Saturday, March 30, 2019

Offseason Post #1

You always remember your first. This is the first of what will likely be many offseason posts this spring and summer as the Alabama program welcomes a new coaching staff. To start, for those of you that haven't seen the press conference to introduce Nate Oats as the new head coach, here is some embedded video:

Here's the latest with the current roster. Kira Lewis, John Petty, Daniel Giddens and Dazon Ingram all entered the transfer portal. Daniel and Dazon are likely not coming back, but the good news is JP has already withdrawn from the portal and will return to the team. Assuming John doesn't change his mind, this is a big development. In my opinion, John did improve from year one to year two, but he hasn't come close to reaching his ceiling. The hope is that the new coaching staff will bring the best out of him. As far as Kira goes, Coach Oats has talked with him and his family about returning, but, for now at least, he remains in the portal.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Nate Oats Named New Head Coach

Alabama officially named Nate Oats as the new head coach today.  It's no secret that I had him at number 9 on my list, but there's a lot to like about him.  There's no doubt it's a gamble, as is the case with any mid-major, but it could pay off big.

After a long, successful high school career, he served for 2 years as an assistant at Buffalo before taking over as head coach.  In 4 years as a head coach for the Bulls, he's made the tournament 3 times with an upset win over Arizona last year and a first round win over Arizona State this year.  He is a former math teacher and embraces the analytics of the modern game.  Buffalo ranked 21st in adjusted offensive efficiency, 31st in adjusted defensive efficiency, and 12th in adjusted tempo. 

Here's a great SI Article from last month about him.  You really should take the time to read it, but some of the highlights that I found compelling were that he believes in practicing hard and giving the players a lot of freedom in the games, and being upset about only beating a team by 18 that he felt they should have beat by 35 or 40. Having a team that won't take the foot off the gas with a comfortable lead will be a refreshing change.

The main question is can he recruit at a level necessary to do that in a power 5 conference?  Time will tell, and a good place to start would be getting Kira and Petty back from the transfer portal.  I suspect he will be meeting with the Watfords in the very near future as well. 

I know we all wanted a "bigger name," but this guy deserves a chance and I hope everyone will give him their full support. 

We'll have more after the press conference and I'll post some additional thoughts on the hiring whenever I get around to drafting my annual end-of-season manifesto. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Let's Talk About Transfers

Transfers have become the new normal in college athletics. If a coaching staff isn't preparing for it each season, they're not doing their jobs. It's even more likely when there's been a coaching change. Greg Byrne mentioned in his press conference that they have asked the current players, recruits and their families to be patient as they search for the next coach. Unfortunately, a couple of players have began exploring other options immediately.

Dazon Ingram has made it official that he will play his graduate year at another school. This has actually been rumored for a week or so. Dazon has received a fair share of crap from fans over the years, but he made a commitment to Alabama, played through a litany of injuries, and was, by all accounts, a solid citizen. He was also a solid basketball player when he was at his best. A guy that could give you double figure points, grab rebounds, assists, and was a solid defender. I got no beef with Dazon, and I wish him nothing but the best. Rumors are he will stay close to home (South Alabama, UAB, etc), but he's also had some top flight programs like Nevada and Gonzaga reach out to him, per reports.

The bigger news on the transfer front is that Kira Lewis has entered the "transfer portal" and is weighing his options ahead of the Alabama coaching search. This doesn't mean Kira is for sure gone - entering the portal just means he can be contacted by other coaches - but I do think it puts more pressure on Greg Byrne to try and wrap this coaching hire up sooner rather than later. In my opinion, Kira would be the best returning player for next season so the next coach needs to make retaining him a priority. I would assume more transfers are possible, if not likely. The hope here is the remaining players will wait to see what happens with this coaching search.  

Monday, March 25, 2019

Greg Bryne holds press conference to discuss coaching search.

The key points:

- He wants someone with college experience and ability to develop players and recruit.
-Is not concerned with "geographical footprint."
- The reputation of the University will be at the forefront of everything we do, and it will be a person with a history of academic and NCAA compliance.  (Welp, there went my first two choices)
-Everybody needs to be patient.
-Coaches and agents start rumors for leverage, don't believe anything or anyone.
-No search committee or outside headhunters, he got this.

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Official- Avery Johnson out as head coach at Alabama

Here's the link.

First off, like DJC said below... I want to thank Avery Johnson for his efforts here. While it didn't turn out the way either side wanted it to, there is no doubt his first 3 years here he was doing everything he could to get the program off and running. He left his program in much better position than the previous 3 coaches before him.

To put the blame on Avery Johnson for the recent failures of the program is short sighted. Sure there were things he could've done better, but in the end it came down to execution on the court and I'm going to point the finger at the players on the team. With the exception of a couple... most of them played with little heart or desire. You could see Avery's frustration on the bench when someone would jack up ANOTHER ill-advised 3 that a mason would've been proud of to further bury the team in a deficit. There were no leaders on this team. ZERO. For anyone that thinks Kira should've taken that role... yeah, no one is going to follow a 17 YO's lead. He should be that person next year though.

