Thursday, November 30, 2017

They Gave us Heck, But Bama Survives Tech- Tide 77 La Tech 74

Alabama came out flat after receiving a lot of positive national attention for their hoop-it-up squad's performance in Brooklyn last Saturday.  I was a little disappointed we didn't start Riley and Galin to acknowledge their efforts in the Minnesota game. 

 The defense was atrocious at times in the first half.  We continue to have issues switching on screens, so we went to a 2-3 zone for much of the game.  Unfortunately, their guards, especially Bracey, was able to penetrate and finish at the rim.  On the other end, when we weren't turning it over  we were getting good looks, but couldn't finish anything. The Bulldogs made their free throws while we bricked most of ours, and they built a 10 point lead, but we finished the first half on a nice run to cut it to 1.  This trend of starting slow really concerns me.  It's going to be very difficult to win true road games if we fall behind by double-digits in the first half and allow opposing crowds to be a factor in the games. 

Give Louisiana Tech a lot of credit for answering at the start of the second half.  They forced some turnovers and knocked down some jump shots to rebuild their lead back to 11.  We had some unusual substitution patterns, and finally made another run to get back in the game with the unorthodox lineup of AJ, Dazon, Herb, Alex, and Galin. 

A big turning point came when Donta blocked a shot off the glass that resulted in a Sexton dunk at the other end to cut the lead to 3.  The crowd really got into the game and the team seemed to play with a lot more confidence after that point. 

We struggled to get stops down the stretch but were able to match their scoring, and the lead changed hands several times in the final few minutes.  We managed to get to the free throw line and actually make 16 of our last 18, as our lead went between 3 and 1 the last few possessions.  La Tech had a chance to tie at the end when our deflection went straight to a wide open Bulldog on the wing, but thankfully his 3 at the buzzer didn't fall. 

Sexton played out of control for most of the game, but he made things happen in the final 10 minutes when we needed it most.  He still ended up with 22 points despite not having his best game.  Dazon Ingram was the MVP for us, also with 22 points and 9 rebounds.  He made plays on both ends to keep us in the game while the rest of the team was struggling.  Donta had a big game with 15 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 blocks.  He had a few dunks on put backs, and remarkably went 3 for 3 from the free throw line. 

Petty was a game time decision after his injury, and he started the game, but did not play well.  In the first half he looked fine physically, but was pressing and making some bad decisions with the ball.  He watched most of the second half from the bench, even in the final minutes when one would think he would be needed for his free throw shooting.  Coach Johnson just said it was a matter of trying to find the right lineups, but I'm not buying that.  He appeared to be limping a bit to me when he came out of the game for the last time.  I heard from some watching the broadcast that he was seen showing some attitude on the bench.  I did notice that he wasn't as animated as his teammates on the bench, but did seem more engaged towards the end of the game.  It's pure speculation, but my guess is he was telling the coaches he was okay and wanted to continue playing, but the coaches decided he didn't look 100% and wasn't playing well, so they thought it better to bench him, and he was frustrated that he wasn't able to compete at the level he normally does. 

Speaking of injuries, Dazon was forced to head to the locker room after being taken out by the officials for a few minutes in the second half.  At first, I assumed he was bleeding, but the officials may have thought he was exhibiting concussion symptoms.  Regardless, thankfully he was able to return after the next timeout and seemed fine. 

It was another good crowd for a Wednesday night of about 10,000.  La Tech kept us quiet for much of the night by building and maintaining the early lead, but the atmosphere was generally positive and it got fairly loud when we finally made our run in the second half.  Everybody was on their feet and cheering for most of the final 2-3 minutes. 

Up next, another very good UCF team comes to Tuscaloosa for a 1 pm tipoff Sunday afternoon.  The game will be televised on ESPNU. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Game Preview - Louisiana Tech

Alabama returns to the comfort of Coleman Coliseum on Wednesday night when they host Louisiana Tech from Conference USA. Tech enters the game 5-0. Game time is 7 P.M. CT. The game will be streamed on SEC Network+, via the Watch ESPN app. After injuring his ankle in the Minnesota game, John Petty will be a game time decision on Wednesday. I won't be surprised if we see John sit this one out.

Despite the loss to Minnesota, Alabama moved up a spot in the latest AP poll, from 25th to 24th. No doubt the strange circumstances of the Minnesota game, which included Alabama forced to play 3-on-5 the final eleven minutes and only losing by five, may have led to a sympathetic vote of sorts for the team. Click the links for team and Pomeroy stats.

My Two Cents: While the odd circumstances of the Minnesota game brought Alabama some attention over the weekend (the story quickly went viral after the game wrapped up on Saturday), the hope is that the team and coaches have now turned their attention to their next opponent. During the press conferences on Tuesday, most of the questions to Avery and the players were about the Minnesota game. While Alabama will be the most talented team Louisiana Tech has faced to this point, the Tech program is far from a pushover. In the last five seasons, this program has averaged 25 wins per season. Mike White built the program up, but Eric Konkol has kept it upright, averaging 23 wins in his first two seasons at the helm. Once again, the program is expected to be part of a logjam of teams at the top of their conference. It all adds up to yet another quality opponent that is capable of exiting Tuscaloosa with an upset victory.

Players to Watch: Collin Sexton has more than lived up to the billing in his first five college games. Collin scored 40 in the game vs Minnesota, 19 after the ejections. But more than his ability to put the ball in the basket despite the odds, it was a small gesture he made once the game was complete that impressed me just as much. Despite being a freshman that just went through an unusual situation, Collin called Riley and Galin to him following the game for a huddle on the floor. That kind of leadership is rare in freshmen. Enjoy Collin, guys. He's likely only in Tuscaloosa for one season, but it's going to be a blast to watch him and this team continue to grow.

Tech has four players currently averaging double figures. DaQuan Bracey, a 5'11, 174 sophomore point guard, is second on the team in points (14.9 ppg) and the leader in assists (5.2). He's the floor general for a team that is averaging 83.8 points per game. Alabama cannot allow him to get comfortable and control the pace of the game because there are multiple guys on this team, including Bracey, that can score 20 if the offense is allowed to flow.

Prediction: I'm worried about this game. I don't have a sense of dread, but I am concerned how much hangover there may be about that Minnesota game. Is this young team focused on their next opponent despite getting some national love for a game that did end up being a loss? This game falls neatly between the Barclays games and an important 3-game stretch of UCF, Rhode Island and at Arizona. That makes this a potential trap game. Adding to the trickiness of this game is that John Petty may not be able to play, which would take away the current second leading scorer for this team. Don't be shocked if our guys find themselves in another close game. Alabama - 78 - Louisiana Tech - 72

Monday, November 27, 2017

Around the SEC- 11/27

I'll try to do this bi-monthly...

We're a couple weeks into the season and only one SEC team has a losing record (Vanderbilt). Actually, 11 of the 14 have 1 loss or less. From ESPN, the current records:

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Tide's Three Musketeers Come Up Short, Minnesota 89 Alabama 84.

Well, that was unusual.  The big story everyone wants to talk about is the fight, but I'm going to start at the beginning to set the background that led up to it.

Once again we started the game slow, allowing the Gophers to knock down some open 3s and build a substantial early lead.  Minnesota took a 13-2 lead and eventually stretched their lead to 17 in the first half.  We couldn't stop Jordan Murphy, and frankly I thought we were just overmatched, and maybe not quite ready to compete with a veteran top 15 team.

