats Cocks, Alabama 64 South Carolina 53

Alabama advances to the semi finals of the SEC tournament after upsetting the Gamecocks for the second time this year.

Due to time constraints, another rapid-fire recap:

-Once again we had a great defensive effort to start a game, but failed to take advantage of it.  We held them scoreless for the first 4+ minutes, but only led 2-0.  

-The team showed a lot of fight and poise by not relinquishing the lead and getting big stops and baskets when necessary, despite not being able to put it away until late. 

- We were 15 of 21 at the free throw line, they were 13 of 23.  It's nice to be on the positive side of that stat for a change. 

-Though he still scored 16, I thought we did a great job defensively on Thornwell.  He never got into a rhythm.  

-Riley Norris was huge in the second half. 

-Donta had a solid game before fouling out.  

-I'm not sure I would have played Corban for 20 minutes, but overall I thought we did a good job with the substitution patterns to try to keep guys fresh.  

-Great game for Key with 18 points, and a solid effort from Ingram.  In particular, I thought Ingram did a nice job of handling the pressure defense without making the bad turnovers he's been prone to.  

-Another great effort on the boards from everyone, especially Bola, who even finished around the rim a couple of times.  

-Crowd was about even, maybe a few more Bama fans there than South Carolina, but UK had at least three times as many as both teams combined.  A lot of them stuck around after their game, but they seemed largely indifferent to the outcome.  The ones sitting around me starting rooting for us, but lamented "neither one of these teams will play this bad tomorrow."    There were a few obnoxious Tennessee fans sitting around me who were pulling against us.  

-I've said before that Nashville is a great location for this.  It's centrally located, the arena is much nicer for basketball than the bigger football stadiums, lots to do around the arena, etc.  That being said, I do have a couple of minor complaints.  They didn't show a single replay on the jumbo tron.  I can only assume the people running that are the same morons who work for their joke of a hockey franchise in this city.  Also, traffic management is horrendous.  It took me 20+ minutes to go half a mile from my parking deck to my hotel after the game.  

-Pro-tip: if you ever want to attend an SEC tournament game that happens to be the late game in Kentucky's session:  wait till their game is over, buy cheap upper level tickets for half of face value outside from a scalper, and stand outside the portal leading to the 100 level and pester departing UK fans for their ticket stubs.  The second guy I asked kindly gave his to me as they were leaving, and that's how I ended up with the view you see pictured above for 30 bucks.  The UK fans sitting around me said they paid 250.  Also, don't book your hotel in advance, fans of losing teams depart and hotels drop the prices.  I cancelled one near Vandy due to the uncertainty of us winning Thursday, and ended up 2 blocks from the arena at almost a third of what I had originally booked for.

-I'm hesitant to criticize the officials, but I thought they were terribly inconsistent.  In fairness, that type of game is extremely difficult to officiate.    

-It was great to see the excitement in our guys at the end, and the Bama crowd was loud and appreciative.  

-Up next, the Kentucky Wildcats and Big Blue nation.  It's going to be difficult, to say the least, but they aren't insurmountable.  Nevertheless, it will take our best effort of the season and them having an off day for us to have a chance.  Tip off is at noon.  The dream is still alive, for now.  

SEC Tournament round of 8- vs South Carolina

Here is a preview from the last tie we faced them.

Obviously we all remember this being our biggest win of the year... a 4OT thriller. If we want to be honest with ourselves, the game was hardly a clinic on basketball as both teams did not play to their potential.

Up for grabs... SC Lite improving their NCAA seeding and us making sure we have a ticket for the NIT.

For us to win the game we need:
- 40% from 3pt land
- Taylor/Hall to put up some points inside
- Dazon continuing his new found aggressive demeanor taking the ball to the hole

Prediction- We looked like world beaters yesterday against an improving Miss St squad, but I suspect SC Lite will play much better than they did the first time against us. Cocks 74 Alabama 70.


