Sunday, February 11, 2018

Vols Fall, Alabama 78- Tennessee 50

Bama bounces back after the loss to Miss $tate to beat down yet another top 25 foe.  I will get to some great individual offensive performances soon enough, but I want to lead off with a focus on the team's defensive effort.  Finally, we stopped switching on everything and fought through the majority of screens.  I've been very critical of JP's defensive effort, but he did a great job on that end of the court Saturday.  Dazon also played better defensively than he has in recent games.  Guys were being physical getting through screens, pressing the ball, moving their feet to prevent penetration, and for the most part, boxing out on defense.  If you love solid, fundamental basketball, and appreciate the things that happen away from the ball, it was a real joy to watch, and that hasn't been the case for this team for much of the year.  

I'm starting think our guys might actually read this blog.  In my recap before the Florida game I said AJ should not be playing so much, and he played a key roll in that victory.  After the $tate loss, I said JP should lose his starting position, and he comes out and puts up 14 points, makes 3 of 4 from 3 point range, and played great defense. I think I'm going to start calling these guys out more often.

CAJ had a great gameplan, and out-coached a very good coach in Rick Barnes.  We took advantage of our size advantage, not so much by posting up, but by penetrating on the dribble drive and and cutting behind their help-side defense.  Collin, Dazon, Key, and even Petty (still too many turnovers, but...) did a great job of beating their guy off the dribble.   It was a great effort by all involved.  

The complaint department is mostly closed after a 28 point win over a top 25 opponent, and I know this might seem a bit ridiculous given the results, but I have to take issue once again with the substitution patterns.  We built a double-digit lead in the first half, then with about 11 minutes left decided to go with a lineup of 1. AJ 2. Herb 3. Alex, 4. Braxton, and 5. Galin.  That's basically 2 decent defenders and at most one scoring option.  The results were predictable, a 4+ minute scoring drought that allowed the Vols to get back within 2.  We finally put the A-squad back in, and stretched the lead back to 10 by halftime before putting it away for good early in the second half.  

I've criticized the playing rotation a lot here, but I realize I haven't offered many solutions, so here is my proposal:  My starting lineup is 1. Collin 2. Herb 3. Dazon 4. Key 5. Donta.  JP is first off the bench, and his minutes largely depend on how his first couple of shots go.  Collin goes to the bench at the under-12 timeout of each half and comes back some time between the first dead ball under 10 or at the under 8 timeout at the latest.  Basically, he rests 2.5 minutes per half.   AJ replaces him for these minutes.  For a different look at various times, I would also move Collin off-ball and let Herb or Dazon run point for 5-10 possessions each.  Dan backs up Donta down low, but can play them both to go big occasionally depending on matchups, but I would not start them both.  Galin only plays when one of them is in foul trouble.  Alex would back up Dazon and Braxton as a stretch 4 for 6-8 minutes per game, but may play more depending on matchups.  I'm sure I'm missing something, there's a reason nobody is paying me to coach college basketball, but this seems fairly common sense to me.

You knew it was going to be our night when Collin turned it over in the back court, gave up on the play, but UT missed the uncontested layup, and Collin, recognizing as soon as they released the shot that it would be off, recovered from beyond the arc, got the rebound, and raced the length of the floor to score at the other end.  

Collin had a great game with 16 points and also 4 assists.  Notably, JP also had 4 assists.  Donta was the leading scorer with 17 points and 11 rebounds.  He also did a lot of things that don't show up in the box score.  I'm loving the way he runs the floor.    Dan had 6 rebounds but only stayed on the court for 14 minutes before picking up 4 fouls.  

Lawson Schaffer was unavailable, but Tyler Barnes took on the role of crowd favorite.  He got in the game late but missed a couple of free throws.  

It was a sellout crowd and the atmosphere was great while we were building the huge lead.  There were not many empty seats, but there was a strong contingent of bright-orange clad UT fans, I would estimate 500+, mostly up in the corners but a quite a few scattered throughout.  They made their presence known during their run in the first half, but most of them left early.  I love the thought of those people getting excited about finally beating us in something, driving all the way down from east TN in the rain, then returning home dejected with a nearly 30 point loss.  Kudos to the band for finally bringing back Rammer Jammer.  

Up next, the LSU Tigers are coming in with confidence after a 16 point win over Ole Miss.  The game will tip off at 8 pm CST Tuesday night in Tuscaloosa on the SEC Network.  Folks, we need at least two more wins.  This is precisely the type of game we've struggled with.  Not only does the team deserve your support given all of their wins over top 25 opponents, they NEED you to be there Tuesday night.  We're on the verge of locking up a spot on selection Sunday.  This is the classic "trap game" sandwiched as a late midweek game between two top 25 opponents.  This team clearly thrives in packed environments.  Frankly, if we can't at least draw 12,000 or so for these types of games, we don't deserve a consistent tournament team as a fanbase.   Sadly, there are still plenty of tickets available.  If you're reading this, presumably you care about the University of Alabama men's basketball team.  If at all possible, get your ass to Coleman Coliseum Tuesday night.  I hope to see you there.  

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