With about 4 minutes left in the first half, after Murphy went over the back to get an offensive rebound the officials called him for a foul...then conferred and decided the foul was actually on Riley Norris.  Understandably, this set Coach Johnson off, and he was called for the first of what would be many technicals on the night.  Nevertheless, we finished the half strong and cut the lead to 12 going into halftime.
My view for the first half
Nate Mason made a couple of 3s to stretch the lead back to 18 early in the second half and it looked like game over.  He was also talking a lot of smack to Collin, but I have no doubt Collin was giving as much as he was getting.  The officials let this go on for way too long, in my opinion, before finally calling a double technical with about 14 minutes left.  Mason and Pitino vehemently argued the call, earning additional technicals and thus the ejection of Mason from the team.  So now we get 4 free throws and the ball and a little momentum.  Collin makes 3 of 4, Riley nails a 3, and all of a sudden we have a 7 point game.

I think Minnesota felt they were screwed in that situation and were looking to get back at us ,and unfortunately we took the bait.  A couple of minutes later Ingram and Dupree got tangled up, Dupree bowed up on Ingram right in front of the Bama bench, and players from both sides rushed in to support their teammates.  The problem is, all the Minnesota players were already in the game, but our entire bench ran onto the floor.  The coaches did the best they could to grab everybody and yell "get back," but in this day of instant replay, it was too late.  If the same situation happens at the other end of the floor, I'm likely writing a much different recap right now.  To be clear, I don't think any of our guys threw a punch, in fact I didn't even see any contact other than the initial pushing and shoving, so I don't think we are looking at a situation where there will be suspensions.  After reviewing the monitor, the entire bench was ejected, so now we are looking at a 9 point deficit and playing iron man basketball for the final 13 minutes with Collin, Petty, Norris, Dazon, and Galin.  With the technical, Dazon was playing with 4 fouls and Minnesota wisely went right at him and promptly got him fouled out of the game.  So now it's 4 on 5, and there's still 12 minutes left.

Also, a segment of the Minnesota fans were really riding Collin most of the night, trying to get under his skin.  I was a little perturbed that after the fight, given all the Gopher fans were saying to Sexton and the officials, they met with security who then walked over and had a fairly lengthy conversation with our first lady, Cassandra Johnson.  She wasn't ejected and I don't know what was said, and in fairness she was sitting court side and she's known for getting a bit passionate during the games, but I felt it was nothing more than a jerk move to irritate Coach, knowing he already had one technical foul and certainly couldn't do anything under the circumstances.

You all know what happened next.  For all that happened in this game, the Petty injury is the biggest story in my mind.  It looked bad, and while he tweeted later "im be aight," he's going for an MRI today.  He wasn't able to put weight on it leaving the court, and I'll be surprised if we see him again before SEC play begins.  With our brutal schedule coming up, losing an NBA level talented player is really going to sting.

Back to the game, so now we are down by 13 and we're going to have to play the last 10 and a half minutes with just Collin, Riley, and Galin.  Defensively, playing 3 on 5, you pretty much have to concede any jump shot beyond 15 feet.  There is no way to guard the perimeter.  We ran a triangle to protect the basket, think of a triangle + 2 but without the 2.
My view for the second half.  I moved to get away from some obnoxious Minnesota fans and try to change up the mojo.

What transpired next was simply ridiculous.  First of all, it was one of the worst coaching jobs I've ever seen by Pitino.  I'm not sure what the hell he was thinking.  As I said, we couldn't defend the perimeter, but for some reason they would pass the ball around and still run the shot clock down to 10 seconds or so trying to decide who would take the wide open jump shot.  Limiting the number of possessions in the game played to our advantage at that point.  Furthermore, they allowed Collin to just walk the ball up the court and didn't really start defending till he got within 35 feet or so of the basket in the front court.  To me, it seems a no-brainer that you press in that situation, make us work to get the ball across half court, being able to double team and trap two thirds of our team, would have likely resulted in a lot of turnovers and a big run.  But for whatever reason, perhaps they just underestimated Collin's ability, they left the door open.

Our guys didn't throw in the towel.  Collin seemed even more motivated to prove he could literally win the game by himself, and he almost did exactly that.  He ended up with 40 points, and made some ridiculously long 3s, but he didn't just settle for jacking it up, he was still able to get to the basket and when he drew a THIRD defender, he could find an open Riley Norris who also played well.  Galin did all he could defending the basket and got some huge rebounds.  Minnesota didn't shoot as well as you would think, sometimes being too open will throw a shooter off a bit, and I think they got a bit nervous as the lead started to dwindle.  A win with 3 players after a 13 point deficit in the final 10 minutes would have been legendary, and we had the ball down only 3 with about a minute and a half remaining.  Unfortunately, the shot didn't fall, and the Gophers survived with a 5 point win.

It oddly almost felt like a win after the game, the way we played with only 3 guys.  Our contingent of fans were very enthusiastic as the team left the floor, and Coach saluted us and yelled "Roll Tide!" as they went to the locker room. 

If they really paid $1 Billion to build the Barclay's Center, somebody got ripped off.  Don't get me wrong, it's nice, but it's not even close to being as nice as Madison Square Garden (and this is coming from an avid Knick-hater).  The seats are really low to the ground; I felt like I was squatting more so than sitting.  I'm only 5'11, my knees should not be above my ass when I'm sitting in a stadium seat. The TV screen was nice though they didn't even use it to show replays of the fight, or many replays at all for that matter.  It's also hard to believe an NBA arena would not have a board for individual or team stats, but I suspect that may have been behind the auburnish curtain blocking the upper level.  The game was only attended by about 2,000 or so, 80% of which were Minnesota fans. The Wifi service did work great there, as I was able to stream the iron bowl without any issues (other than the garbage game our football team played).  I was disappointed with the way a few of the Gopher fans acted.  Minneapolis is one of my favorite cities during the summer time, it's beautiful and the people are exceptionally welcoming and friendly, but they had a small contingent of fans who seemed more interested in trying to antagonize our guys as opposed to supporting their own team.  They also started lame "au-burn" chants.  One guy asked me at halftime as I was on the way to the bathroom, "shouldn't you be watching the football game?"  I replied, "no, but don't you have a hockey game to go to somewhere?"

Up next, La Tech comes in for a 7pm tipoff Wednesday night back home in Tuscaloosa.  It will be streamed on SEC Network +.  The Bulldogs are undefeated and one of the top teams in their conference, so it will be another tough test for our guys.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Game Preview - Minnesota [at Brooklyn, NY]

After settling for LIU's Steinberg Wellness Center for their first game in Brooklyn, the Alabama men's basketball team will now play a game at the actual Barclays Center in what is actually known as the Barclays Center Classic. DJC gave a thorough breakdown of the problems with this event in his recap so I'll leave it at that. Needless to say, I'm sure the players, coaches and fans will be happy to finally play in the arena. Their opponent will be the 14th ranked Minnesota Golden Gophers. Game time is 4 P.M. CT. Once again, no television. The game is supposed to be streamed on Facebook here, but the stream for the BYU game was a debacle so who knows. And yes, this game will be tipping sometime during the second half of the football game, but my gut feeling is we'll be looking for a distraction from that game anyway. Click those links for team and Pomeroy stats.

Alabama is ranked in the AP poll for the first time since the 2012-13 season. Avery Johnson and his coaching staff have worked very hard to get the program to this point. The next step is maintaining that position among the nation's top teams. How you do that is winning games against other ranked opponents. This isn't a do or die situation for the team - they will likely have many opportunities against ranked opposition this season - but it is a great opportunity to make a statement at the end of a week in which college basketball has been front and center due to the Thanksgiving tournaments.

