Monday, October 05, 2015

Schedule Preview - November

It's October. Practice for the basketball team is underway. We are 33 days away from the first game of the Avery Johnson era, an exhibition game against Trevecca Nazarene. We are 40 days away from the first official game of the season with Kennesaw State. Even though expectations are tempered for this first season under Avery Johnson, there is an excitement for the start of this basketball season that we have not seen in some time.

Being his first season as a college coach, it would have been understandable if Avery Johnson and his staff had scheduled light. Instead, they put together a challenging non-conference schedule that will test this team early and often. In addition, the SEC conference is slowly making improvements across the league that will make rebuilding in this conference a much tougher assignment. Depending on what preseason magazine you prefer, Alabama could play as many as 12 teams projected to make the NCAA tournament.  This preview will focus on the games in November played before Orlando (the AdvoCare Invitational will get its own post).

November 06, 2015 - Trevecca Nazarene - Alabama will open the 2015-16 season with an exhibition game against the Trojans of Trevecca Nazarene from Nashville. The Trojans finished 13-15 last season, but are expecting improvement as they return their top 10 returning scorers from last season. The Trojans were successful in scoring  last season (77.5), but struggled to defend (opponents averaged 79.1). The scoring load was passed around as four different players averaged double figures for this team last season, but the leader appears to be Byron Sanford, a senior guard from Louisville, KY. Sanford averaged 18.1 ppg, 6.6 rpg (despite being listed as 6'0) 4.4 apg and 2.7 spg. This will be an interesting test for an exhibition game as Trevecca returns a lot of experience, a head coach with 23 years at the helm, and appear to play at a quick tempo.

November 13, 2015 - Kennesaw State - The Owls from Kennesaw, Georgia will be the first official game on the schedule. Kennesaw State is a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference. Last season was not a memorable one as the program only won 10 games, prompting a coaching change. To their credit, Kennesaw made a great hire in Al Skinner, a former national coach of the year and a two-time Big East Coach of the Year at Boston College. He was also voted the Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year in 1992 when he was at Rhode Island.  He took Rhode Island to two NCAA tournaments during his tenure there, and took Boston College to seven NCAA Tournaments in a 13 year span. The guy can coach. Kennesaw will return 4 of their top 8 scorers from last season, including their top two scorers, Yonel Brown (15.2 ppg, 38% 3-pt, 90% FT) and Nigel Pruitt (12.2 ppg, 37% 3-pt).

November 17, 2015 - at Dayton - The schedule picks up considerably with a trip to Dayton, the favorite for some in the A-10 this season. The game will tip off at 12 PM as part of the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon, a scheduling win for Avery Johnson as he seeks to raise the profile of this Bama program. Archie Miller (whose name was mentioned when the Bama coaching search began) has done a great job at Dayton, taking the Flyers to back-to-back NCAA tournaments, including the Elite Eight two seasons ago. As I mentioned, the Flyers are A-10 favorites in some circles, but they will have to replace their leading scorer from a season ago (Jordan Sibert) and play some games without Dyshawn Pierre, their 2nd leading scorer and leading rebounder, who is currently serving a suspension for the fall semester due to a sexual assault allegation (despite the charges having been dropped due to insufficient evidence). Pierre is challenging the suspension so there is a chance he could be reinstated by the time this game takes place. Despite those losses, Dayton still returns 5 of their top 8 scorers from last season, including Kendall Pollard and Scoochie Smith. Another guy to watch is Charles Cooke, a transfer from James Madison who averaged 14.3 ppg in his lone season at JMU. Dayton has the players in place to challenge for the A-10 title and return to the NCAA tournament, but they will need Dyshawn Pierre back in the fold to reach their full potential. With Pierre or without him, this will be a great opportunity for Alabama to make a statement early in Avery's tenure against a nationally respected program.