We all complained about Avery's weird rotation of players. My understanding of this was out of pure frustration as communication on the team wasn't very good and he kept trying to find ANY 5 that could play in sync. Rarely did we have more that 3 players have a really good game within the same game. You can blame that on team chemistry.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Head Coaching Wish List

I previously said I would not discuss this topic until and if we have an opening.  While it's not official, with the news breaking that we are negotiating Coach Johnson's buyout, I think it's obvious he's not coming back and it's now an appropriate time to have this conversation.

First of all, I am saddened that things didn't work out with Coach Johnson.  I appreciate his relentless recruiting and marketing efforts, and he seems like a genuinely good guy.  Our program is in much better shape, and it should be a much more attractive job than when he found it 4 years ago.   To Coach Avery Johnson, I say Thank you for your service to this program and our University, and I wish nothing but the best for you and your family in the future.

Before I get to my list of names, let's take a quick, honest look at the pros and cons of our job opening. 

Pros:  1) We can and will pay top dollar.  We are loaded.  Thanks largely to Nick Saban and football, we have one of the most profitable athletic departments in the country.

2) We return a talented roster.  At least on paper, we are only losing Riley and Donta from a team that missed the NCAA tournament by one spot, and we have a top 20 recruiting class signed.  The new candidate will have a lot to work with and should be able to hit the ground running.

3) Facilities- We can sell a potential coach on the commitment to the program by pointing to the planned renovations and facility upgrades.

4) We have an AD who loves basketball and has a strong background with good hoops programs.

Cons: 1)  It's fair to question our Board's commitment to the program by pointing out that we are only renovating rather than re-building, and even that is being pushed back to phase 2 and contingent upon fundraising success.  Before reaching out to the top names on my list below, I would announce that we are moving the renovations into phase 1.  I would love it if we also announced we are building a new arena, but I know that's not realistic at this point. 

2) Football- it's a double-edged sword.  A lot of coaches have big egos, and no matter what you do here, you won't be the big dog on campus at least for the foreseeable future. 

3) Expectations- We have a small but passionate and knowledgeable fan base that expects to be in the NCAA tournament more often than not.  The reality is we play in a very competitive conference with many already established program, and we haven't been a consistent NCAA tournament team in over two decades. 

Other schools with a current opening include UCLA, Texas A&M, Nebraska, and Vanderbilt.  LSU may soon have one.  I think we are as attractive as any of them with the exception of UCLA.  Texas A&M can likely outbid us with their oil money if they choose to do so.

Now, I'm going to list these in order of my personal preference, with some comments on their resume and the likelihood of us being able to land them.  Hit the break for more...

Alabama Negotiating Buyout With Avery Johnson

It appears the Avery Johnson era at the University of Alabama is coming to an end. Multiple outlets are reporting that the university and Johnson are negotiating the terms of his buyout. This seemed inevitable following yet another late-season collapse, plus a dispiriting loss in the first game of the NIT. Steve Prohm, an Alabama alum and current head coach at Iowa State, is expected to be the favorite for the job. Feel free to share your coaching wishlist in the comment section.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Norfolk it all, NSU Spartans 80 Alabama 79

This roller coaster season mercifully came to an end with an overtime loss in the first round of the NIT tournament.  Alabama wraps up the campaign with an 18-16 record. 

I didn't go to this game.  Work obligations, the general admission seating situation, my inability to get reserved floor seats, and an unprecedented level of personal apathy all added up to make it not worth my while.  I haven't seen a box score yet so this recap is going to be quick and short on stats.  I doubt many of you care much about this game anyway. 

We started slow and fell down early, so CAJ called a timeout and did a line-change substitution that proved to be effective for a time.  We evened up the score and the game went back and forth through much of the first half, despite our usual sloppy play leading to at least 9 turnovers. 

Alex Reese went off for 14 straight points on a run that gave us a double-digit lead.  We maintained a 7 point advantage at the half.  After stretching the lead to 10 again, we stayed in the zone too long and allowed the Spartans to bomb their way back in it from 3.  With the game tied in the final seconds, Donta went for a block and allowed a wide open put back opportunity that they missed to send it to overtime. 

We continued to have issues rebounding the ball, dribbling or passing the ball, and defending the 3 point line as NSU was able to take a 5 point lead late in the overtime period.  Herb and JP made some great plays down the stretch to keep it close, and NSU even gave us the ball on a turnover in the final 10 seconds with a chance to win the game, but Riley's shot came up just short and that was that. 

Donta was mostly a non-factor till the overtime period despite them not having anybody over 6'8."  We stunk it up from the free throw line again. 

