Sunday, November 29, 2020

Game Preview: #25 Alabama vs Stanford

  Alabama comes into the Maui Invitational having picked up a win over JSU to start the season 1-0. As expected in the first game of the season, there were positives and negatives. Jahvon Quinerly was a major positive. The Villanova transfer basically got to the rim at will and exhibited solid vision. Herb Jones was Herb Jones. His defense and hard hat mentality is still worthy of praise...but he still missed a ton of POINT BLANK opportunities at the rim. He did bury a step back three, however. If Herb can do that at a consistent clip it only makes the Alabama offense that much more dynamic (while also improving his draft stock). 

 While Yale transfer Jordan Bruner was clearly able to alter shots at the rim, he wasn’t quite the rebounding machine that Alabama needs as JSU got multiple second and third opportunities with offensive rebounds. Having said that, it’s clear that his motor is as advertised and I think that will pay off. Moving on.

 The Opponent: Stanford will be making their debut after their first scheduled game was cancelled due to Covid concerns. Head Coach Jerod Haase will bring an experienced and talented squad that is certain to give Alabama a tough test. Stanford shot 37% from 3 last year while leading the PAC 12 in FGE percentage. Alabama will get a nauseating dose of ball screens so defensive discipline will be key. 

 Players to Watch: There is no question that the Stanford seniors will make an impact. Oscar Da Silva and Daejon Davis will likely be the keys that turn the engine. It’s the big time freshman Ziaire Williams that most everyone is excited to get their first glimpse of, however. Williams was a consensus 5 star recruit for Haase. Herb Jones will likely draw the assignment against Williams so we can assume that will be a key match up. It’ll also be interesting to see how John Petty performs after coming off a relatively off night for him against JSU. Bama will need to be more efficient from 3 in order to knock of the Cardinal. 

  My Thoughts: These are two similar teams in terms of the mix of young talent and upper classmen providing leadership. Both will also want to play fast. I think the team that has fewer turnovers likely wins the game. Getting to the rim won’t be quite as easy for the Alabama guards in this one so it’s imperative that Bama shoots it well. This will be a 40 minute game and I think it helps Alabama already having a game under it’s belt, but Stanford will be eager and hungry. If the Cardinal shoot well, Alabama could be in trouble. This will be a good game between two teams that should ultimately find themselves in the NCAA Tournament. I’m afraid Stanford will make one more clutch shot than the good guys, unfortunately. 

Prediction: Stanford 78, Alabama 75

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Crimson Clocks Cocks in Covid era debut. Bama 81 Jacksonville State 57

 As a preliminary matter, I'm hoping someone will step up and take on the role over writing game recaps this season.  The main reason I was doing it was because I am usually able to attend more games than most, and I tried to bring a little bit of the in-person perspective to the conversation.  Unfortunately, I am not planning to go to many, if any, games this season due to the pandemic.  I would love to hear a first person account from someone who is attending these games.  

Despite the unusual and less than ideal circumstances, this is one of the most anticipated seasons in years, and I was excited to watch this game on my new television, even if I felt a little weird and sad about not being there.  

It was a relatively easy win against an inferior opponent, so I'm not sure how much you can read into this one game.  My biggest takeaways were:

-Jahvon Quinnerly looked great at point guard.  He's more than capable of replacing the first round pick we just lost at that position.  18 points, 3 assists, and only one turnover.  He has a good looking shot and makes good decisions with the ball.  His game is smooth, and I think he's going to thrive in Coach Oats system.

- I expected more out of Bruner.  We still appear to be thin in the post.  We gave up way too many offensive rebounds. 

-Rojas is a solid addition, giving us 7 rebounds and 8 points in 21 minutes.  He's undersized but can handle some contact and will fight for a board.

-We missed way too many layups and bunnies.  We're going to have to convert the easy baskets if the 3s aren't falling against a decent team.

-Alex Reese looked bad.  I'm talking about both his play and his hair.  

-Shack scored 18 despite only making one three and played solid defense.  He might be on the verge of taking his game to the next level.

-I've heard that Herb's really been working on his jump shot.  Hopefully that 3 in the second half will build his confidence.  He's one of the best defenders in the nation, and if he can add a decent 3 ball he will be a first round pick, but he also needs to work on finishing around the basket. 

Happy Thanksgiving, Stay Safe, and Roll Tide!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

My Two Cents: SEC Predictions

 Out of the quarantine and election fog steps yours truly with a glimmer of light in his eye in the hopes that a college basketball season will happen. While roughly 15% of the college basketball programs in D1 are shut down due to Covid-related issues, college basketball is moving forward. Fortunately, Alabama will be one those teams kicking off the season tonight. Who knows what the season looks like from week to week though. My opinion is it would have been better to go to a conference only schedule in a bubble somewhere, but what it is is what it is. 