My Two Cents: The Gophers are Bama's most difficult opponent to date. They're 6-0, having already notched a quality win with a road victory at Providence. Their best players are all experienced, with at least a year in the program. Alabama is a relatively young team that is playing well, but is still trying to get healthy and fit all of the pieces together. Michigan State is considered the favorite in the Big 10, but Minnesota has more than enough experience and talent to make a run in that league. If our guys can pull off the win, that's one they'll likely be able to keep in their back pocket all season.

Players to Watch: Donta Hall has quietly had a nice season so far. The junior big man is averaging 10.2 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 1.2 apg and 2.6 bpg. Those rebound and block numbers lead the team. Donta was a fringe NBA draft prospect coming into the season, and he's done nothing so far to hurt himself in that regard. He'll be matched up with the best frontcourt he's seen this season so his play in this game will go a long way in determining the final score.

Jordan Murphy has been a beast for the Gophers. The 6'6, 250 lb forward is averaging 22.5 ppg (64% FG), 12.0 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.1 bpg and 1.1 spg. He's had five double-doubles in six games, and he just missed out on a sixth one in their game against Umass, finishing with 16 points and 9 boards. The Gophers are not a one-man team (four players average double figures, with a fifth averaging just under double figures), but slowing down Murphy has to be priority number one for our guys on the defensive end.  

Prediction: In their first five games, Alabama has played tough competition, but has had a distinct advantage in the overall talent department. That won't be the case in this one. The teams look evenly matched on paper, with Alabama perhaps having a little more quickness on the perimeter (maybe a little more depth), and Minnesota having the edge in post play and experience. As I mentioned earlier, for all the excitement around this Alabama team, they're still working to get healthy and put it all together. I don't think this team has come close to their ceiling yet. Minnesota on the other hand is a veteran team that has the experience and chemistry that should result in consistent play for the Gophers all season as long as they can remain healthy. I always favor experience in these types of games. It's a tightly contested game, but Alabama falls short. Minnesota - 81 - Alabama - 75

Friday, November 24, 2017

Sleeping With The Enemy- Minnesota Gophers

I asked zipsofakron over at The Daily Gopher to give us a little insight into the Minnesota team.  He was kind enough to share his perspective on their team and this game below.  If you visit The Daily Gopher, please abide by their site's rules and be a good representative of our team and University.

The Gophers return all five starters from last year's NCAA Tournament team, where they played their way to a 5 seed. Most importantly, they bring back a tremendous frontcourt that consists of Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Reggie Lynch and All-B1G Third Team Jordan Murphy. Murphy is averaging almost 23 points a game this season and more than 12 rebounds, so he's taken a major leap this year. Lynch was third in the nation in blocks last season, so the front court for the Gophers is very hard to score against.

The backcourt is deep, with All-B1G point guard Nate Mason running things, flanked by B1G Freshman of the Year Amir Coffey, who is a 6-8 combo guard and can score in several different ways. In terms of weaknesses, the Gophers don't have many. Their frontcourt is thin after Murphy and Lynch, and Lynch had major foul problems last year. So, if teams can go at him early and often they can usually get him into foul trouble and force him to the bench. Minnesota has also been subpar in defending the three pointer this year and teams with good ball rotation and execution have given them fits.

The Gophers beat Providence on the road, so they've had an early test that they passed. However, Alabama will be the toughest opponent they've faced so far this season, and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried about the Alabama guards. The neutral court will help and I think Minnesota's defense and interior gives them a slight edge. I'll take them by two points in a nailbiter.

Tide Sends Cougars Home Losers, Alabama 71 BYU 59

Alabama set the tone early and maintained a comfortable lead throughout to cruise to a 12 point victory over BYU in the first game in Brooklyn of the Barclay's Classic.  An optimist would look at this game and say, "every time BYU tried to make a run, we got a stop or a basket and never let them get within striking distance."  On the other hand, a pessimist might say, "we had several opportunities with the ball and a 10,12, or 13 point lead and failed to put the game away."  Both would be correct. 

BYU started the game by making an open 3, but Alabama answered with a 7-0 run, prompting the Cougars to call an early timeout.  That didn't work, as BYU had to burn their second timeout a couple of minutes later after Petty made a couple of 3s to take a 20-8 lead.  From there, BYU would make runs to make it interesting, but each time we got a big stop or a basket at the other end to push the margin back over double-digits. 

There was one period in the first half when we went with a lineup of all bench guys in AJ, Herb, Riley, Reese, and Galin.  While all of those players are great in their roles; I really didn't like having them all on the court at the same time.  The pace slowed and the offense came to a grind, but they managed prevent any big runs from BYU.

Offensively, we had a very balanced attack.  Petty led the way with 16 points on 4 of 7 shooting from 3 point range.  He did take the ball to the basket a few times, which I was pleased to see, even if he wasn't able to finish.  Sexton was also in double-digits with 10 points, but it really seemed like a lot more than that as he was involved in many plays.  He had 3 assists to only one turnover.  Herb had another exciting game drawing two huge charges, and there was at least one other block charge call that could have gone his way.  Once again, the defense really stepped up in the second half against a team capable of putting up lots of points.  Donta had one of his better games with 14 points including a couple of dunks, 9 rebounds, and some great work on the defensive end.  I also thought Petty played better defensively.  BYU did miss a few open looks, but a big part of their 4 of 17 3 point shooting is because our guys did a much better job switching and communicating on defense.  Dazon Ingram had another solid game with 13 points.  I was a little surprised Dan Giddens continued to start, but I thought he played well overall.  He ended up with 8 points including an awesome dunk in the first half that nearly brought the goal down. 

I hate to continue to harp on the issue, but this "tournament" is a joke.  All of the coaches have expressed regret about signing up without a TV guarantee.  I heard many complaints about the broadcast, but obviously I didn't watch it, so I won't comment on that part of it.  It's my understanding that Coach Johnson signed up for this during his first year, in large part because of his connections with the Nets and he has a daughter that was (and maybe still is, I don't know) attending NYU.  All of that is reasonable, but he assumed the games would actually be played at Barclay's and they would be televised, as has been the case in the past.  

For those of us who attend these things, knowing the location and start time well in advance is fairly important for planning purposes.  I had been checking the Barclay's Arena schedule for months, and noticed several other events (Nets game, NIT games) scheduled there for today, so had assumed our games would be later starts.  The actual time and location wasn't announced until about a month ago, and from what I understand that's the same time the coaches found out about it, and they were not too happy either.  My flight landed at EWR at noon, so I would have been screwed if we played the first game.  I still only made it with about 15 minutes to spare; thanks to my friend for saving me a good seat behind our bench.

With all due respect to LIU-Brooklyn, that gym is a terrible.  I can think of at least 5 high school gyms in the Birmingham area that are bigger and nicer.  It's a multi-purpose facility with removable fold out type bleachers, no seat backs, and only one entrance/exit.  There's no video screen for replays, and no displays for any stats other than what you see on the scoreboard (score, arrow, timeouts left, team fouls).  Frankly, calling this the "Barclay's Classic" and duping coaches into signing up for this thing was fraud.  I assume these games were scheduled for early afternoon so the promoter could get to his other job of selling "Rolexes" in Manhattan.  I find it hard to believe in all of New York City this was the best available place once they realized they overbooked Barclays.  They had one concession stand open, I took a look at the line and said "Screw it," but from others I understand they had a very limited selection and insisted on only accepting bills smaller than 20s.  