Kudos and thanks to the fans who showed up to support this team in their final game tonight.  Up next, the off-season, and with rumors abound, it promises to be an exciting one.  We'll try to post any breaking news as we hear it, and I'll have my annual end-of-the-season/state of the program manifesto up at some point in the coming weeks.  Otherwise, enjoy the off-season. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Game Preview: Norfolk State [NIT]

The NIT it is. Unfortunately, the Alabama men's basketball team (18-15, KenPom: 59, NET: 59) did not receive a bid to the 2019 NCAA Tournament, but will have the opportunity to continue playing. The Tide are a 1 seed in the NIT, and will host the Norfolk State Spartans (21-13, KenPom: 264, NET: 260) in Coleman Coliseum on Wednesday night. Game time is 6 P.M. CT. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

Something to keep in mind: The NIT will once again have experimental rules in place. These include an extended 3-point line (the FIBA distance of 22 ft, 1.75 inches), the free throw lane will be widened from 12 ft to 16 ft, the shot clock will reset to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound instead of 30 seconds, team fouls will reset at the 10-minute mark of each half and one-and-one free throws will be eliminated (teams will shoot two free throws after the fifth team foul in each 10-minute segment). If a game should go into overtime, team fouls will reset, and the teams will shoot two free throws at the fourth team foul or the second team foul that is committed with under two minutes remaining if the foul comes before the fourth team foul of the overtime period. While I love all of the rules being implemented for the NIT because I think all of them improve pace of play, this overtime rule is a bit much. Anyway, on with the preview.

My Two Cents: Alabama lost three one-possession games this season. If they win just one of those games (Georgia State, Texas A&M, at Tennessee), they're likely preparing for an NCAA Tournament game this week. Sometimes a season comes down to one game or one possession, and it's the inattention to small details that this team struggled with all season that ultimately cost it a shot at a second consecutive NCAA bid.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

You're Out! Bama Misses The Cut

Alabama came close, but fell short of making it back to the NCAA Tournament. Our guys were the second team out of the field (UNCG, Bama, TCU and Indiana are the first four out). This insures Alabama a 1 seed in the NIT, but I'd be lying if I said I'm not disappointed. The goal every year is to make the NCAA Tournament, and to fall short, particularly when this team had so many opportunities to lock up a bid down the stretch, is very disappointing.

Once again, some of the committee decisions didn't make much sense on the surface. Alabama had a top 20 strength of schedule (SOS: 17), but St. John's (SOS: 69) and Arizona State (SOS: 70), with the same number of Q1/2 wins, and a lower NET ranking, get in ahead of Alabama. Arizona State had two quad 4 losses and get into the field. Doesn't make much sense to me. I will give the committee props for giving Belmont, a strong mid-major that lost in their conference tournament, a chance to play in the tournament. That has been an area where they have failed in recent years. Happy for Rick Byrd and the Belmont Bruins.

The NIT selection show will air at 7:30 P.M. CT. I'll update this post with the NIT first round opponent and bracket breakdown. I'm disappointed, but will hope our guys can pull together and go out on a high note.

Update: The NIT bracket has been released. Alabama will host Norfolk State from the MEAC on Wednesday (March 20). The NIT selection committee obviously has a sense of humor because Alabama could play Dayton, coached by former Alabama coach Anthony Grant, in the second round. Dayton will travel to Colorado in their first round game. The teams on the bottom of the bracket are Xavier/Toledo and Texas/South Dakota State so there will be challenges awaiting Alabama in this tournament. I'll start working on a game preview for the Norfolk State game tonight. I hope you guys will continue to read despite the team falling short of the NCAA Tournament.

Click for the complete NIT bracket.  

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Feeling Blue? Kentucky 73 Alabama 55

Predictably, Alabama was eliminated from the SEC tournament in a 73-55 loss that drops them to 18-15 (8-10) on the season. 

We stuck with the same starting lineup that scored about 6 points in the first 8 minutes against Ole Miss.  They fared a little better in at least ugly-ing up the game and keeping it close through the first media timeout.  The turning point came when we forced a turnover and should have had a transition opportunity.  Instead Herb derped it up and turned it over, creating a fast break chance for the Cats.  To his credit, he recovered with great effort to foul and prevent a layup, but unfortunately he caught the guy in the head and was called for a flagrant.  That seemed to wake the sleeping giant. 

For some reason we tried to run with them, even with 2 centers on the court.  The faster pace predictably led to a flurry of turnovers.  Kentucky went on a 17-4 run and the game was never really in doubt.

Alex came in off the bench and hit a couple of 3s as we made a run in the first half to cut the deficit to 6.  Kentucky answered and took a double digit lead into the half. 

I want to talk a bit about the clock management at the end of the first half.  We had the ball with a minute to play down 9.  Alex misses a 3 with 50 seconds left, I'm thinking, "okay, good, at least we went 2 for 1."  UK scores with 25 seconds left to go up 11.  We should be holding the ball for the final shot at that point, but for some reason T-Mack jacks up a 3 with 25 seconds still left in the half.  We're lucky enough to get the rebound, then Kira jacks up another one 5 seconds later.  I mean, what in the hell?  Do we not have one coach competent enough on the bench to get someone's attention and yell "ONE SHOT!?"  We then pick up an unnecessary foul and give them another point at the line.  Next, Dazon drives in and draws a foul, again leaving 3 seconds on the clock.  Thankfully UK's shot at the buzzer came up just short, or that terribly mis-managed situation could have ended up a lot worse than it was. 

We generally did a better job handling the ball in the second half, but the defense couldn't get stops and Kentucky just methodically pulled away and the game was never in doubt. 

