Sunday, December 01, 2019

Bad Bama Basketball at Bad Boys Battle for Atlantis in the Bahamas.

The Tide salvaged the last game against a bad Southern Miss team to take 7th place in the tournament after losing the first two games to North Carolina and Iowa State respectively.  I apologize for not posting updates from the island, but I could not access the blog from my wifi, and I didn't want to burn through my international data.  I'm not going to do a detailed re-cap analysis of each game, but instead will just hit the high notes and summarize the tournament as a whole.
My view for the UNC game

Warming up for UNC

We knew facing top 5 ranked North Carolina in the first game would give us a good idea of where we stand.  We didn't embarrass ourselves.  The team played hard and kept it close throughout, but ultimately fell 76-67.  Even though the game was close, it never felt like we actually had a chance to win it.  Our guys had to scrap for everything they got while UNC barely broke a sweat.  I don't think we got the Tar Heels' best effort, and perhaps that carried over to their loss to Michigan in the second game.  The big story of the UNC game was that it was the first time we were out-rebounded this year, as Carolina dominated the boards 60-31.   They knew we rely on our guards crashing the boards to get rebounds, so Coach Williams had his bigs swat the balls back out to the perimeter rather than risk having them fight for loose balls that get to the floor.  JP kept us in the game in the first half, but UNC made some adjustments to cool him off a bit in the second half.  He still finished with 23 and Kira stepped up in the second half to finish with 20.

From my seat during a rare timeout in the Iowa State game
The next day we played Iowa State and that was a complete disaster.  We made it reasonably close a couple of times but then gave up 18-2 and 14-0 runs and got ran out of the gym, losing 104-89.  The good news is that we're still saving three very valuable timeouts.  Regular readers know how many words I've wrote questioning former Coach Avery Johnson's substitution patterns and lineups over the last few years.  Well, I'm afraid I'm going to be harping on Coach Oats' timeout usage, or lack thereof, in a similar fashion.  We're only 6 games into his tenure and it's already driving me crazy.  JP had 34 in this game, but that was really the only bright spot.  The Cyclones torched the nets.  We stubbornly stayed in our man-to-man defense the entire game, and as Coach Oats said himself, our defensive effort sucked.  

My view for my first win in the Caribbean
Finally on the last day we got in the win column with an 83-68 win over a Southern Miss squad that is still searching for its first victory over a division one opponent.  The first half was sloppy, and this game was disturbingly close, 38-35, at halftime, but we took care of business in the second half.  Kira ended up with 20 points, and Beetle had a nice game with 23.  
The Beach

So we return home with a disappointing 3-4 record.  On the positive side, JP scored in double-figures in all three games and had an outstanding tournament.  He's always shown a lot of ability, and maybe he's turning a corner and can be a consistent force going forward.  Beetle's wrist seems to be improving though he was still in the big ice cast when not playing.  The turnover issues were slightly improved.  We've had a rash of injuries, and the brutal schedule is nearly impossible to navigate with a depleted roster.  I like Coach Oats' system and philosophy and I believe he can be successful here, but I wish he would tweak a couple of things to address current issues.  I've already mentioned he's too slow to call a timeout when the team loses momentum and gets rattled, and I would like to see more creativity on defense.  The coaching staff tells a graduate assistant who the man-to-man defensive match-ups are, and he then writes this on a dry erase board with two columns, matching our player's name with his opponent's number.  There were times that the information did not get relayed to the players before the ball became live.  I don't like this system for a number of reasons: 1) we are literally announcing to the world our intentions on defense, there's no attempt to disguise whatsoever, and  2) The players have to take time to look over and match their name with a number, why not just communicate, "Hey Kira, guard #11 until we tell you otherwise?"  I'd like to see the players on the court talking more to figure out on their own who they should match up with.  

My concern is that the lack of success against this tough schedule will cause some of the older players to doubt the new system, and we really need to have some success in order to establish credibility in the eyes of top prospects.  Coach Oats has been dealt a very difficult hand.  At this point, I just want to see the hustle and effort continue and the team to improve over the course of the year.  It's obvious we have a bit of a square peg and round hole situation this year.
I like turtles
"Imperial Arena" at the Bahamas resort is really just a group of temporary bleachers and a couple of basic scoreboards surrounding a temporary basketball court in a large hotel ballroom.  The set up is impressive, but strange to say the least.  The first row of seats, where I sat for the UNC game, are not very good as they are so low that you are constantly blocked by standing managers etc.  The atmosphere was fun and festive.  North Carolina brought the most fans by far, but Iowa State also had a solid following.  Seton Hall  and Michigan were probably tied for the next largest crowds. I didn't see many Oregon fans there, they probably had about the same amount, or maybe slightly more than we did, and the only team with fewer was Southern Miss.  
The Cloitures, remains of a 14th Century French Monastery