I do want to give credit to the people working the ticket office.  I purchased my ticket through ticketmaster, and wrongly assumed I would be able to access a mobile ticket in my app, and thus did not print it out.  I didn't realize this until I arrived at the gate, but I showed my ID and receipt and they promptly printed me a hard copy ticket free of charge.  

The arena only holds 2,500, and I would guess we had close to 1,000 fans there.  We had significantly more than BYU, and it felt like a home court advantage at times, with the coaches' wives leading the cheers.  The UA NYC alumni group does an outstanding job of supporting our teams when we are in the area.  I'm looking forward to watching the first quarter of the Iron Bowl with them tomorrow before I come back to Brooklyn for the basketball game.  

Up next, the Barclay's Classic finally moves into Barclay's Arena where it will be a clash of undefeated, ranked teams, as Bama takes on number 14 Minnesota.  The Gophers are coming off a big win over UMass in the early game today.  Tip off is set for 5 pm EST tomorrow, and you can stream it on Facebook (lol).

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Game Preview - BYU [at Brooklyn, NY]

The Alabama men's basketball team will play the first of two games at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Friday afternoon. The opponent will be the BYU Cougars. Game time is 1:30 P.M. CT. Alabama enters the game 4-0 while BYU enters with a 3-1 record. No television for this one, but you can stream it through Facebook here. Click the links for team stats and Pomeroy numbers.

My Two Cents: Dave Rose has done a tremendous job at BYU in keeping that program nationally relevant in basketball. In all 12 seasons that Rose has been the head coach, BYU has been selected for the NCAA Tournament (8) or NIT (4). While I do believe the move to the West Coast Conference (WCC) from the Mountain West was the wrong move in hindsight, this is still a top 100 type of program that is annually one of the best offensive teams in the country. Alabama has been inconsistent at best on the defensive end so BYU's offensive skill will present some challenges for our guys. On the flip side, Alabama's length and athleticism could pose some challenges for BYU as well. We could see another high-scoring game on Friday afternoon. It also wouldn't surprise me if we see a tweak to the starting line-up. If Riley is healthy, we may see him get the start. I haven't been crazy about the big line-up with both Donta and Daniel starting, but it was a necessity with both Riley and Braxton out.

Players to Watch: Collin Sexton has been as good as advertised. With the unfortunate news that Michael Porter, Jr. could miss the season with a back injury, Collin is the new favorite to win Freshman of the Year in the conference. Yes, he can score, he can pass the ball, and he's a better defender than some may give him credit for. But here's the stat that I really love through his first three college games: he's only averaging 1 turnover per game. In the last game, he played 32 minutes and only turned the ball over once. In the Canada games I was concerned that he was forcing things too much, and that would lead to high turnover games during the season. To Collin's credit, he's not only playing dynamic basketball, but he's playing under control on both ends. For someone who plays with such intensity, that's impressive.

Alabama has yet to play a team that can be physical around the rim, but that's likely to change this weekend in Brooklyn in both games. A former ESPN top 100 recruit, Yoeli Childs is a 6'8, 225 lb sophomore forward that was named to the All-WCC freshman team. So far his sophomore season is off to a strong start with averages of 13.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.2 apg, and 2.7 bpg. He's been a nice compliment to the perimeter threats for the Cougars. It won't surprise me if the BYU coaching staff tries to play through Childs early in this game to open up things for their shooters on the perimeter.

Prediction: This is a tough one to predict. Physically, Alabama's quickness and athleticism should cause headaches for BYU. But BYU is capable of dropping 100 on most teams, and Alabama's play on the defensive end has been up and down. Furthermore, you never know how teams are going to play in these November tournaments. How focused are they on the game and opponent during the Thanksgiving holiday? Are they distracted by the environment? We've already seen some ranked teams go down in the early rounds of these events. But as I wrote in the preview for Arlington, I just feel like this Alabama team is different; I have more confidence in the players and coaching staff to overcome challenges. Alabama - 85 - BYU - 78

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Bama Smacks Mavericks, Alabama 77 UT-Arlington 76

Alabama survived an exciting game against a very good UT-Arlington squad and remains undefeated after the one point victory.

This roller coaster game featured another poor start, a come-from behind rally to take a substantial lead, and a near collapse at the end.

Hervey is a matchup nightmare as an athletic 6'9 with good size who is athletic enough to dribble and shoot from the perimeter.  We started out with Donta Hall on him, but he couldn't guard him away from the basket and Hervey found his shooting touch early.  Neal was very good distributing the ball and running the offense for them, and we continue to have problems switching in our man-to-man defense.  Often times we either switch late leaving the ball-handler for an open jump shot, or we fail to switch back at the earliest opportunity when we get into bad matchups.  With the Mavs hot shooting, they were able to run out to a 12 point lead in the first half.

Collin Sexton's athleticism and quickness was an equally difficult matchup for them.  His prolific scoring kept us in the game for much of the first half.  It was a fast-paced, high scoring affair, and even down 12 it did not feel like that much of a deficit.

We made some very nice defensive adjustments in the second half that turned the game around.  We started taking the passing lanes away from Neal.  Dazon was very disruptive to their transition offense.  We threw multiple bodies at Hervey, keeping him off-balance.  Herb Jones was phenomenal, taking FOUR charges to go along with his 4 steals and 9 rebounds.  After giving up 46 points in the first half, we only allowed 30 in the second.  Bama built their 5 point lead primarily with Collin and Petty on the bench, and it was a result of the defense getting stops, forcing turnovers, and scoring in transition.  AJ came off the bench and gave us a nice spark, making a couple of 3s.

Just when things started to get comfortable, Neal made a series of very well contested 3s setting up an exciting but nerve wracking finish.  We had the ball with a 2 point lead and under a minute to play, and Coach called for a clear out for Collin, who scored an "And one," to give us a 4 point lead, but he missed the free throw.  So down 4, Neal makes another miraculous 3 to bring the Mavs to within 1 with 19 seconds.  Herb was called for a 5 second call on the in-bounds, giving UTA a chance to win the game in their final possession.  Herb actually did a good job of running the base-line and it looked like he had a passing lane to get the ball in to Riley, but he hesitated.  We probably should have had the senior Riley in-bounding the ball in that situation as opposed to a freshman, regardless of how well Herb has played.  Coach wisely called a timeout to set up the defense, and correctly anticipated that UTA would stick with their hot hand in Neal.  We turned to Sexton to man up on him, and Collin just seems to live for moments like this.  He made a fantastic stop, moving his feet to stay in front of him, not falling for the head-fake, getting a hand on the ball just before the shot attempt, and not giving him an inch of room.  Herb was in great position and secured the ball to be sure there would be no put-back.

Collin ended up with 29 points, shot 11 of 14 from the free throw line, and had the aforementioned game winning defensive stop.  Herb's defense and taking charges turned the game around in the second half.  Donta didn't play well in the first half and had some foul trouble, but he bounced back and did a much better job, especially defensively and rebounding in the second half.  Dan contributed briefly in the second half with a couple of baskets in the post when UTA tried to go small.  AJ's 3s were a big part of the comeback.  Riley made his season debut coming back from an injury.  He looked a little rusty, but still helped by coming up with a couple of loose balls.  I feel like we really missed Braxton Key in this game.  He would have matched up better with Hervey defensively than anybody else we could put on him, and he likely would have been in-bounding the ball on our last possession rather than Herb.