Thursday, March 09, 2017

Still Alive, Alabama 75 Mississippi $tate 55

The quick turnaround in tournament play means a quick recap from me.  This won't be my usual long-winded rambling novel for a number of reasons.  For one, I slipped out of the office to watch it a bar down the street with no volume and while simultaneously tending to work related emails on my phone.  Second, I'm about to leave to go to the UAB v. La Tech game in the CUSA tournament.  So, this will be a rapid-fire, bullet points type recap.

-It wasn't a perfect game, but we controlled it from the tip, and was just what we needed headed into the next round.

-I felt a lot better at halftime than I did at the UT game.  The first half lead wasn't build on lopsided outside shooting.  Donta and Jimmie actually combined for 11 points in the post, and it wasn't garbage points, they were legitimate back to the basket post up, hook shot type posts.

-We got back to our identity, defense and rebounding.

-Extending the lead to start the second half was huge, given our difficulties of putting two halves together.

-Dazon had an awesome game.  17 points and at one point he was 7 for 7 from the field.

-14 pts and 4 of 6 from 3 point range from Collins.  Where did that come from?

-4 guys in double digits, Dazon, Collins, Donta, and AJ, a good balanced attack.

-This team has been frustrating at times, but they beat $tate 3 times and sent those bastards home with a 20 point loss to end their season, that counts for something in my book.

-Speaking of which, Xavian Stapleton is the poster boy for that program; running his mouth and trying to start fights while down 18.  We're real impressed with your 5 points in 18 minutes.  A lot of bark, no bite.

-It was great to see the law firm come in and get 5 points and a steal in garbage time.  Also nice to see Brandon Austin get some playing time again.

-Glad we were able to coast a bit and rest up for what it sure to be a physical game at the same time tomorrow against South Carolina.  I'll be there in person for that one.  Let's keep it going.

Monday, March 06, 2017

SEC Tournament Preview (Updated w/game picks)

Due to time constraints, I will be unable to post previews for each game Alabama plays in Nashville this week so I'm just going to post a SEC Tournament preview tonight.

The good news is the bracket presents some positive matchups for Alabama. The team is 5-0 this season against LSU, Mississippi State and South Carolina. Also in the top part of the bracket, Alabama has a win against Georgia, and arguably should have beaten both Tennessee and Kentucky in their lone matchups. The opportunity is there for this Alabama team to win multiple games in Nashville if they can somehow find a way to play two halves of good basketball.

The bad news is we have no idea what we're going to see from this team from game to game, even half to half. Their lack of balance stemming from their offensive issues make this team vulnerable every time they take the floor, and they haven't shown the poise in close games that will be necessary in tournament play. I'm hoping for the best, but honestly I think it's going to be a struggle for this team to put together enough consistent play to make a run in this thing.

As far as the postseason is concerned, this team needs to win the tournament to make the NCAA field, and at least 1-2 wins in Nashville to feel comfortable with an NIT bid. At first glance (17-13, 10-8), this team looks like an NIT team. But a closer look at their resume tells a different story. The team is only 7-12 against the RPI top 150 (10-1 against sub-150 games). They do have two top 50 RPI wins (South Carolina, Vanderbilt), and one vs Georgia, who is just outside the RPI top 50 (53 as of today). It's not a completely terrible NIT resume as is, but with the number of mid-major regular season champions that will receive automatic bids, the number of available spots will shrink by the end of the week. For a team like Alabama that I believe is on the NIT bubble right now, they need to strengthen their postseason resume this week. Hit the break for more thoughts.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Flop on Rocky Top, Tennessee 59 Alabama 54

This could be a decent basketball team if they could ever learn that a game consists of two halves.  After being notorious for poor first half performances; we waited till the second half to stink it up.

The game started slowly with UT holding a 5-3 lead at the first media timeout.  Then Alabama went on a run to take a comfortable lead.  Key was attacking the basket.  Riley made several open 3s.  The zone defense was very effective.  We took a 36-22 lead into the locker room and the crowd was completely out of the game.  

Even with the big halftime lead; I was still concerned for 3 reasons:  1) We were 7 of 8 from 3 point range in the first half.  That's not sustainable even for a good 3 point shooting team, much less this bunch.  2) Likewise UT was 1 of 8 from downtown against our zone.  Common sense says they would at least improve some in the second half on their home court. 3) Assuming a regression to the mean in both of those areas, UT was actually out-rebounding us.  Part of that was due to the zone defense, but rebounding has been our strength and I felt that limiting them to one shot would be a key to holding on for the win.  

