Thursday, July 02, 2015

Schedule Update: Alabama/Oregon will take place in Birmingham

Oregon released their non-conference schedule today. The game with Alabama is confirmed, but it doesn't appear the series will be a true home-and-home. The Oregon website mentions the game will be played in Birmingham on December 21st. This could be a geographical error on the part of Oregon (I've met plenty of people who think THE University of Alabama is in Birmingham), or it could be a sign that the Alabama basketball program, in an attempt to market itself better to the entire state, is looking to play a home game or two outside the confines of Coleman.

Assuming the location is accurate, a part of me is bummed that this game isn't taking place at Coleman simply because I'm not expecting the home non-conference schedule to be littered with power teams this season, and it would be nice to have a Pac-12 team coming to Tuscaloosa as UCLA did last season. It doesn't affect fans like me who live outside the state, but for those of you in Coleman for each game, it may be frustrating if the schedule only consists of low and mid-major conference teams. On the other hand, I think it's good for Alabama to play a game or two at other venues in the state as a way of trying to generate interest in the program for those who live outside of Tuscaloosa who may not initially be interested in making the drive to T-Town for a basketball game.

There's a better way to do this of course, and still retain quality home games in Tuscaloosa. As I've mentioned before, following the model of the Indiana schools, a rotating double header matching Alabama/Auburn against UAB/South Alabama at a rotating venue (Birmingham, Mobile, maybe Montgomery or Huntsville) would be a great way to generate some interest in basketball within the state. Unfortunately, there's also a brick wall of politics and bitterness between Alabama and UAB that will likely prevent that from happening. It should happen. I think making the trip out to the local arena for a double header between the four state schools would generate a lot of interest, school and recruiting politics be damned. I know many of you do not share this opinion, but I think you've got a better chance of selling tickets to UAB/Bama in Birmingham than you do Bama/Oregon (at least where basketball is concerned).

The Oregon schedule page can be found here

Monday, June 22, 2015

Kobie Eubanks Commits to Alabama

Avery Johnson and his staff landed a good one today as Kobie Eubanks, a 4 star guard/forward from Ft. Lauderdale, has committed to Alabama. Eubanks becomes the fourth player in the 2015 class to join the program along with Dazon Ingram, Donta Hall and Brandon Austin, along with Nick King and Avery Johnson, Jr, transfers who will sit out this upcoming season.

In the wake of disappointing news earlier that 2016 star guard Josh Langford committed to Michigan State, landing a 4 star player this late in the 2015 recruiting cycle - a 4 star player who chose Alabama over programs such as Kansas and Oregon - is very good news. Even better news is that Eubanks fills a need for the 15-16 team. Depth at guard is sparse, and Eubanks will have a chance to compete for minutes as a result. Evan Daniels of Scout.com tweeted: "This is a quality pick for Avery Johnson. Kobie Eubanks is a 6-5 wing scorer. Strong, tough, has a mid-range game & will even post." 

Originally a member of the 2014 class, Eubanks committed to Baylor out of high school. But issues with his transcript arose, and Eubanks reclassified for 2015. He attended Elev-8 Prep Academy last season where he averaged 24 pts, 7 rebs and 4 assists. Assuming Eubanks is good to go academically, his addition to the 15-16 roster is a positive for a team that, on paper, lacks a lot of scoring punch. Hopefully, Eubanks can jump right in once he arrives on campus.


Friday, June 19, 2015

Slight change this coming season here

I (bobbyjack) will step to the background here. This place is in good hands with DJC and MS running the joint. I'll be available to them for potential site updates and stuff like that, but for the most part I'm going to mostly curb my contributions here.

To be honest I think I winged it last season and didn't like it. Normally I'd go a lot deeper into match ups and such, but last year it was purely stats driven. In previous years I was almost like a scout... finding a way to watch the opponent play and pass what I saw in them to the board. Last year... I watched less college basketball than I ever had before (minus Bama hoops which I must be a masochist 'cause I watched all by 3 games). Heck, I barely watched the Duke-Wisconsin title game.

The older I get the less time I find to sit down and watch sports. As I type this I remember the conversation I had with my dad about this some 20 years ago... which he told me he just doesn't get into it like he used to.

I will sit back as a fan and hope the Avery Johnson era is what we hope it will be... a rebirth of Alabama basketball. Here's the part that might make some folks mad... if it wasn't for Bruce Pearl and Auburn's run to the SECT's Final Four we probably are sitting with another year of Anthony Grant at the helm (unless he was going to quit).

I want to thank all the readers, commenters, and fellow authors for their contributions here.