John Petty struggled after his record setting performance against AAMU.  He was 2 for 10 from 3 point range with 8 points and 4 turnovers.  He seemed to get frustrated a bit when his shots weren't falling.  I'm a little concerned that he's relying too exclusively on perimeter jump shots.  He has a nice mid-range jumper and has the athletic ability to get to the rim and/or draw fouls.  He has a nice shot, but I would like to see more of his all-around game.  He's attempted only one shot from inside the arc the last 2 games.

UTA is an experienced team that could get to the tournament and make some noise.  This was a big win for our team for several reasons.  It should give us confidence in close games, and it will be an RPI boost and likely a nice note on the resume when selection Sunday rolls around.

Long time readers of the blog know that I've been critical of, and frustrated with our fan base at times over the years due to a lack of attendance and/or enthusiasm.  I thought the crowd and atmosphere last night was amazing!  The announced attendance was over 11,000, and there weren't many no-shows, I would guess around 10,000 were actually there, including a nice student turn out.  There was one UTA fan somewhere in the crowd who made an annoying sound every time we attempted a shot.  I can only describe it as a high pitched one syllable shriek that peaks at the beginning and sort of tails off.  It sounded like a cross between the noise you might imagine a baby seal makes when first getting clubbed and a hyena reaching an orgasm.  Anyway, when UTA had the ball the student section, and many others in the crowd, hilariously, and repeatedly, mimicked the sound mocking the UTA fan.  More importantly, even when things looked bleak with a double-digit deficit in the first half, the crowd was in to the game and encouraging our guys.  I'm not sure if we win that game in Arlington or on a neutral floor.  We've had a few close, drama filled games over the last few years, but we haven't won many at home.  I'm guessing the outcome will bring a lot of those same people back for more.  It was nice to Levi Randolph and Terrance Meade in attendance, along with Mo Williams doing commentary on the television broadcast.

Up next, we travel to Brooklyn, NY where we will take on the BYU Cougars at LIU-Brooklyn's Steinberg Wellness Center.  The game will tip-off at 2:30 ET but will not be televised.  It will be streamed on Facebook Live.  I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 20, 2017

Game Preview - UT Arlington

Campus play continues in the Barclays Center Classic on Tuesday night when Alabama hosts the UT Arlington (i.e., the University of Texas at Arlington) Mavericks. Both teams enter the game undefeated. Game time is 8 P.M. CT. The game will be televised on the SEC Network. If you're in the Tuscaloosa area, but have yet to make it out to the game, you're going to want to buy a ticket to this one. Not only will Alabama need the fan support, but this has the potential to be a very entertaining basketball game. Hit the links for team and Pomeroy stats.

My Two Cents: For casual Bama Hoops fans that follow this site, don't be discouraged if Alabama loses this game on Tuesday night to a team you may not be familiar with by name. Arlington is a legit team, with a future pro. If you were to compile a list of the 10 best mid-major teams in college basketball at the conclusion of this season, I think it's very probable that Arlington will be on that list. This is a veteran team, well-coached (Scott Cross could see his name pop up on coaching searches at the conclusion of this season) that has already scored some impressive victories. They went to Norman for a scrimmage and beat the Oklahoma Sooners by a score of 99-84. I watched their previous game, an impressive 89-75 win at BYU. I would not be shocked if Bama is 3-1 heading into their two games in Brooklyn.

Players to Watch: John Petty had quite the night in the previous game. His ten 3-pointers were a single-game Alabama record. We're only three games into the season, but I think it's fair to say John is arguably the best pure shooter the program has had since Ernest Shelton. For the season, John is 15-30 from 3 (that's 50%). That's absurd. And let's not forget that Collin Sexton is also a fine shooter (5-9 from 3 so far this season). In fact, when this team is at full strength, it will have as many as five guys (John, Collin, Dazon, Riley and Braxton) that are all capable of having big nights from the perimeter. It's a nice problem to have. 

Arlington is not a one-man team (four players currently averaging double figures), but Kevin Hervey is definitely the centerpiece of this team. I would describe him as a poor man's Kevin Durant: a long (6'9, 230 lbs), athletic forward that can score anywhere on the floor (25.5 ppg/50% FG/40% 3-PT). Hervey also leads this team in rebounds (8.5) and steals (2.0). One of the strengths that I've noticed in Avery's coaching staffs so far in his tenure is the ability to game plan effectively for the opposing team's best player. That will need to be the case again on Tuesday night. If Hervey goes berserk, I'm not sure Bama wins the game.

Prediction: Both teams are playing at a high pace entering this game so I expect a high-scoring game. While Alabama has made strides on the offensive end from recent years, there have been inconsistencies on the defensive end. The first three opponents were unable to take advantage of this, but Arlington is a far better team that matches up well so Bama will get torched if they don't clean up some things on the defensive end. A year ago I would have picked Arlington in this match-up with little hesitation, but this is a different Alabama team than what we've seen in recent years. If the game does become a shootout, I believe this Alabama team is capable of  winning that type of game. I'll go with the home team in this one. Alabama - 82 - Arlington - 81

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Bama Obliterates Bulldogs, UA 104 Alabama A&M 67

My apologies for the delay in posting this recap, but I've been in Tuscaloosa all weekend and did not bring my computer. 

The Tide took care of business against a severely overmatched Alabama A&M team.  Let's be honest, AAMU is one of the worst basketball teams in the country.  Nevertheless, Alabama did exactly what they needed to do, and it was a lot of fun to watch. 

John Petty set a new school record with 10 three pointers made in the game.  All of his shots came from beyond the arc where he was an incredible 10 out of 13 for 30 points.  They weren't all wide open, easy shots either.  I recall one that he made on a catch, turn, and shoot without ever setting his feet, with a guy in his face, and moving away from the basket, nothing but net.  A couple more were easily from NBA range. 

Collin Sexton also played extremely well and scored 25 points himself.  As a team we were 16 of 27 from 3 point range.  Dazon was also in double-digits with 10 points and 6 rebounds. 

It was good to see the team get off to a nice start.  Collin was aggressive from the tip, and  Alabama jumped out to an early 10-0 lead and the game was never in doubt. 

Despite the lopsided result and all of the 3s, there are some things for the coaching staff to work on.  We are still having issues switching in our man to man half-court defense, leading to easy baskets and open looks.  67 points is a lot to give up to a team like AAMU.  We were out of position on quite a few rebounds, and free throw shooting continues to be atrocious, as we were only 8 of 15.  We shot better from 3 point range than we did the charity stripe. 

The most encouraging sign to me thus far is that Collin and JP seem to be great teammates and leaders in addition to being phenomenal players.  I was concerned about Collin's attitude, and that the "one and dones" may be more focused on individual accomplishments to improve their draft position rather than actually making the team better.  I think Collin may have quickly matured since the Canada trip.  I haven't noticed him talking nearly as much trash during the games, but more importantly, he seems totally invested in making everyone on the team better.  Even when he's not in the game he is constantly standing and talking to his teammates.  It's like having an extra coach on the bench.  When LawDog and Landon Fuller made their 3s in garbage time, Sexton and Petty were going crazy along with everyone else.  The chemistry on this team seems to be developing nicely. 

There was a decent crowd for a 6 pm tipoff.  I would estimate about 8,000, with another solid student turnout.  The atmosphere was loud and fun, as everyone enjoyed witnessing history with JP's ten 3 pointers, and the walk-ons getting in on the action late.  I know TV revenues rule the day, but the 6pm tipoffs really hurt attendance.  It's especially difficult for those of us coming from Birmingham to make the 6 o'clock starts during the week.  The 8pm starts aren't much better as it puts a lot of people getting home later than they would like. 