I have hung up my hat where it concerns writing about this program on a regular basis here. However, Bobby has been kind enough to leave the light on for me and so I'd like to post my predictions for the SEC (assuming conditions allow a full conference slate). 

1. Kentucky - The Cats are even younger than normal, but John Calipari remains one of the safer bets in this league. Expect this young team to struggle at times, but Cal will likely figure things out by late January.

2. Florida - Talent and experience will not be an issue for the Gators, but can Mike White coach an overachiever for a change? The Gators likely would have made the tournament last season if it happened, which would have been their fourth straight under White. But Florida has faded somewhat in the national consciousness, and White is one bad season away from feeling some serious heat from the fanbase. Due to Covid issues, the Gators season debut is December 2.

3. Tennessee - The popular pick to win the league, and probably the smart pick. The Vols return most of their best players from last season, plus add Barnes' best recruiting class yet. But I like to go out on a limb so I'll pick them here. Due to Covid issues, Tennessee's season is delayed until December 12.

4. Alabama - Honestly, I believe that if everything clicks for our guys, they can win the league this season. The depth is there to do it. The biggest question is can our guys guard anybody? Defense was the biggest issue last season as Alabama finished 10th in the league in defensive efficiency. This team can shoot as many threes as they want to, and it won't matter if they don't guard.

5. Ole Miss - I'm drinking some of the Rebel kool-aid as they return some key guys while also having success on the transfer market. That said, they are a tough team to figure; they could finish here or 10th. I believe Kermit Davis is a good coach so I expect them to bounce back after a 13th-place finish last season. Due to Covid issues (are you sensing a pattern here?), the Rebels are delayed until December 12

6. LSU - The Tigers have the talent to win the league. They also have an NCAA investigation hanging over their heads. If you've been paying attention to what happened to Alabama and Auburn, it does appear that all programs caught under the FBI investigation are or will be facing varying degrees of penalties. Because Will Wade was a blabbermouth on a phone conversation that was being tapped by the feds, LSU will likely be one of the programs hit hardest. With the future job status of the coaches and the eligibility of players up in the air, all happening during a pandemic which has upset normalcy in the sport, how can this team not be distracted?

7. South Carolina - For people like myself that make predictions, the Gamecocks are like gnats on a camping trip. You predict they'll finish 12, they finish 8; you predict they'll finish 10, they finish 6; you predict they'll...well, you get the idea. Like gnats, very annoying. So expect them to finish somewhere between 3-5 based on this prediction.

8. Missouri - The Tigers will have the most experienced team in the league. If they can avoid the injuries that have decimated them the last three seasons, they should be very competitive. 

9. Arkansas - I love Muss. Long-time readers will remember I was floating his name for head coach in Tuscaloosa after the end of the Grant era. If Arkansas finishes higher, I won't be shocked. But they did lose their best two players early to the draft. Muss responded by restocking the roster with transfers, which has been a successful MO for him. I feel a little better about the teams in front of the Hawgs, but I'd take Muss as a coach over all but two (maybe three) of the coaches of the teams I've predicted ahead of Arkansas.

10. Texas A&M - Readers will also remember my respect for Buzz. He made quite the splash in his first season in College Station, taking a team that had no business finishing above 12th and leading them to a 7th place finish (five of their ten conference wins were on the road). But they also lost Josh Nebo, a player that I thought was one of the most important players to their team in the league. The kind you don't miss until he's gone (think Herb last season playing with one hand or missing games altogether). The future is very bright with Buzz on the bench, but this could be a temporary step back as he builds the program. 

11. Auburn - I was struggling with Auburn's placement on this list a few days ago. But then the school announced a postseason ban for this season. And then news began to surface that the player that could be Auburn's best player this season was exploring overseas options due to worries about his eligibility. So yeah, I feel better about this prediction.

12. Mississippi State - Ben Howland's tenure in Starkville has been a mixed bag, to put it nicely. I wouldn't be shocked if both parties are fine with moving in different directions as soon as this spring. With this team, Howland has some guys returning that could take another step, but this roster (with all due respect to Bama transfer Javian Davis) doesn't jump off the page at me. If they finish higher than this, props to Ben Howland.  

13. Georgia - They're probably better off without Anthony Edwards, but I don't sense much positive momentum in Athens right now. Fortunately for Tom Crean, there is no more apathetic fanbase when it comes to basketball in the SEC than Georgia. 

14. Vanderbilt - My gut feeling is that Vandy will finish higher than this. Between what they have coming back, plus a few new players, they could take a step forward this season. But my brain isn't ready to go out on a limb for a program that has won only nine conference games in the last three seasons.