We kept trying to attack the basket and their bigs were dominant in defending the rim.  They ended up with 11 blocks.  Alex was our leading scorer with 15 points, making 3 of 6 from 3 point range.  Donta had 14 points but only 6 rebounds.  He was a perfect 8 for 8 from the line.  One positive in this game was we actually shot 15 of 19 from the charity stripe. 

We went back to the 10 man rotation and nobody played more than 30 minutes.  At one point in the first half we had AJ, Galin, and Herb all in the game at the same time. 

Regardless, I don't think it mattered much what we tried to do in this game.  At the end of the day, we don't have a single player that could start for them, and I'm not even sure we have more than one or two that would break into their playing rotation.  They are a talented, national championship contender who was motivated to avenge a previous loss in front of their home fans. 

Up next, selection Sunday.  The bubble is so weak this year I think we have an outside shot at playing in Dayton next week.  The NCAA selection show will be on CBS at 5:30 pm CST.  The NIT selection show will follow at 7:30 p.m. on ESPNU.  If our name doesn't appear on the former, someone text me and let me know who we are playing and when in the latter, as I'll be watching the Birmingham Iron game instead at that point.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Staying Alive, Alabama 62 Ole Miss 57

Alabama overcame a 16 point deficit to defeat Ole Miss and keep its NCAA tournament hopes alive, for now.

It was a tale of two halves.  We went with a starting lineup of Kira, Herb, Riley, Donta, and Galin.  It didn't work. We scored 8 points in the first 10 minutes of the game.  Thankfully Ole Miss was cold and had their own issues with turnovers so they weren't able to run out to a huge lead.  We closed the half in our traditional sloppy fashion and the Rebels led by 14 going into the break.

After Ole Miss took a 16 point lead early in the second half, a couple of things changed to get us back into the game.  I liked the switch on defense to a 2-3 zone to limit their dribble drive, and we generally did a good job of closing out on their 3-point shooters.  Perhaps even more importantly, Galin Smith got into an altercation with one of the Rebels resulting in a double-technical foul.  The team seemed to play with a lot more intensity and effort following that skirmish.  From that moment we dominated the boards and went on a 15-0 run.  The solid defense combined with the rebounding allowed us to get into transition where Kira was terrific.  It was a close game down the stretch but we actually made the plays we needed, got some key stops, and made just enough free throws. 

We still had some of the same issues that's plagued this team all season.  The 16 turnovers was way too many, and we only made 9 of 18 from the free throw line.  Still, this team deserves a lot of credit for fighting back at a time when almost everyone was ready to write off the season.

T-Mack led the way with 21 points including 4 of 6 from 3 point range.  Kira had 13 points and 4 steals, and as I said he was great in transition and off the dribble.  Galin had 11 points in 29 minutes.  You all know how I feel about playing 2 bigs at the same time, but I thought Galin did an excellent job even if it meant having Donta playing out of position a bit offensively.  Speaking of Donta, though he only scored 7 points he pulled down 15 rebounds.  Riley had 9 rebounds but it felt like a lot more as he tipped several balls to his teammates.  JP only had 2 points in 13 minutes, and I felt like he was not aggressive enough and passed on too many open shots. 

Up next, a battle with Big Blue Nation as we play Kentucky tonight at 6 pm on the SEC Network.  A win likely secures an NCAA bid, but unfortunately that's about as likely to happen as me banging Emily Ratajkowski.  Even with a respectable loss, if things break the right way I think we have a decent shot at playing in Dayton next week.

Game Preview: Kentucky [SEC Tournament]

The dream is alive for the Alabama (18-14, KenPom: 60, NET: 59) men's basketball team following a, dare I say it, gutty comeback win vs Ole Miss on Thursday. The win, plus some other bubble teams losing on Thursday, put Alabama squarely back into the bracket discussion. A golden opportunity awaits in the form of the Kentucky Wildcats (26-5, AP: 4, KenPom: 8, NET: 5). Win this one and Alabama, despite the inconsistency of this season, will likely be in the NCAA field. Lose it and it'll be a nervous couple of days. Game time is 6:00 P.M. CT. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

My Two Cents: I'm going to try and keep it short due to the quick turnaround. I'll be honest, I didn't have high expectations going into the game Thursday, and I even contemplated not watching. But it was an Alabama basketball game, and I couldn't help myself. And then the first half happened, and I quit on multiple occasions. Fortunately, the team hung in there, and while it wasn't a pristine second half of basketball, they competed in the second half and pulled through. In what felt like the first game in forever, Alabama dominated the glass, out-rebounding the Rebels by twenty. The final minutes were high drama similar to last season at this time, and just as satisfying when the clock hit 0:00. It doesn't erase the continued issues that the program has and must address on and off the floor, but I was happy for the players that they were able to gut one out after struggling with adversity for much of the season. 