Up next, things get a lot more difficult as the UT-Arlington Mavericks come to Tuscaloosa for an 8pm start Tuesday night.  UT-Arlington is a solid team, they went 27-9 last year, won the regular season sun belt championship and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NIT.  They are coming off of an impressive 89-75 road win at BYU, who happens to be Bama's next opponent.  Our guys will need a good crowd behind them to help pull out a victory.  The game will be televised on the SEC Network. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Game Preview - Alabama A&M

The Alabama men's basketball team will play its first game as part of the Barclays Center Classic on Friday when it hosts Alabama A&M. This is the first of four games in the event for Alabama, with the team hosting one more game on Tuesday night before heading to Brooklyn for the Thanksgiving weekend slate of games. Game time for Friday is 6 P.M. CT. The game will be streamed via SEC Network +, via the Watch ESPN app. Hit the different links for team stats, Pomeroy scouting reports, etc. (please note: you'll need a Pomeroy subscription to view those pages).

I want to echo DJC's frustration with the two games in Barclays not being televised. Alabama and Minnesota could both be ranked when they meet next weekend, but the game will not be available to a national television audience. Avery has done a tremendous job raising the profile of this basketball program, but these November tournaments are a great opportunity for national exposure and, frankly, the program has not taken advantage by playing in these under the radar tournaments. Watching these games on Facebook Live (is there another way to watch?) is not my idea of exciting. As DJC also reported in the previous post, Alabama will take part in the Charleston Classic next season. That's an ESPN tournament so that one will be televised, and Charleston isn't a bad trip for those with a little traveling bread to spend. Check out DJC's post for more info on the other teams, including two that Bama hoops fans are very familiar with by this point. 

My Two Cents: Bama's non-conference schedule is devoid of games that, at least on paper, are clear mismatches, but this might be one. Alabama A&M only won two games last season, and they're off to an 0-2 start this season. Ken Pomeroy currently has them ranked 350 out of 351 Division I teams. As long as our guys don't completely implode, they should be able to handle their business in this one.

Players to Watch: Dazon Ingram is off to a great start in his sophomore season. He played arguably his finest game in an Alabama uniform in the opening game vs Memphis, and continued that strong play this past Tuesday vs Lipscomb. Turnovers continue to be an issue for Dazon (3.5 per game so far), but he's more aggressive on offense, he can rebound, assist, run the offense, he can defend, and he's showing signs of being more of a leader on the floor.

For A&M, Arthur Johnson is the team's leading scorer (17.0) and rebounder (7.0). He's shooting the ball well through two games (48.1% FG; 50% from 3). If A&M is to pull off the upset, Johnson will have to play well.

Prediction: Our guys have a clear advantage in talent in this game. The hope is that fans in town for the early football kickoff fill Coleman to watch this exciting basketball team, and the team delivers against what should be an inferior opponent. Alabama - 97 - Alabama A&M - 55

Alabama will play in the 2018 Gildan Charleston Classic

ESPN Events announced today.  We will have 3 games November 15,16, and 18 of 2018.  The field includes Wichita State, Purdue, Virginia Tech, Ball State, Appalachian State, Davidson, and Northeastern.

My only complaint with Avery is that I wish he would get us in better pre-conference tournaments. This year's Barclay Classic will be the 2nd year in a row we're in a tournament that isn't even televised.  Since ESPN Events is running the Charleston tournament, I assume it will  at least be on TV, so that's an improvement.   Also, while they are quality programs with usually good teams; I'm getting a little tired of playing Wichita State and Purdue all the time. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Bama's Bull Bludgeons Bison, Alabama 86 Lipscomb 64

The home opener and debut of Collin Sexton was a successful 22 point victory.  We had another slow start and didn't play particularly well for much of  the first half, but we did not fall as far behind as we have in the other games.  As MSmilie pointed out in the preview, Lipscomb is capable of scoring a lot of points.  They don't have a lot of size, but they have great spacing and ball movement and several prolific shooters.  Garrison Matthews averaged over 30 points per game, but we held him to half of that. 

We used the same starting lineup with the 2 bigs and tried to take advantage of our size in the post.  It seemed they realized we couldn't make free throws so they just hacked away.  Lipscomb started the game with some hot shooting, and we had some issues with our switching on defense.  AJ came off the bench and provided a spark to the offense, scoring 9 points in just 10 minutes. Bama had a 9 point lead, but horrendous free throw shooting and a scoring drought to end the first half prevented them from putting the game away.  We were 4 of 11 at the free throw line in the first half, and a pathetic 12 of 32 for 37.5% on the game.  That must improve. 

Missed free throws and careless turnovers allowed the Bison to claw back to within a point in the first few minutes of the second half.  Alabama called a timeout, and from that point on we just wore them out with our depth and athleticism.  The team is playing at a much faster pace and seems to have great chemistry in transition.  Donta runs the floor exceptionally well for a big man.  Collin is so quick and explosive, it's practically impossible to keep him from getting to the basket without fouling him, and this opens up the floor for other guys.  JP also showed an ability to finish around the basket and hit the mid-range jump shot. 

We pressed a fair amount in the second half but did not trap out of it very much.  Still, I think it served the purpose of speeding up the pace of the game. 

Sexton had 22 points despite shooting 5 of 12 from the free throw line.  He was visibly frustrated with himself, as he was a near 90% shooter in high school.  To me, his form just looked out of rhythm.  He held the ball a bit far out in front of him, bent his knees, but his arm motion on the release seemed quick and forced and not in sync with his legs.  I'd like to see all of our shooters develop a more consistent routine at the line.  I know we work on free throws and the general consensus is that coaches can't really do any more than give guys reps, but I'm not sure I buy that line of thinking.  Anyway, I thought he played much more under control and generally made better decisions than what we saw in the Canada games.  Collin is a special player, and we should cherish this one year we get to watch him.

I will go ahead and proclaim that we will not lose to any "one-man" teams, because we can put Herb Jones on that guy and he won't be able to beat us.  Herb's stats weren't that impressive, 6 points, 4 fouls, and 3 rebounds in 25 minutes, but that doesn't adequately reflect the value he brought to the floor as a defender.  He's far exceeded my expectations and I believe he will be the first guy off the bench when Key returns. 

I want to talk about Dazon Ingram for a minute.  He's absolutely one of my favorite players on this team.  Dazon came in as a starting point guard his true freshman year before being injured, and was one of our best players last year, playing mostly at guard.  While all the hype has centered on the freshmen, Dazon has maintained a great attitude and is playing just as well seeing most of his minutes at the forward positions.  He may not have the jump shot right now, but with his size, athleticism, versatility, and experience, he adds just as much value to the lineup as the freshmen do.

I've also been pleasantly surprised by Alex Reese.  I saw him play in high school and frankly didn't think he would have the strength to play as a forward at this level.  I thought his high school coach misused him a bit.  The staff has done a great job with him in a short amount of time.  He had 9 rebounds in 16 minutes last night. 

It's going to be interesting to see how the rotation plays out when Riley and Key return, as Herb, Reese, and Galin Smith have all earned a spot, in my opinion.  It's a great problem to have. 