Once again, thanks to Bobby for leaving the light on. It's great to see this lil' ol' blog continue its steady progression. Let's hope for the best this basketball season. Lord knows we could use a little escape these days. Take care, and Roll Tide!

Monday, November 23, 2020

Game Preview: #25 Alabama vs JSU’s time to tip the 2020-21 season off for the Alabama Crimson Tide. This year’s iteration of the Tide will once again enter the season with optimism as it returns John Petty Jr, Jaden Shackleford and Herb Jones. Joining that experienced core will be highly touted transfer and former McDonald’s All American Jahvon Quinerly as well as a host of exciting newcomers. It isn’t just the fanbase that is high on the Tide, as Alabama was voted by the coaches as a top 25 team in the AP poll to begin the season. It all begins with a battle against the Gamecocks of Jacksonville State this Wednesday. Tip is set for 6:30. 

 The Opponent: JSU will come into Coleman Coliseum as a bit of an enigma this season as it will be replacing 3 of it’s 4 highest scorers from the shortened 2019-2020 season. Jakara Cross has graduated so JSU will need someone to step up in the scoring column for coach Ray Porter. 

 Players to watch: Starting with JSU, one has to expect a jump from Tulsa product Damaree King. King is a solid athlete and a streaky shooter that could give Alabama some trouble if the Tide has trouble closing out on D. JSU also expects an uptick in production from it’s 6’11 Slovakian C Maros Zeliznak. The big man only produced about 4 PPG last season but the word is that he’s improved his game over the summer. 

 One could make a case for the entire Bama roster being players to watch. There will be intrigue surrounding Josh Primo as an incoming 5 star recruit. The same could be said for Jordan Bruner, the exciting transfer from Yale, as well as fan favorites John Petty, Jaden Shackleford and Herb Jones. Basketball fans around the country, however, are excited for the Alabama debut of Jahvon Quinerly. He has big shoes to fill at this point after Kira Lewis Jr was drafted in the lottery by New Orleans just a few nights ago. Will he be more comfortable in a more fast paced style at Alabama as many expect he will be? We’re only a couple of days from finding out. 

 My take: Speaking of having big shoes to fill, I’m writing the first game preview for that won’t be written by our good friend Mitchell Smilie in quite some time, so I hope everyone will still enjoy our previews as Mitch was one of the best to do it! 

 You have to make a statement to start the season, right? Alabama has returning seniors in 1st Team SEC John Petty and 2nd Team SEC Herb Jones. It has Jaden Shackleford that has proven himself to be a cold blooded sniper even at a young age. I could go on and on but you still have to lace them up and tip it off. It’ll be interesting to see if the Tide can rebound and maintain defensive intensity. Something it struggled with at times last season. Having said that, I think JP and Shack will simply be too much for JSU. The Gamecocks will score...but not nearly enough. 

Prediction: Alabama 91, JSU 76

Friday, November 20, 2020

Alabama on probation for 3 years... thanks Kobie

Lucky for us, basketball is back page news so we won't get the national wrath.

Kobie Baker is the main culprit here... and TBH I was kind of expecting something like this to come down. It's not serious, but they are taking 5K and 1% of the budget (I assume basketball) which is about the spare change in my pocket (I kid... maybe).

You can connect the dots... 

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Kira Lewis goes #13 to the NOLA Pelicans

Congrats to him and hope he gets PAID accordingly (by rookie cap regulations).

Of note 12 SEC players were drafted yesterday... so essentially 20% of the draft came from the conference.

Also... I saw Kenyon Martin Jr was drafted. Which made me realize I am getting old.

Friday, November 06, 2020

SEC Schedule out... Bama has a tough starting stretch

Link to our schedule:
Below is the SEC slate

Tue, Dec 29vs Ole MissTBD
Sat, Jan 2TennesseeTBD
Tue, Jan 5vs FloridaTBD
Sat, Jan 9AuburnTBD
Tue, Jan 12KentuckyTBD
Sat, Jan 16vs ArkansasTBD
Tue, Jan 19LSUTBD
Sat, Jan 23vs Mississippi StTBD
Tue, Jan 26vs KentuckyTBD
Sat, Jan 30OklahomaTBD
Wed, Feb 3vs LSUTBD
Sat, Feb 6MissouriTBD
Tue, Feb 9South CarolinaTBD
Sat, Feb 13vs GeorgiaTBD
Wed, Feb 17Texas A&MTBD
Sat, Feb 20vs VanderbiltTBD
Wed, Feb 24ArkansasTBD
Sat, Feb 27Mississippi StTBD
Tue, Mar 2vs AuburnTBD

No easy games...