November 20, 2015 - Louisiana Lafayette - Being that this game falls between the trip to Dayton and the trip to Orlando for the Advocare Invitational, it would be tempting to overlook this game. It would also be a mistake. Lafayette is a solid basketball program (last NCAA appearance was in 2014) that recruits good athletes. They had a first round draft pick with Elfrid Payton two years ago, and could have another draft pick this season with Shawn Long. In his fifth season, Bob Marlin has led Lafayette to back-to-back 20-win seasons, and his team is expected to contend for the Sun Belt title this season. Alabama has struggled in recent years rebounding the basketball, and Lafayette was among the top 10 in the nation last season in rebounding. It starts with Long, a Mississippi State transfer, who leads all active players nationally in double-doubles entering the season. He had a great junior season, averaging 16.4 ppg and 10.2 rpg. At 6-11, 246 lbs, he's going to be a tough match-up for Bama's interior players. Long won't have to do it alone. Counting him, Lafayette will return 7 of their top 8 scorers from last season, all of whom averaged at least 5 points per game. Bama needs to be on upset alert in this one.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Season Schedule posted and predictions

Here are my season predictions game by game... note I've been pretty accurate calling a season :)

11/06/15 vs. Trevecca Nazarene # 7:00PM- W
11/13/15 vs. Kennesaw State 7:30PM- W
11/17/15 at Dayton 12:00PM- UPSET W
11/20/15 vs. LA-Lafayette 7:00PM- W

2015 AdvoCare Invitational (ORLANDO)
11/26/15 vs. Xavier TV 11:00AM- L
11/27/15 vs. Wichita State/USC- W since it should be USC
11/29/15 TBD- W even though it could be any of 4 teams

12/04/15 at Southern Miss TV 7:00PM- W
12/13/15 at Clemson TV 5:00PM- L
12/16/15 vs. Winthrop TV 8:00PM- W

Legacy Arena (Birmingham, Ala.)
12/21/15 vs. Oregon TV 8:00PM- W in front of a almost sold out crowd

12/29/15 vs. Jax State 7:00PM- W
01/02/16 vs. Norfolk State 1:00PM- W
01/07/16 at Ole Miss 8:00PM- L
01/09/16 vs. Kentucky 5:00PM- L although we get them early and could win
01/13/16 vs. South Carolina 8:00PM- W
01/16/16 at Vanderbilt 5:00PM- L 'cause we rarely win there
01/19/16 at Auburn 8:00PM- L
01/23/16 vs. LSU 1:00PM- W
01/26/16 vs. Tennessee 8:00PM- W
01/30/16 at South Carolina 8:00PM- L
02/02/16 at Miss State 8:00PM- L
02/06/16 vs. Missouri 2:00PM- W
02/10/16 vs. Texas A&M 6:00PM- W
02/13/16 at Florida 4:30PM- W because they got a horrible coach
02/17/16 at LSU 8:00PM- L
02/20/16 vs. Miss State 1:30PM- W
02/23/16 at Kentucky 6:00PM- L
02/27/16 vs. Auburn 4:00PM- W
03/02/16 vs. Arkansas 8:00PM- L
03/05/16 at Georgia 1/3PM- L

I have us at 18-12 (if my 7yrs of HS math is correct)... not good enough for the NCAAs, but another NIT trip is reachable.

Adding the SECT, I say 1-1 so that puts us at 19-13.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Roster Preview - Forwards/Centers

Size was always an issue during the Anthony Grant era. Grant and his staff were never able to adequately replace the talent and toughness up front they had the first two years with guys like Chris Hines, Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green. The result was a team that struggled on the glass, allowing too many second chance opportunities and not creating enough of those opportunities for themselves. Never again did Grant have the defensive 1-2 punch inside that he had with Hines and Green. The absence of guys like Mitchell and Green on the offensive end also led to an inconsistency of scoring at the 4 and 5 positions. As a result, a team that struggled from the perimeter was forced to rely on perimeter shooting and paint scoring from their guards. This led to a lack of offensive balance and, subsequently, a lack of consistent scoring.