The Cats don't play at a high tempo (13th in the league), but they are top five in the league in all major offensive categories. Overall, they are the 3rd most efficient offensive team in the league behind Tennessee and LSU. Defensively, UK is tops in the league in defensive efficiency. However, one area that stands out to me and which gives me some hope for this game is that Kentucky doesn't rate high in the league in defensive turnover and steal pct (ranked 9th in both categories). Even in the win on Thursday, turnovers continued to plague Alabama (10 of their 16 turnovers came in the first half), but if Kentucky struggles to force Alabama into turnovers, that's Alabama's best chance to spring the upset.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Your rooting interest for the slim hopes of a NCAAT bid

Going to just cover the major conferences here. Root against:
- Ohio State (vs fellow bubble Indiana)
- Clemson (vs sort of bubble NC State)
- Big East tourney:
    - St John's 1st round loss (I can't root for that, but it would help a lot)
    - Creighton and Georgetown (Quarterfinals)
    - Root against any seed lower than 3
- Big 12 tourney:
    - 1st round TCU (who were dead, but got life again). Go Pokes!
    - Texas. We need KU to blow them out
- PAC-12 tourney... root against EVERYONE not named Washington or Arizona St
- SEC tournament:
    - Florida (vs Arkansas)
- AAC tourney: Temple and against all minus UCF, Houston, and Cincy
- MWC tourney: Utah State

Above all else we need to win at least 1 and more than likely 2 to get on the right side of the bubble.

Game Preview: Ole Miss [SEC Tournament]

We've reached the SEC Tournament not with a bang, but a whimper. If the Alabama (17-14, 8-10, KenPom: 60, NET: 58) men's basketball team wanted a healthy dose of drama, it's got it as it heads to Nashville. The bubble is close to bursting, the fans are frustrated, bloggers are tweeting at the Alabama AD imploring him to do something, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria! Alabama will be the 10 seed in the conference tournament. Their first opponent will be the 7 seed Ole Miss Rebels (20-11, 10-8, KenPom: 43, NET: 34). Game time Thursday is 6 P.M. CT. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.

My Two Cents: There's no shame in losing at Fayetteville, even to a rebuilding Arkansas team. The frustration in the wake of that game stemmed more from previous losses (home losses to Georgia State, Texas A&M, Florida and Auburn come to mind). On February 9th, Alabama was 15-8 (6-4) after a road win at Vanderbilt. The team lost six of its next eight by an average of 11.5 pts per game. Four of those losses were to potential NCAA Tournament teams, but half of the six were also at home. There's no way to spin yet another late season collapse. After four years, it's now become a trend. If that isn't reason enough for the UA administration to make a change, perhaps what could be a record number of empty seats next season will do the trick.

What is perhaps the most frustrating development of this season is that the team has noticeably regressed in several areas in which it showed strength earlier this season. Two areas in particular: defensive rebounding and offensive efficiency. Alabama was a top 75 team in both areas at points this season. Currently: they're ranked 82 in offensive efficiency and 150 in defensive rebounding. The team remained healthy for the most part all season so it's distressing how a team can go from doing two things really well to being average at best at both. After scoring 70 or more points in 18 of the first 23 games, Alabama finally scored at least 70 in their final game of the regular season. Even more upsetting is no one, even the head coach, appears to have any idea how to get things back on track. When your head coach is sayings things like "Hopefully we'll be able to see something to spark our team this week", you have to wonder if anyone has a winning mindset as the team prepares for Nashville.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Numbers to wet your whistle... 4 years of Avery Johnson

2015: 18-15/8-10 SEC
2016: 19-15/10-8 SEC
2017: 20-16/8-10 SEC
2018: 17/14/8-10 SEC

Consistent numbers right there.
That's 74-60/34-38 SEC

2015: 66.5/67.9
2016: 68.5/64.7
2017: 72.3/70.6
2018: 72.6/71.7

Sunday, March 10, 2019

SEC Tournament Bracket

The air has gone out of the season for many of us that pull for Bama Hoops, but there is still a conference tournament to settle. The SEC has released the bracket, which you can find here. LSU, Kentucky, Tennessee and South Carolina are the top four seeds. Auburn, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Florida, Arkansas, Alabama (sigh), Texas A&M, Missouri, Georgia and Vanderbilt follow in that order. Alabama will play Ole Miss on Thursday evening at 6 P.M. CT. More on that game in the preview later this week. For now, check out the bracket and please share your SEC Tournament picks in the comments section. 

Razorbacks Smack Bama, Arkansas 82 Alabama 70

Alabama concluded the regular season with a 12 point loss on the road to Arkansas to finish 17-14 (8-10), good for a 10th place finish in the SEC.  At least we aren't playing Wednesday I guess.

I watched this game at a bar in Louisville while, pre-gaming for a Metallica concert while visiting a college friend that I haven't seen in years, so frankly I didn't pay that close attention to it.

What I did notice was more of the same piss poor free throw shooting, bone headed turnovers, and inability to defend the rim, and nonsensical substitution patterns.  Gafford destroyed us with 29 points and 16 rebounds. 

Can anyone explain to me why Galen Smith was on the court for 23 minutes?   It seemed like we had 2 centers on the court for most of the game. Or AJ for 13.  Alex also played 21 minutes after sitting on the bench for weeks. 

T-Mack played well with 14 points, and Kira was also in double digits with 12.  We turned it over 15 times to their 8.  They scored 19 points off of our turnovers, we got 6 from theirs.  That's pretty much the difference in the game.

Sorry for the short recap, but like I said, I didn't watch this game very intently and frankly I'm just ready for this season to be over with.