While waiting in line for the North Carolina game, Roy Williams had to cut through the crowd a few feet away from us to use the restroom.  He had a security guy guard the entrance while he handled his business, but he seemed friendly enough.  There was an island wide power outage, which I understand is fairly common, before the Southern Miss game that also somehow knocked out running water to large parts of the island including the "arena."  That game was played under generator power and there was a brief outage during halftime.  Thankfully, the running water was restored by the second half, but the bathrooms were already in about as bad of shape as you would imagine.
Queen's Staircase

We met Coach Steve Prohm's dad as he was standing in line in front of us waiting to get into the Iowa State game.  He was as nice as he could be, and talked to us for a good half hour or so as we made our way into the arena.  Of interest, he basically confirmed that Steve wanted the UA job when we hired Avery, but said he probably would not have taken it even if offered this last off-season as he's well established and has a lot of support in Ames now.
Waterfall at Queen's Staircase

As for the administration of the tournament itself, they do a good job of getting people in and out for the games, although when it was nearly full for the UNC game it was a bit of a cluster.  That being said, the ticketing process is rather convoluted.  You can't order tickets online, you have to call a number, that plays an automatic voice-mail directing you to inquire at an email address, who then responds with a link to an online form you have to fill out.  Which begs the question, why not just put the link to that form on the website?  Even after completing the form, I had to make a follow up call to get the confirmation email, that I then needed to print out and present to the box office, where you get vouchers to be traded out for your tickets for each game.  I appreciate that they give you seats near your team's bench, but, it seems there should be a way to simplify/automate this process.  Also they require you to stand in line to purchase tickets then stand in another line to redeem them at the concessions.  This isn't a big deal when there's only 200 people there for a last place game, but when it's near the 3,500 capacity and you are lucky to be allowed in with more than 10 minutes till tip-off, it's frustrating.
Fort Fincastle
Up next, we return home to face Stephen F. Austin Friday night.  All they did in their last game was go on the road and upset the #1 team in the country.  Tip-off is set for 7pm.    Hang in there, and come out to the game if you can.  We have a hard-working first year coach with a banged up and limited roster against a brutal schedule.  If we want to build this program into a legit national contender, these are the times when it's most important for everyone, including the fans, to give as much support as we possibly can.  Don't criticize the coach or the administration if you aren't doing your part.

View from my Balcony
Now, the rest of this post isn't basketball related at all so feel free to skip it, but when Bobbyjack invited me to write here eons ago, the primary reason is because I'm fortunate to be able to attend a good number of the games in person.  That's why I always try to include a bit about the crowd, arena, settings, atmosphere, etc, to try to bring a little piece of being at the game to those of you who are too far away and/or actually have lives and better things to do.  Obviously, going to a tournament like this is about a lot more than basketball, so I wanted to also share some thoughts and you will notice I've  included some random pics throughout from the Bahamas.

A couple of big cocks, if you are into that sort of thing.
We stayed next door to the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island.  Nassau is on New Providence Island, a short drive over a bridge.  The island/country, at least the parts we saw, were a lot nicer and cleaner than I was expecting.  Everybody was friendly and we never felt unsafe, but used common sense.  The beaches are gorgeous and the weather was nice.  The only "second world problems" we encountered was the aforementioned power/water outage.  After the outage, the Casino's Sportsbook system was down, at least through Saturday morning.  This proved to be a blessing in disguise as I wanted to bet on some of the college football games Saturday, but my picks were awful, so dealing with the inconvenience of not being able to flush toilets for a few hrs likely saved me a few hundred bucks.

The whole place has sort of a strange vibe.  It's a little bit of Vegas, Disney, and Panama City Beach all rolled into one, so in a sense there is "something for everyone," even if Atlantis is a little gaudy for my tastes and parts of the rest of it a little trashier than I would prefer.  We generally enjoyed eating in downtown Nassau and  at the Marina village (which is also a part of Atlantis) more than the places we went to within Atlantis itself.

We arrived on Wednesday, went to the game, explored the Atlantis resort a bit and I lost some money playing blackjack.  Thursday we took the ferry into Nassau, and went to the straw market and some other shops, toured the John Watling's Rum Distillery,  and had some good food and drinks.  Friday we walked to the Cloitures, found a cool nature reserve along the way, took a cab into Nassau and went up the Queen's staircase and to the fort, before returning to Paradise Island for the game.  Saturday was for the pool and beach and consuming as much rum as possible to get through the predictable abomination that was the iron bowl.  All in all, it was a fun trip other than the outcomes of the games, and I would definitely be open to going back.

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