Thursday, November 15, 2018

Game Preview: Ball State [Charleston Classic]
This isn't the game we were hoping for, but it's the game we've got. And it looms large in Alabama's season, even in early November. Watching the game today, I was reminded of a line of dialogue from the 1995 comedy film, Friday. In the scene, Chris Tucker's character "Smokey" witnesses a one-sided fight and says to the loser at the conclusion, "You got knocked the f**k out, man!". That, more or less, captures what happened to Alabama today.

It was not an encouraging performance by Alabama on day one in Charleston against a veteran Northeastern team. The Huskies carved through Alabama's defense efficiently and without mercy. I can't even say Northeastern appeared to enjoy it as everything seemed to come so easy for them. It was one of the more disappointing defensive performances that I've seen from an Alabama team in quite a while. The gameplan, the effort, the inability to make adjustments in the game, it all played a part in Alabama's first loss of the season. For a more in-depth look at what went wrong, check out DJC's recap below.

The tournament moves on. Alabama will next play Ball State (KenPom: 99) from the Mid-American Conference. The Cardinals enter this game 1-2, but their two losses were to ranked opponents at Purdue in a non-bracketed game, and today vs Virginia Tech. Game time is 12:30 P.M. CT. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

My Two Cents: Remember the 2010 Paradise Jam? That was a November event in Anthony Grant's second season that took place in the Virgin Islands. Alabama lost all three games in that event if you recall. They did bounce back and win 25 games that season, but that 0-3 struggle in the Virgin Islands played a large part in Alabama's failure to reach the NCAA tournament that season.

Losing a game in these November tournaments is not a big deal, unless you let one loss become several in the days that follow. Yes, this Alabama team was thoroughly beaten today by Northeastern; no other way to describe it. But they need to get past it, move on, and be prepared to play tomorrow. With two games remaining in this tournament, Alabama can still salvage something from this trip and build confidence for the road ahead.

Like Northeastern, Ball State is another good mid-major team that is expected to compete for their conference title. Assuming they're the favorite in this game, Bama will likely only be favored by 2-3 points. But Alabama needs to focus on Alabama. Northeastern played well today in that game, but the final score had a lot to do with Alabama's complete lack of effort and preparation, particularly on the defensive end. Coming out tomorrow with improved effort and a sense of urgency will go a long way towards helping Alabama put today's result in the rear view mirror.

Players to Watch: Where in the heck was Donta Hall today? Alabama's leading scorer finished with 0 points, 3 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 blocks in 19 minutes. He never appeared to be part of the gameplan, or never put himself in position to be part of the gameplan. Whatever the reason, he played a very minor role in the game. For a potential all-conference selection/future draft pick, that's not going to get it done. Donta has to be a presence in every game.

Tayler Persons is the senior leader of this Ball State team. He's also a very good basketball player. The 6'3 guard is averaging 18.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg and 4 apg. After watching Northeastern's lead guard Vasa Pusica pick apart Alabama's defense, I hope the Bama coaches have a defensive plan in place to contain Persons tomorrow or I fear we'll see more defensive struggles for Alabama.

Prediction: No team wants to face adversity so early in the season, but that's what Alabama faces now. After a humbling defeat, does this team have the toughness and leadership necessary to rebound tomorrow against a quality opponent? It has to start on the defensive end for Alabama. As we saw today, Alabama doesn't have the offensive identity in place to take days off on defense. I'm going to believe that this team will come out with better effort tomorrow and have a better showing.

Alabama - 74 - Ball State - 64

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