Up next, the SEC tournament in Nashville.  We will play Ole Miss Thursday night, and as mandated by law if we somehow miraculously win that game Kentucky awaits in the second round.  The game will be on the SEC network.

Friday, March 08, 2019

Game Preview: at Arkansas

We've reached the end of the regular season and, once again, the Alabama (17-13, 8-9, KenPom: 59, NET: 55) men's basketball team is fighting for their postseason lives. The team has lost two straight, both home games, and is 4-6 in their last ten games. Their backs are as close to the wall as you can get without being the wall. I'm always hesitant to label a game a must-win, but that's the deal tomorrow vs Arkansas (16-14, 7-10, KenPom: 53, NET: 65). Game time is 5 P.M. CT. SEC Network is televising the game.

My Two Cents: Avery Johnson is feeling the heat from the fanbase. To be fair, the heat was already turned up, but a second sweep by Auburn in the last three seasons certainly didn't help matters. While the game results have been disappointing, if there is a silver lining, it's that effort hasn't been an issue for this team since the letdown at Texas A&M. They did play hard vs LSU and Auburn, but they didn't play well. Nevertheless, the team's effort suggests that the coaching staff and the players are still trying to turn this thing around. If the execution can match the effort on Saturday evening, the Alabama players and coaches will feel a little bit better as they prepare for Nashville.

It's strange to say this, being that this game will be played in one of the historically toughest road environments in the league, but it may be in Alabama's favor that this game is being played on the road. Whether it's the pressure of playing in front of a success-starved fan base, the difficulty of creating an energetic environment in the current configuration of Coleman Coliseum, or some other unknown reason, Alabama has really struggled at home during the oft-discussed late season swoons.

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Barners Brutalize Bama, auburn 66 Alabama 60

Alabama was swept by in-state rival auburn to drop to 17-13 (8-9).  I'm going to keep this relatively short, because it's late, and I've got too much to do tomorrow to waste time revisiting this abortion.  You want a recap?  Go back and look at either of my Texas A&M game write-ups, or my Georgia State game write up, or any of the other nearly dozen times we've blown double-digit leads this year.  This game was nothing new.  If you want a little more of a "big picture" analysis, go back and look at my recaps from any big home games late in the season with an NCAA tournament bid on the line in the last 4 years. This team is maddeningly inconsistent, yet amazingly predictable all at the same time.

We had  10 and 12 point leads at different points in the game, but couldn't take advantage of opportunities to really stretch it out.  We missed 2 or 3 dunks on one possession.  Turnovers were a problem throughout, but they went from the careless inbound violation variety to the disastrous open- court-steals-leading-to-wide-open-3 kinds in the second half. 

Bruce got a technical for something said during a timeout, and auburn responded with a run to erase our lead. 

Dazon aggravated his injury and had to leave the game after playing well for only 11 minutes.   I do think he could have helped some defensively.  When the auburn guards got to the rim and pulled Donta away, we didn't have any size to rotate over.  Dan Giddens also left the game with a wrist injury. Let's hope both are okay.  One moment of slight entertainment was Dan coming back out of the locker room and looking at the scoreboard to see our 12 point lead down to 2 and looking at his teammates in disbelief saying "Wtf?  how?"  Dan was probably the only person in the whole gym legitimately surprised by the turn of events.

Speaking of Donta, can someone explain why he routinely puts up double-doubles against elite competition, but gets owned by the likes of Chuma Okeke?  The 6'8" auburn forward had 17 points and 14 rebounds while Donta managed just 2 dunks and 8 rebounds in 34 minutes.  Once again, we played Donta and Galen together at the same time for three comical minutes.  Perhaps Riley could have helped defend the rim or protect the ball in the second half, but we'll never know as he was only allowed to play 16 minutes.

T-Mack made a 3 to tie the game late and give us some hope, but we couldn't get a stop. 

Kira was our leading scorer with 13 points and generally played a solid game, but putting the game in the 17 year old's hands in that situation at the end was probably just asking too much.  After Kira's turnover, they got another uncontested layup, and then Kira threw it away again.  If you're keeping score at home, that's 2 offensive turnovers and two uncontested layups conceded in the final minute with the game on the line. 

JP had 8 points and 9 rebounds but an atrocious 6 turnovers.  Herb did a much better job of finishing at the rim and he seemed to be playing with more confidence, but also coughed it up 4 times.  T-Mack was in double digits with 10 points, making a 3 in the early run to take the big lead and another at the end to tie the game before the obligatory implosion.

The crowd was solid and into the game, I would guess close to 11,000 with probably 1,000 or so auburn fans scattered throughout.  Trendon Watford was in attendance and frankly looked bored most of the time.  He did acknowledge the students chanting his name, and I was very impressed that he took the time to have his picture taken with several young kids.  He seems like a good guy, and I really hope he chooses to come to Alabama, but I wish him the best in whatever he decides to do.

Thanks to a God-awful bubble, our NCAA tournament hopes are still somehow very much alive.  If we can win our final game we will at least have a chance, add one in the SEC tournament and we are still probably in good shape.