Jimmie Taylor made a nice hook shot from the post early in the second half to push the lead to 16, and then it all went to crap.  I will go ahead and say it, Rick Barnes out-coached Avery Johnson.  They made adjustments at halftime that we looked totally unprepared for.  They played a more aggressive man defense with some pressing and trapping mixed in.  They overplayed the passing lanes denying the first pass to the wings.  Offensively, they started attacking the basket and consistently beat us off the dribble.  As a result, if we got a shot off on offense it was usually a contested, low percentage jump shot, while they quickly got into the bonus thanks to our foul trouble.  Tennessee regained the lead with 8 minutes to go.  

Give our guys some credit for keeping their composure on the road at that point.  They switched back to a man defensively and got some big stops to slow UT's momentum.  Although we were able to stay in the game, we were not able to make the plays down the stretch to finish the game.  The most important play of the game came with about 2 minutes left.  We had managed to build a 5 point lead and got a turnover resulting in a 2 on 1 fast break opportunity, but Dazon tried to pass the ball to Riley instead of taking his open lane to the basket, turning it back over to the Vols who promptly drained a 3 at the other end, breathing new life into the building.  That was a 5 point swing, and a 7 point lead with under 2 minutes to play, and being able to set our defense, would have been a nice position to be in.  We really need to work on our transition offense, Avery JR did the exact same thing on a similar opportunity earlier in the game in the first half.  

I don't like to complain about the officiating, but I thought it was really inconsistent in this game. Two calls in particular, both involving Donta Hall stood out to me.  I thought both should have been called intentional fouls on dunk attempts, but one was just called a common foul and the other didn't even draw a whistle.  We benefited from a few calls as well, but those two missed calls were inexplicable to me.  

There was a decent crowd, I would guess around 9,000 or so, though it felt like much less than that due to Thompson Boling arena being so cavernous.  It's a really nice facility, but 21,000+ is way bigger than they need.  There were a few more Bama fans there than I expected, although we were very spread out.  There was at least some crimson in every section; I'm guessing about 700 or so scattered about.  The Vol fans didn't get really loud until the very end.  We didn't have any issues with their fans, other than a few dirty looks and some unruly children sitting behind us, they mostly just left us alone.  

Up next, the SEC tournament.  It's a new season, and the great thing about college basketball is even teams like LSU and Mizzou can still theoretically win it all.  We will play at approximately 2:45 pm Thursday against the winner of Mississippi State and LSU.  I've posted the full bracket below.  I think we need to win Thursday to be assured of an NIT bid.  Unfortunately, Kentucky is likely lurking Saturday unless they choke against Georgia or Tennessee.  Regardless, it's difficult for me to see a way this team makes a run into the weekend.  

Friday, March 03, 2017

Game Preview - at Tennessee

Alabama will close the regular season with a trip to Knoxville. Game time is 12:00 PM. SEC Network is handling the television duties. Both teams have played their way off the bubble, but hopes for a NIT bid remain for both teams should they fail to make a run next week in Nashville. Speaking of Nashville, Alabama is locked in as the 5th seed in the tournament. Tennessee will be the 9th seed with a win vs Alabama, or the 10th seed with a loss.


68.9 PPG 75.6

64.9 OPP 74.1

42.1 FG% 42.8

40.2 OPP 42.8

48 EFG% 47.4

46 OPP 48.6

31.1 3PT% 33

33.7 OPP 35.2

64.5 FT% 72.8

67.3 OPP 69.9

40.2 FTRATE 43.8

40.4 OPP 43.6

39.7 RPG 37.9

33.7 OPP 37.1

34.7 OREB% 32.2

26.6 OPP 30.8

14.2 TOPG 12.8

14 OPP 14

20.5 TO% 17.8

20.3 OPP 19.2

62 KenPom Ranking 59

My Two Cents: Alabama may be catching Tennessee at just the right time. A young team, the Vols were trending toward an at-large bid entering February, but fell off the bubble in recent weeks after losing 5 of their last 6 games, including Wednesday night at LSU, allowing the Tigers to end their 15-game losing streak. With both teams currently ranked in the 80s of the RPI, this game could go a long way towards knocking the loser out of postseason consideration, assuming neither team puts together a run in Nashville. That makes this game much more important than it might appear on the surface.

