Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Alabama 76 Arizona State 71, Road losing streak broken

It wasn't pretty, but we finally found a way to win against a decent team away from Tuscaloosa to take 3rd place in the CBE Hall of Fame tournament.  Hopefully this will give us the confidence we need going into December.  I watched the game on ESPN3 on my laptop, and for the most part the quality was decent, although the picture did get blurry on a couple of instances.  At one point, they were showing an injured Sun Devil on the sideline, you heard a whistle and the commentator said "offensive foul called."  We had the ball, they never showed the replay or told us who the foul was on.

Unlike the ISU game, we couldn't throw the ball in the ocean in the opening minutes.  Both teams looked flat for much of the first half.  Once again we fell down 8 early in the second half, but continued to battle and found a way to win the game.

We had a difficult time defending in the post, and still continued to have defensive lapses at bad times.  The substitution patterns did not make any sense to me.  I still think Justin Coleman should be playing more.  It doesn't show in the box score, but his quickness on the dribble drive really opens up scoring opportunities for everyone else.  He only played 16 minutes and barely saw the floor in the second half.  I would like to see more of Coleman and Tarrant on the floor together.  I think each could play about 30 minutes, giving them 20 minutes of shared time per game.

  Arizona State built their second half lead primarily on second chance opportunities.  We simply could not get a rebound, and with both Jimmie Taylor and Rodney Cooper sitting on the bench, that should not have been surprising.

Levi Randolph had another great game and Ricky Tarrant got hot at the right time to lead the comeback.  We won the game at the free throw line, where Levi has not missed all season (I felt like the announcers were trying to jinx him by reminding us of that fact literally before every single shot).

It's great to finally win a close one away from home, and hopefully this is a win the young team can build on.  Up next, the South Florida Bulls make their return trip to Tuscaloosa for a 8 p.m. CST tipoff Tuesday night.  Unfortunately, the day job will have me in Florida next week, so hopefully one of the other contributors here can make it to the game and give us a recap.  Happy Thanksgiving and Roll Tide.


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Fresh Meat- Arizona St Sun Devils 7PM EST (6PM CST)

In a game former Arizona State and Alabama great Jamal Faulkner is probably having a hard time picking sides, we have a chance for a quality win. Losing to Iowa State is acceptable, but I believe we need this one for confidence going forward. ASU lost to Maryland 78-73 yesterday.

The last time we played the Sun Devils was 1989. you might remember Arizona State's HC Herb Sendek from his previous gig at NC State where they pushed him out for only making the NCAAT. they replaced him with their 18th choice (Sidney Lowe) who was AUful and was replaced by our pal Mark Gottfried (who has taken NC State to 3 straight NCAATs).

Write up
Season stats (minus the Maryland game)

Coming into the Maryland game they were giving up a ridiculously low 44 PPG while putting up 68 albeit vs really bad opponents. They are a perimeter centric team taking 60/131 shots from beyond the arc. Keep them at bay out there and we should win.

No TV for this one, but ESPN3 is the way to watch it. Like I said, we NEED this game (3 point favorite according to Vegas) if we are to start dreaming about making the NCAAT (as an at large team).

Cyclones Clip Crimson, 84-74

Iowa State is a legitimate sweet 16 caliber team if they can get the right draw.  In some ways, they are very similar to Alabama.  Both teams have depth and scoring ability on the perimeter, have played average at best defense so far this year, and lack a real post presence.  The difference, Iowa State is a little more talented and a lot more experienced.  That, combined with the fact that this was a de-facto home game for them, and the outcome is not surprising.

We started the game on fire from 3 point range, but couldn't stop the Cyclones at the other end so we were unable to build a lead.  Once the shots stopped falling for us, Iowa State was able to take over control of the game. While I like the fact that this team doesn't hold the ball and play scared offensively like we did at times last year, I thought poor shot selection hurt us at a couple of key points in the game.  Hale had an off night, and he forced a couple of bad, contested shots early in the shot clock, both when Iowa State was on a run, and also when we had just fought back to tie or take the lead.

Cooper had a great game, and Levi had a nice second half after getting off to a slow start to keep us in the game.  I would still like to see Coleman playing more as I think he puts everybody else in better position to score.  I like Tarrant, but his shot selection hurt us at times.

Our defense looked bad at times, but Iowa State executes extremely well on offense.  The mayor did a nice job of exploiting our weaknesses.  When Riley Norris is manned up on an experienced, quick, athletic 4 in the post, we've got to recognize that he's going to need some help.  Coleman and Tarrant's inexperience also showed on the defensive side at times.  We did a little better after switching to a zone in the second half, but couldn't stop their perimeter shooting.

The good news is that most of the defensive mistakes were made by the newcomers, and I expect that aspect of our game to improve throughout the season.

We play Arizona State tonight at 6 pm in the 3rd place game.  This should be more of a true neutral site game, I have no idea how well ASU travels for basketball, but Tempe to Kansas City is a haul.  Plus, one would think the ISU fans will be supporting us to boost their own strength of schedule.  The Devils have some sharp shooters, so our perimeter defense will need to be better tonight.  This is a big game, we haven't won away from Tuscaloosa in ages, and we need a win to build some confidence with two difficult non-conference away games remaining.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Fresh Meat- #13 Iowa St in Kansas City

I said earlier this week might define our season and I'm sticking to it. The first BIG test is HERE! Iowa State in their first 2 games have been a scoring MACHING averaging 87 PPG. Grant(ed) it was against Oakland, MI and GA State, but still... over 80PPG in the slow down era of college hoops is admirable.