Up next, that final critical game in Fayetteville, Arkansas against the Razorbacks.  Tip-off is set for 5pm Saturday on the SEC Network.

If I were a religious man, I would give up Alabama basketball for lent.  Maybe I will anyway.  Happy Fat Tuesday/Mardi Gras/Carnival or whatever.

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Bama's At Large bid competition

Gonna throw a few teams we should be rooting against to make us all breathe easier come selection Sunday. You can ignore this if we win our last 2 regular season games.

NOTE- ASSUME 3-5 bids will be eaten up as conference tourneys are unpredictable. Keep an eye on the PAC-12, AAC. and MW... those 3 could add 3 teams to the mix. I'm less concerned about mid-major tourney upsets.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Game Preview: Auburn (Take 2)

It's hard to believe that we are in the final week of the regular season for college basketball. There are a handful of mid-major leagues beginning tournament play this week. For Alabama (17-12, 8-8, KenPom: 57, NET: 53), you could argue that tournament play is already underway. At least, that should be their mindset. Alabama remains firmly on the bubble as they prepare to host the Auburn Tigers (20-9, 9-7, KenPom: 16, NET: 21) on Tuesday night. Game time is 8 P.M. CT. ESPNU is handling the television duties.

My Two Cents: Alabama played hard on Saturday vs LSU, but they didn't always play well. There was one stretch in particular late in the second half in which the shot selection was extremely poor that may have led to the disappointing result. But one should also give LSU credit. That's a good basketball team that is surprisingly clutch despite the number of young players on their roster. Of course, it's also a roster with multiple NBA prospects so it's also extremely talented. They made play after play under pressure down the stretch of that game. Sometimes, it's not about what your guys do, it's that the other team is good and wants to win also.

In addition to Alabama's bubble hopes and the rivalry aspect, both Bama and Auburn still have a shot at that fourth seed in the conference tournament, which raises the stakes even more for this game. The first game at Auburn was a one-sided affair in favor of the home team, but the Tigers have had their share of ups and downs as well this season, particularly on the road. The hope is that trend continues on Tuesday night.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

Tigers Tackle Tide, LSU 64 Alabama 59

Alabama came up on the short end of a hard fought game against the 13th ranked team in the nation, falling to 17-12 (8-8).

The seniors were honored before the game, including both Dazon and Dan despite the fact that they each still have a year of eligibility remaining.

The team came out flat, allowing LSU to jump out to a 7-0 lead against our man-to-man defense.  We finally got on the board when LSU was called for a flagrant foul.  Marlon Taylor should have been ejected for his cheap shot on JP, but it seemed to energize our squad.  We switched to a zone, Herb of all people knocked down a couple of 3s, and we fought back from 10 down to take the lead.  LSU was stinking it up from 3 point range, and both teams were atrocious at the free throw line.  We went into the locker room trailing 29-28.

We continued with the shorter rotations that I like.  We had 4 guys playing over 30 minutes including 38 from both JP and Kira, and Riley Norris played 32 minutes off the bench.  AJ returned to action, but only played one minute at the end of the first half to prevent Kira from picking up a 3rd foul.  Still, I have issues with some of the combinations we are using.  Again, we had Dan and Galen on the floor together for about four minutes toward the end of the first half.  When Dan shot a 3 (yes, you read that right), I lost it and screamed out "PLEASE take one of the bigs out!"  That drew some dirty looks from the staff, but we did in fact bring Riley back in at the next timeout.  Also at the end of the first half when we brought in AJ, for some reason we had him off ball with JP trying to run point, and predictably turning it over.

LSU built another 8 point lead early in the 2nd half, but we were able to chip away and stay within shouting distance. CAJ got a technical foul after LSU appeared to get away with a goaltending and then a questionable foul was called on Riley at the other end.  The fans were upset, but I think Coach intended to draw that technical, and if so, I agree with him.  The team looked frustrated by the calls and he needed to show that he had their back and give them a boost of energy.  They responded with a 13-2 run to take a 6 point lead with 10 minutes left.  LSU showed why they haven't lost a road game in the SEC.  They remained poised, and despite not playing their best game managed to get enough stops and baskets down the stretch to get the win.

There was another key BS goaltending call that went against Donta.  It looked like an obvious clean block at the game, and my UAB fan friends were even texting me saying it wasn't even close.  Instead of having a fast break opportunity it gave LSU two points, and that was a big 4 point swing.

Another fast break opportunity in the second half epitomized the kind of frustrating, unforced errors that plague this team.  We were running after a rebound, with Dazon bringing the ball up the sideline.  JP didn't have the awareness to get out of his way, running a step in front of him, and of course Dazon dribbles it off of him out of bounds.  There wasn't an LSU defender within 30 feet of them.

Riley had a great game, he finished with 13 points and 9 rebounds, but his one turnover was fatal.  Trailing by 3 with about a minute remaining, he telegraphed a bad pass to JP, which was intercepted and dunked at the other end to stretch the lead to 5.  JP made some desperation 3s, but LSU did a good job of getting the ball to Skylar Mays who put the game away at the free throw line.