Overall, this isn't a perfect team, yet.  We have some lapses on defense, unforced turnovers at times, and can't make a free throw, but those things are mostly correctable.  The team seems to be playing with great chemistry and we have several good shooters and 4 or 5 guys capable of scoring 10-20 points per night.  Coach seems to have turned them loose and has a lot of trust in them.  We may take a few ill advised shots early in the shot clock, but I'm okay with that, it means we have confidence.  This sure beats passing up open looks to jack up a contested desperation heave with under 3 seconds on the shot clock. 

There was a solid crowd for a Tuesday night non-conference game, I would estimate about 9,000 or so.  It was certainly a much more energetic crowd than the UAH game with the anticipation of many seeing Sexton for the first time.  The student section was mostly full with the exception of the bad seats in the corners, and some students opted to sit in other parts of the arena.  We also saw a few members of the football team there. 

Up next, Alabama A&M comes in for a 6pm tipoff Friday night.  If you are coming to the football game Saturday, it starts at 11 am, so you may as well come down the night before and check out this exciting basketball team.  There's no TV, but it will be streamed on SEC Network+.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Game Preview - Lipscomb

Following an impressive short-handed victory over the Memphis Tigers in the season opener, the Alabama men's basketball team return to Tuscaloosa for their home opener on Tuesday night against the Lipscomb Bisons from the Atlantic Sun conference. Game time is 7 P.M. CT. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

This game will mark the debut of Collin Sexton. Collin sat out the exhibition game and the opener vs Memphis as the NCAA reviewed his eligibility. He's been cleared, and no doubt his presence in the game on Tuesday will come with a lot of excitement. My hope is we'll see a good fan turnout in Coleman on Tuesday night as a result.

There will be a slight difference in the presentation of the game previews this season. Last season, I would research and post the stats in the preview itself. This season, due to time constraints, I'm just going to link to the team stats page for the opponents, as well as link to Alabama's team stats. Alabama has yet to post their 17-18 stats on the official site, presumably because they've only played one game.

My Two Cents: Don't sleep on Lipscomb. This is a sneaky good team that is projected to challenge for the Atlantic Sun conference title. Seven of their top eight scorers from last season return so this is a veteran team. They can also score: they averaged 85 points per game a season ago, and they're off to a great start this season with a record of 2-0 and a scoring average of 87.5. This is a team that will test Alabama on the defensive end.

Players to Watch: It has to be Collin Sexton for Alabama. He's the highest rated recruit for the program since at least JaMychal Green, who was a 5-star recruit and McDonald's All-American. No doubt he is anxious to take the floor Tuesday.

For Alabama, the scouting report should start with limiting Garrison Mathews. This guy can fill it up. He averaged 20 points per game last season, and is off to a sizzling start this season with a scoring average of 31 points per game through his first two games.

Prediction: The hope is that the momentum generated by Alabama's opening win, along with Collin's debut, will result in a larger than normal crowd for a November weeknight basketball game. Our guys need to get off to a better start than what we saw in the opener. While Memphis had problems putting the ball in the basket, which allowed our guys to crawl back into the game after trailing by as much as 8 early, Lipscomb will likely not have the same issues making shots or creating attempts. Our guys will need a good defensive game plan and efficiency on the offensive end in order to exit with the victory. Alabama - 90 - Lipscomb - 75

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Low Tide still plenty to drown Tigers, 82-70

Despite playing without starting point guard Collin Sexton, last year's returning high scorer Braxton Key, and two experienced contributors off the bench in Riley and Davis; Bama was able to win convincingly over Tubby Smith's Memphis Tigers in the season opener.

The first half was nearly a disaster.  After jumping out to a 7-2 lead, we forgot how to play defense or set a screen without fouling.   They were in the bonus within 5 minutes.  At one point we had been called for 15 fouls to 5 for Memphis, and we ended the half with 20 FOULS!  For those keeping up at home, that's an average of one foul per minute.  For a team with only 8 scholarship players available, that's obviously a major problem.

The foul trouble led to some rather unorthodox lineups.  I posted after the exhibition game that Law-Dog would not see meaningful minutes in a close game that counts.  Obviously I was wrong, and credit to Schaffer for being a huge part of why we survived the first half.  He proved he's capable of being more than just a mascot.  He scored 5 points including one three where he actually created his own shot with a nice move.

In addition to the foul trouble, we had a difficult time holding on to the basketball.  I think at least part of this can be attributed to the unusual lineups.  We had ten turnovers to go along with our 20 fouls at halftime.

Memphis was able to build an 8 point lead during this stretch.  This is a trend that is starting to concern me.  I know it's still early, but in every single game going back to Canada and including the secret scrimmage against Baylor, we've faced significant deficits in the first half.  We've generally been able to overcome them, but I fear that may be a tall order in a true road game against a quality opponent.

Anyway, despite all of the above, we somehow managed to come back and lead by 2 at halftime.  I really love the way this team has shown the ability to respond to adversity.  With all the foul trouble and the short bench, things could have went south in a hurry, but our freshmen stepped up their game on both ends and just kept grinding.  Memphis helped us out by failing to convert some easy opportunities and bricking a bunch of free throws.
The Navy Drill Team Performs at Halftime

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Game Preview - Memphis [Veterans Classic at Annapolis, MD]

The season is finally here. It hasn't arrived without some adversity, but I think I speak for most Bama hoops fans when I say that I'm excited to watch college basketball again. My DVR is going to blow up as it records game after game after game. I plan to have basketball games to watch well into next summer. Alabama tips off the 17-18 season against the Memphis Tigers. Game time is 5:30 P.M. CT. The game will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.

As I said the team is going through some adversity as it enters the season. Three players (Braxton Key, Riley Norris and Ar'Mond Davis) are out with injury. All three will miss this game. Braxton had a successful surgery to repair a torn meniscus earlier this week. He's expected to return, but Avery says it could be at least four weeks before he returns to practice. Ar'Mond is out indefinitely. Riley could return as early as next week.

The team did receive some good news today. Collin Sexton, who was being held out indefinitely while the NCAA reviewed his eligibility status, will miss the Memphis game as part of a 1-game suspension, but he has been cleared to return on Tuesday in the home opener against Lipscomb. It's a sigh of relief in the wake of several conflicting reports by media outlets like ESPN that reported that the NCAA had ruled Collin ineligible. It's a break that Collin will be able to play, but the loss of Braxton for at least four weeks is still a blow for this team as it prepares for what I think could be one of the toughest non-conference schedules in the country.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Diante Wood Commits to Alabama

The 2018 recruiting class gained another commit on Wednesday when Diante Wood, a 3-star guard from Anniston, Alabama, committed to Alabama. Wood is a two-time class 1A player of the year, and he has won three straight state titles at Sacred Heart High School. ESPN ranks him as the top prospect in the state of Alabama. Wood is the third recruit to commit to Alabama in the class of 2018, joining Jared Butler and Javian Fleming.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Tide Larger than Chargers, Alabama 74 UAH 65

Let's start by addressing the big news of the day.  Many of us have been holding our breath regarding the Collin Sexton situation, and unfortunately our fears came to fruition a few hours before tip-off when it was announced that he would not play due to eligibility concerns.  Ever since the FBI investigation story broke which led to Kobie Baker's dismissal, we've heard the staff was optimistic that Sexton would be able to play.  However, those statements always came with qualifiers such as "as of right now," or "based on what we know" or "unless something else comes up."  It's true, there's nothing definitive in the FBI report that would indicate Collin either actually signed with an agent or accepted improper benefits.  Nevertheless, one would have to be pretty naive to believe that Kobie kept all of that money himself and none of it funneled down to Sexton or someone close to him.