Their starting 5 all average at least 13PPG, Niang and Dejean-Jones pull in 19 boards, with Naz Long leading the team in 3 pointers (and attempts). Long has taken close to 1/2 of the team's total 3s so that's the guy to watch outside. Inside, while not tall they do a great job on the boards (+5.5).

Iowa State plays 3 SEC teams this season (South Carolina and Arkansas). Looking at their non-conference slate we are one of their 3 toughest games.

Season stats
ESPN Season stats
Write up

9:30 PM EST (8:30 PM CST) tipoff on ESPN2. I don't expect to win, but would like a good showing to better gauge us for the Arizona St/Maryland loser tomorrow.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Fresh Meat- Southern Miss 9PM EST (8PM CST) on SEC Network

Undefeated USM (RPI 231) travels to Coleman Coliseum to take on the UNDEFEATED Crimson Tide (RPI 33) tonight. USM already has one win over the state of Alabama (South Alabama) so we don't want to let them own the state in hoops so expect HIGH energy tonight.

Season stats
USM write up

Kevin Holland (Tuscaloosa) and Jamie Chapman (Mobile) represent USM from the state.

I have not seen them play so stats is the best I can do. I do believe we escape with a close win tonight in front of a capacity crowd. Okay, a sparse crowd of family, friends, and a few writers/commenters.

LET'S GO 2 AND ZERO vs the hated Golden Eagles this year (football and hoops). I'm not aware we play them in any other sport that matters.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Clumsy Crimson Caps Catamounts, Bama 80 Western Carolina 74

It wasn't pretty but it was a win.  I said in an earlier post that this will be a team that relies heavily on perimeter shooting, and is the type of team that could upset anybody on a given night if the shots are falling, but could lose to anybody on a given night if they are off.  This game definitely fell into the latter category, but thankfully we were able to find a way to win despite shooting 2 for 17 from three point range.

First, the positives.  Michael Kessens returned to action and had a nice game.  He's a big man who can stretch the floor a bit with a decent mid-range jump shot ability.  I liked having him and Jimmie Taylor in the game together to run some pick and pops and a high-post-low-post game against the zone.  When it became obvious that our shots were not falling, we found other ways to score, primarily getting to the free throw line where we made 76%.  Once again we had 4 guys score in double figures, and Jimmie Taylor emerged as an offensive threat in the post with 15 points.  He's not going to score a lot with his back to the basket, but we ran some well designed plays to get him open dunks and lay-ups, that were well timed and executed.  Levi continues to do everything you would hope for from a senior captain, and more.

Getting Kessens back allowed us to play 10 guys, but I think some of the new lineups effected our chemistry a bit.  It was obvious that certain groups just need a little bit more time playing together.  We lost a few rebounds fighting against our own teammates, threw some passes away because one player would expect the other to cut when they didn't, etc.  While we were definitely more sloppy in this game than the last two, I still think the offense  played fairly well.  We had more turnovers, but despite shooting only 2 for 17 we still scored 80 points, which is about what we had in the first two games.  We had a lot of good, open shots that just didn't fall, and you could tell the team lost some confidence.

The officiating was very inconsistent.  They called 16 fouls in the first 9 minutes of the game, and then in the second half, only called 5 for the first 10 minutes or so, passing on a lot of calls with a similar level of contact that were being called in the first half.

At several points in the first half and early second half we were able to stretch the lead to 8, but seemingly always took the foot off the gas and allowed WCU to score on a 2nd or 3rd chance opportunity, or would miss an open shot or turn the ball over.  WCU kept fighting back, and switched to a zone defense that really gave us some problems in the 2nd half.  They eventually took a 5 point lead with about 7 minutes to play.

My girlfriend commented that Justin Coleman should be playing more, as he sat on the bench most of the second half.  Almost immediately after she said that, Ricky Tarrant leaves the game with an injury and Coleman came in to make our only 3 pointer of the second half and give Bama the lead for good.  I understand the thinking behind going with Tarrant over Coleman for much of the game, Tarrant was playing very well, frequently getting to the free throw line and scoring 18 points in the process.  Plus, it was a close game and Coach Grant usually errs on the side of the more experienced players in those situations.  Still, Coleman seems to elevate everybody else's games offensively and he certainly had the ability to give us the outside shooting we were missing in this game.  It will be interesting to see how their time is divided going forward.  Having two excellent point guards is not a bad problem to have.

In conclusion, we really didn't play well, but it seems like every year we end up losing a game like this in November or December and it comes back to haunt us.  At least we were able to do enough things well to overcome our mistakes and get a win.

The game very sparsely attended, it was one of the deadest atmospheres I can remember at Coleman in a long time.  I would guess there was probably only 1,000 or so people there.  WCU has two players from Alabama who brought a lot of friends and family, so the Catamounts had 50-60 backers on their side.

Up next, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles come to town for an 8pm Thursday night tipoff.  They are also 2-0 and coming off a 68-59 come from behind win over South Alabama.  The game will be televised on the SEC Network.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Fresh Meat- Western Carolina Catamounts

WCU gets another shot at a SEC West team tonight. They lost @ M$U 66-56 on 11/14. Box score is here. I didn't see the game, but despite the 10 point loss it looks like they were dominated. James Sinclair did put up 20 points on 50% shooting.

Seven of the 12 that see PT for WCU are juniors or seniors. Pretty much the norm for most mid-major squads. Rhett Harrelson and Justin Browning are Alabama natives (Enterprise and Sylacauga).

Write up from the official WCU site. WCU was picked to finish 7th in the Southern Conference.

Game is 9PM EST (8PM CST) on the SEC Network.