Riley's turnover didn't bother me so much as the team's reaction to it.  Riley immediately grabbed his head when he let go of the ball, realizing his mistake, but he made no effort to sprint back.  JP just looked at Riley.  Everyone else just stood there, Herb barely made it across half court.  Mistakes happen, but you can't just quit on a play.  It's highly unlikely we could have done anything about the dunk, but what if they lose control of the ball, or miss the dunk?  We wouldn't have anyone within 50 feet of the basket to get the rebound.  After the first couple of minutes I thought our guys played extremely hard for most of the game, but the total lack of defensive effort and just accepting defeat on that play really bothers me.

JP had a great game, leading the way with 23 points.  Donta had another double double with 14 points and 10 rebounds.  I thought he did a great job in a tough matchup.  Riley had 13 points and 9 rebounds and played outstanding defense, often with a very bad size mismatch in the post.  Herb had his best game in weeks with 11 points and 5 assists.

We had some good performances and played hard, but it just wasn't enough against a very good LSU team.

The crowd was decent but disappointing given the magnitude of the game.  The student section was especially disappointing, as it was only a little over half full.  I would guess a total of close to 9,000 were in attendance, and the crowd that was there was very supportive and loud throughout.  There were quite a few LSU fans there, including many sitting near us, but they were all courteous and fun.

Up next, we'll try to do better against another set of FBI-targeted Tigers, as the state's agricultural school will be visiting Tuscaloosa for an 8 pm tipoff Tuesday night.  The game will be televised on ESPNU.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Sleeping with the enemy: LSU Tigers

I reached out to Zachary Junda from And the Valley Shook to get the Tigers' perspective on tomorrow's game.  He kindly provided the response below.  If you visit And the Valley Shook, please follow their site's rules and be a good representative of our University.

So Saturday's an important game for both teams. LSU's in that three-way tie for first in the conference, and Alabama's playing to keep their tournament hopes alive. It's the same set  circumstances as the Florida game from last week, which the Tigers dropped, and Tremont Waters had one of his worst games of the season. Add in the fact that Coleman Coliseum is a house of horrors for LSU, the Tigers are 18-69 (nice.), and Saturday makes me feel really uneasy despite the two teams' records. 

Waters should be back which is good for LSU despite winning two games without him. LSU is in desperate need for a threat at the perimeter, the Tigers shot 2-19 against A&M, and Waters provides that. But if the threes aren't falling,and it feels like lately they aren't, the Tigers have just an absurd amount of length in Naz Reid, Kavell Bigby-Williams, Emmitt Williams and Darius Days. Will Wade will start with Reid and Bigby-Williams and he can roll with any combination of the four up front. Offensive rebounding and second chance points are a strength of LSU's and it's largely owed to having three of the SEC's top-10 offensive rebounders.   

If Waters can't go, or seems rusty, LSU has been able to survive with junior Skylar Mays and freshman Javonte Smart handling the ball. Mays is LSU's best free throw shooter at 85 percent; that's good for second in the SEC. Smart saved the day for LSU against Tennessee with 29 points and he added 17 against Texas A&M Tuesday night. Waters and Mays also have active hands on the defensive end. The duo are 1 and 2 in the league in steals.  

For LSU, the goal is simple: get out of Tuscaloosa with a win. LSU controls their own destiny to claim at least a share of the SEC regular season championship. And with Tennessee playing Kentucky on Saturday, LSU has a great chance to stay atop the league standings, while the loser drops to a game back. What I worry about is does the pressure of potentially winning a league make a rather inexperienced team get tight. But the Tigers have proven to be road warriors this season, going 7-0 in league play away from Baton Rouge. I think the focus will be there, Waters will be right back where he belongs running point for the Tigers and LSU gets out of Alabama with a win. 

Game Preview: LSU (Take 2)

Happy March, everyone! I have a soft spot for Christmas as well as my birthday month, but, ya know, this is the best month of the year. It'll be even better if Alabama (17-11, 8-7, KenPom: 56, NET: 48) can make the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive season. After a big road win at South Carolina, the team took another step towards that goal. Three difficult games remain, including a second date with LSU (23-5, 13-2, AP: 13, KenPom: 21, NET: 13) on Saturday. Game time is 11 A.M. CT. The game will be televised on ESPN.

My Two Cents: The win in Columbia on Tuesday night was arguably the most satisfying win of the season. Alabama has played and beaten better teams this season, but it was satisfying because of how our guys won the game. They haven't been the most mentally tough bunch when adversity has hit this season, but that narrative was not in play on Tuesday as they outscored Carolina 19-8 after the Gamecocks had erased a deficit and led by five points with eight minutes left in the game. Alabama showed poise on both ends of the floor, and played with an energy and attitude over the course of 40 minutes that has, frankly, been a rarity this season. It was very satisfying to watch.

Now comes back-to-back opportunities at home for Alabama to pad its resume with top 25 NET teams in the form of LSU and Auburn. As of now, both are Quad 1 opportunities. I know the fanbase has been down on the program at times this season, but the fans in the Tuscaloosa area really owe it to this team to show up and be loud on Saturday and Tuesday night. Even if you're not happy with Avery Johnson, at least turn up to cheer on the seniors (Donta Hall, Riley Norris and Avery Johnson, Jr.) one last time.