The 15-16 version of the Crimson Tide may not be intimidating in the post, but there will be a little more length up front. Guys like Jimmie Taylor and Mike Kessens showed the potential to score points around the basket at times last season, while guys like Shannon Hale and Riley Norris give Bama potential match-up advantages with each player's ability to play inside/out. The hope is that Alabama will be much more consistent at the 4 and 5 this season, allowing for some much-needed balance that will take pressure off a rebuilding backcourt.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

2016 Juco Guard Ar'Mond Davis Commits

The Alabama coaching staff added their second 2016 recruit on Wednesday night as Ar'Mond Davis from the College of Southern Idaho committed. Davis, from Tacoma Washington, is listed as a 6'6, 190 lb guard. He's considered one of the top Juco prospects in the nation. He originally committed to play at Memphis, but chose to take some additional visits. Other schools that showed interest include Texas A&M and Texas (among others). Davis' stats from last season at Southern Idaho were 10.9 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 0.9 apg, 0.9 topg and 1.3 spg.

I admit I had not seen any film of Davis until tonight, but I like what I've seen so far. He's very athletic, quick, impressive in finishing at the rim, has a good looking mid-range game, and shows the ability to be a deep threat (though, for the record, he was only 28% last season at Southern Idaho). Alabama's perimeter for next season is shaping up to be very long and disruptive on the defensive end. I've embedded a video below that adequately shows the range of what Davis can do on the court. I'm excited to see this guy play. If you want to follow Ar'Mond on Twitter, it's @justwannawin22

The 2016 class is loaded with talent from the high school classes to the juco ranks. The staff that recruits this class well has a bright future in store. Avery Johnson and his staff are off to a fantastic start. And they show no signs of stopping. They are recruiting very hard, and I suspect we will hear even more good news in the weeks leading up to the early signing period. Buckle up. 

Bama Basketball Inviting Students to try out for the team

Alabama basketball to hold open tryouts for students

There's really nothing to lose by doing this.  Worst case scenario is you don't find anybody worth taking, but it's a fun way to market to students who have an interest in the game.  Best case scenario is we add someone to the team that can actually help us this year.

My freshman year at UA was David Hobbs' last year, the 1997-98 season.  I remember playing pick up games at the rec center with Chauncey Jones, MC Mazique, Doc Martin and Demetrius Alexander.  While they were usually pretty dominant as you might expect; there were times that they were not clearly the best players on the court.  I believe there were some rec center baller types that could have helped that team.  There were also frequent pickup games involving a lot of the football players late at night in Foster Auditorium.  I know some of the people involved in those could have been useful.  There are some good basketball players out there who, for various reasons, haven't played much organized ball.

Gottfried also had open tryouts his first year, but I cannot recall if anybody made the team.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Roster Preview - Guards

We are 47 days away from the exhibition game with Trevecca Nazarene, which will mark the beginning of the Avery Johnson era in Tuscaloosa. Excitement for the start of basketball season is as high as it's been in several years. Much of that is attributable to the outstanding work that has been put in by Avery Johnson and his staff to raise the profile of the program and sell their vision of what Alabama basketball can be. The staff has been recruiting like crazy, and I suspect we will see more good news concerning the 2016 class in the wake of the Terrance Ferguson commitment.

That is the future. There's still the 2015-16 season to play. While the popular opinion is that this could be a transition season for the program, the foundation for that future must be laid this season. Improved play on both ends of the floor, improved chemistry, improved player development, and an overall better atmosphere in Coleman Coliseum will go a long way towards putting the pieces in place to make a significant leap in the 2016-17 season, meaning the importance of this group of players cannot be understated.

It will be a relatively young team. Out of the 10 scholarship players available for games this season, half of them will be freshmen and sophomores. That will put a lot of pressure on young players to grow up fast as all 10 guys will need to play a role of some kind. It will also put pressure on the junior and senior players to play with a greater level of consistency. There will likely be some ups-and-downs, but if this staff has the coaching chops we believe they do, this should be a team that improves throughout the season.

As I've done the last couple of years, I'd like to provide a short preview of each player on the Alabama roster, starting with the guards. Despite the struggles the last couple of seasons, Alabama remained strong in the backcourt with guys like Trevor Releford, Levi Randolph, Rodney Cooper, Trevor Lacey and Andrew Steele. Coming into this season, there are more questions than usual at the guard positions.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hey Coach with Avery Johnson

In case you missed Avery Johnson's appearance on Hey Coach last week, video has been posted at Follow the link. It's about 45 minutes long.