When asked about the situation more recently Coach Johnson issued vague statements of "we're going forward with our roster."  He also said after the game last night that "new information surfaced not within the last 24 hrs but the last 8 hours."  The University released a statement saying that "The NCAA informed us late this afternoon that Collin Sexton has not had his eligibility reinstated by the NCAA. We don’t have any further information at this time, but we will continue to cooperate with the NCAA and work toward a resolution that results in Collin’s timely reinstatement."

That's all we know at this point, but here's my pure speculation on what is going on.  After conducting our internal review, we declared him ineligible and presented our findings to the NCAA and basically said, "look, we fired Kobie, we've talked to the player and his family, we don't think he's done anything to violate the amateurism rules but out of an abundance of caution we've declared him ineligible.  Please reinstate him before our upcoming game."  This is a fairly common procedure that schools do as a CYA, so if something comes out later they have the defense of, "we told you about this up front and you cleared it." We were hoping/expecting he would be cleared, but the NCAA probably said, "no, we want to look into this more."  They probably want to interview people involved.  Hopefully they don't ask the FBI to subpoena bank records and what-not.  The other concern is Kobie really does not have a reason to protect us or Collin at this point.  Regardless, it was the right decision not to push the envelope on this one.  I would not be any more surprised if he's reinstated this week for the Memphis game than I would be if he never sets foot on the court in a meaningful game for us.  At this point, we will just have to wait and see.  For whatever it's worth, his body language on the bench was generally upbeat and positive.  He was encouraging and supportive of his teammates, and certainly did not look like somebody who isn't expecting to be playing for this team.

With that out of the way, let's move on to the game.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Game Preview - Alabama-Huntsville (Exhibition)

There is anticipation for both the Alabama men's and women's basketball programs this season for the first time in many years. The women's team have already played an exhibition game (a 108-53 win for Kristy Curry's team). Now the men will take the Coleman Coliseum floor for the first game of their season. Their opponent: the Alabama-Huntsville Chargers. Game time is 7 P.M. CT. It will be televised on SEC Network +. If you're a basketball junkie living in the Tuscaloosa area, and have Monday afternoon free, Stillman College will play the University of Mobile prior to Alabama's game. That game will tip at 4:30 P.M. CT. Alabama enters the season ranked 25th in the coaches poll, and is the first team out in the AP poll.

My Two Cents: UAH has thrived under head coach Lennie Acuff, entering his 21st season at UAH, and 27th overall as a head coach. Acuff has won more than 500 games in his career (514-305). Last season, the Chargers won 26 games and were a top seed in the D-2 tournament, their season ending in the regional final. They could be looking at a rebuilding year of sorts after losing their top three scorers from last season, but the program has been so successful over the last decade that I expect them to have another good season.

Players to Watch: The freshman class for Alabama enters this season with a lot of hype. For many Alabama fans, tomorrow night may be the first time they've seen these guys play. Avery has mentioned the confidence that the freshmen have displayed so far in their careers. Will that be on display tomorrow night and throughout the season when the lights come on? It's going to be fun to find out.

UAH lost their top three scorers from a season ago, but do return a veteran presence in seniors Justin Ward (9.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg), Chayse Elliott (8.6 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 41% from 3) and Kip Owens (8.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.2 bpg, 45% from 3).  

Prediction: Avery Johnson mentioned in his press conference on Thursday that the team has struggled on the defensive end in practice, and does not look like a preseason top 25 team at this point. With that in mind, and the fact that UAH is a well-coached team, don't be shocked if the Chargers hang around in this one. Alabama - 82 - UAH - 64

Friday, November 03, 2017

Javian Fleming Commits to Alabama

Alabama picked up its second commitment of the 2018 class today. Javian Fleming - a 3-star center from Canton, MS - chose Alabama over Georgetown.

Hit the link for a detailed analysis into what Javian brings to the table.

The coaching staff could have more good news next week. Diante Wood - a 3-star guard from Anniston, AL - has announced that he will make his college decision on Wednesday, November 8th. Wood's final four schools are Bama, Auburn, South Florida and Colorado State.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Coach Johnson on Panel of Birmingham Tip-Off Club

Last night I attended the Birmingham Tip Off Club's open event featuring a panel discussion with Coach Johnson, Bruce Pearl, Rob Ehsan, and Scott Padgett.  It was not very heavily attended; I would say only about 200 or so.  I suspect the World Series going to game 7 kept a lot of people away.  The M.C. started by telling people not to ask any questions regarding the FBI investigation.

-Coach Johnson said we have a very difficult schedule by design.  Vandy made the tournament with 15 losses last year thanks to a difficult schedule.  Every one knows about Arizona, Texas, and Oklahoma, but nearly every team on our schedule can beat us if we don't play well.  He specifically mentioned UCF, Rhode Island, Mercer, and UT-Arlington as teams capable of beating us.

-His biggest concern is rebounding early in the game as "we are going to be starting games off a bit small, but we have the depth and ability to go really big as the game goes on."  This tells me, that unlike in previous years we are going into the season with a set starting lineup in mind.  My guess is 1.Sexton 2. Petty 3. Dazon 4. Key 5. Hall.

-The biggest thing we can do to help is buy tickets, show up, and be loud.  Have a great atmosphere is important.  If you can't use your tickets, get them to someone who will.  It looks bad when we have a lot of empty seats on TV.

-Bruce took it a step further and said "in football we bring 30,000 people on the road, but for basketball we're lucky to get 200.  When we played UAB here and had a lot of fans last year that was one of the best atmospheres we played in all season.  Start following us on the road."  (This is something I really wish Coach Johnson would push as opposed to trying to convince everybody to go to st. Louis for the tournament.)

-Bruce said their biggest concern was "eligibility."  It came out today, unsurprisingly, that Wiley and Purifoy are out indefinitely.

We're just 4 days away from the home exhibition game with UAH!

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

2017-18 Schedule Preview: February/March

The stretch run. Every month of the college basketball season is important of course, but the games in February and early March allow a team to solidify its postseason resume, assuming they have one. The expectation is that this Alabama team will have a resume to polish. This stretch will give them great opportunities twice against the Gators and once against Kentucky for starters. The goal is to be in great shape from a resume standpoint when the teams travel to St. Louis (ugh) for the conference tournament.

Saturday, February 3 - at Florida - The last time Alabama traveled to Gainesville in the 15-16 season, it was one of the highlights of the Avery Johnson tenure so far. Alabama won in Gainesville for the first time since 1995. I believe the Gators are the true favorites in the league this season so this will be yet another challenge for our guys. Florida is coming off an Elite Eight run last season, and they return key players in KeVaughn Allen (14.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 1.5 apg, 1.3 spg) and Chris Chiozza (7.2 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 3.8 apg, 1.3 spg). John Egbunu (7.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.5 bpg) also returns, but he's out until January as he recovers from a knee injury. In his place, expect Kevarrius Hayes (6.2 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 1.7 bpg) to shine, as he did last season when Egbunu was lost. The team also adds two potential impact transfers - Jalen Hudson (Virginia Tech; 8.4 ppg, 2.3 rpg in 15-16), and Egor Koulechov (Rice; 18.2 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 2.1 apg, 47.4% from 3).

Tuesday, February 6 - at Mississippi State - The second meeting with the Bulldogs, this time in DJC's favorite watering hole. This could be a huge game for State, depending on how Alabama's season is progressing. I feel it should be mentioned over and over how terrible the Bulldogs non-conference schedule is. Mississippi State will need to stockpile all the quality conference wins they can in order to build a postseason resume.