Players to Watch: Alabama will have a size advantage in this game. Tennessee only has one player taller than 6'7 on the roster (Kyle Alexander, who averages 14 minutes per game). If Alabama can control the glass, they should put themselves in position to win this game. That means all hands on deck hitting the glass, and limiting Tennessee - a good offensive team - from a high number of possessions.Turnovers will also be key. Tennessee is quick on the defensive end, forcing 14 turnovers per game, which just happens to be Alabama's average per game. If ever this Alabama team needed a low-turnover game, it's this one.

Despite their lack of size, Tennessee isn't a bad rebounding team. They average 37.9 (though they do give up 37.1 per game), and grab 32% of their misses on the offensive end (that's good). Let's hope the officials let the teams play because this looks like it could be a physical affair, and our big guys have to avoid foul trouble in this one. One guy to watch for Tennessee is freshman Grant Williams. He's had an All-Freshman type of season: 2nd in scoring (12.7 ppg), 1st in rebounding (5.9), 1st in blocks (1.9), and he's also knocked down 36% of his 3-pt shots. On the flip side, he does lead the team in turnovers (59 for the season so far). But he's a tough son of a gun. Despite being only 6'5, Williams spends most of his time at the 5, and has typically outworked the taller players that have faced off against him. Our big guys have to outwork him for rebounds, loose balls, and can't let him be a scoring presence inside.

Prediction: The Vols are reeling coming into this one, but it's never easy to win on the road. And it's not as if Alabama has been the most consistent team this season. Despite a solid win on Wednesday vs Ole Miss, this team still turned the ball over 18 times (vs 12 assists), and had another slow start, prior to Lawson Schaffer's 3-point shot heard round Coleman Coliseum. I think the match-up favors Alabama in spots, and I won't be surprised if they win their 18th of the season, but I  also don't have the level of trust in this team necessary to pick them in what amounts to a coin-toss game. Tennessee - 75 - Alabama - 64

Looking ahead to the SEC tournament

Here is a great article explaining all of the different scenarios going into the final weekend for seeding at the tournament next week.  Basically, the Tennessee game is mostly meaningless for us, as we will be the 5 seed regardless. It's still worthwhile for us to win though, as it could impact our NIT seeding.  I'm of the position that our only hope at an NCAA tournament bid is to win the conference championship in Nashville next weekend, but hypothetically if we beat Tennessee and made a run to the championship game including wins over Arkansas and Kentucky in the process, we would have a mid 50's RPI and several good wins away from home on the resume.  Things would be interesting, at least.

As the 5 seed, our first game will be Thursday against the winner of Mississippi State (12 seed) and most likely LSU (13 seed, although it could be Mizzou if they beat auburn and LSU loses to State tomorrow).  As much as I would love for Mizzou or LSU  come through this, we're probably looking at our 3rd game against $tate.  We've already beat them twice, but they can be a tough out and it's not easy to beat a team 3 times in a season.

If we survive that,we would play Friday afternoon against the 4 seed, which will most likely be Arkansas.  It could possibly be South Carolina if they lose to Ole Miss and Arkansas beats Georgia.  Honestly, I think we match up better with South Carolina, even though Arkansas has struggled a bit away from home.  Unfortunately, we're on the same side of the bracket as Kentucky and their game would be first in our session, so expect to pay a premium for tickets if we make it to Friday.

If we could get through all of that, in Saturday's semifinal we would play the winner of Kentucky versus the winner of the 8 vs 9 seed game which could be any combination of Vandy, Texas A&M, Ole Miss, or UGA.  My hope would be for Vandy or UGA, as I think they have the best possible matchups for upsetting Kentucky and not being a terrible matchup against us.

Let the Madness begin!