Note- I'm not leaving... just stepping back.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Schedule News: Alabama and Oregon Agree to Home-and-Home Series

The complete schedule isn't expected to be released until later this summer, but Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports tweeted today that Alabama and Oregon have agreed to a home-and home series that will begin this season in Tuscaloosa with the return game in Eugene next season.

This is good news. Oregon has become a consistent program under the direction of Dana Altman. The Ducks have been to the NCAA Tournament the last three seasons, and will be projected no worse than middle-of-the-pack in the Pac 12 for 15-16. The Ducks return 5 of their top 8 scorers from a 26 win team a year ago, but will have to replace their top player, Joseph Young. This will be an interesting non-conference test for this young Alabama team and new coaching staff over the next two seasons.

Combine this game with the Orlando Classic (featuring Wichita State, Notre Dame, Dayton, Iowa, Xavier, USC and Monmouth), the expected return game at Southern Miss (yes, they stunk last year, but road games are tricky as we all know), and the Alabama non-conference schedule is looking more formidable than I thought it might be in CAJ's first season.  


Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Rule Changes

The NCAA approved a myriad of rule changes for the upcoming season.  I can not recall a season with as many significant rule changes.  These are probably the most significant changes to the college game since the 3 point line.  As many of you know I officiate high school basketball, so I keep up with these things fairly closely, as often times rule adjustments and points of emphasis eventually filter down.  Anyway, here's what is new for 2015-2016

-30 Second Shot Clock-  This is long overdue and should improve the pace of the game.  It's my understanding that Coach Johnson intends to practice with a 24 second shot clock anyway, so this should only help us.

-Only 3 timeouts to carry over to second half: I'm not crazy about this one, as I think it will just encourage coaches to needlessly use another timeout in the first half.  You still get 5 per game, so now instead of one "use it or lose it" timeout in the first half, you have two.

-Any timeout within 30 seconds of a scheduled media timeout will be used as that media timeout.  Good.  Nothing worse than the media timeout, 20 seconds of play, then another timeout, etc.

-"No Charge Arc" under basket extended to 4 feet from 3:  I have mixed feelings about this.  I think the arc is a good thing.  Initially, officials were missing some calls because they were focusing too much on it and neglecting to ensure that the defender had established position, but I think that is improving.  They experimented with this in some tournaments last year and found that it decreases collisions, which makes sense.  I just wish the "no charge under the basket" rule would work its way down to the high school level.

-Coaches may not call timeout during live ball situations.  From an officials standpoint, I like this.  It's difficult to watch the players and also listen/watch the coach during a live ball situation late in the game.  I'm pretty sure I called a timeout for Coach Grant from my seat in the second row against Vandy a couple of years ago.  This eliminates the possibility of that happening.  Now, the coach must get the attention of one of his players, who will call the timeout.

-Only 10 seconds total allowed to advance the ball to the front court- This rule isn't getting talked about much, but it is huge.  In the past, the 10 second back court count would reset on every dead ball.  Now, a team can no longer call a timeout to avoid a 10 second violation.  This should really help teams with a good press, but it seems counter-productive to the committees stated goal of increasing scoring.  I will note that this rule was announced with the qualifier of "with a few exceptions."  I've searched all over, and have not been able to find those exceptions.  Generally speaking, I think this will work well at the college level where officials can use the shot clock as the official count rather than having to count manually.

-Reducing amount of time to replace disqualified player from 20 seconds to 15.  I like this.  I've never understood the point of giving a team a free timeout when somebody fouls out.

-"During use of video review to determine if a flagrant foul occurred, officials may penalize a player who fakes a foul."  I'm all for using replay to get things right, and anything to cut down on the flopping is a good thing, but I would like more details on how exactly the player will be penalized?  Will it be a technical, charged with a personal foul?

-Officials may use replay to review possible shot clock violations on made shots throughout entire game.  I like this, but I hope it is administered like the 3 point line reviews, in that they will wait until the next dead ball, rather than disrupting the flow of the game.

-Class B Technical fouls (Hanging on the rim, delay of game, etc) Are now only one shot technical fouls.  It makes things more complicated for the officials, but I don't feel too strongly about this one either way.

-No more 5 second closely guarded rule while dribbling the ball.  This is another significant change that isn't being talked about much, and I hate it.  Sure, you rarely saw it called, but I'm afraid you are going to see a lot more point guards dribbling the ball around the perimeter.  It will also make it easier for teams to run down the clock late in the game.  This rule seems counter-productive to getting good ball movement and improving the pace of play.

-Dunking in pregame warmups and at halftime is now allowed.  I don't mind this at the college level, but I hope it never filters down to high school.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Scott Pospichal Joins Bama Staff

Avery Johnson completed his coaching staff today with the hire of Scott Pospichal. Pronounced "POSS-pickle" (people are going to have fun with that!), Coach Pospichal joins the staff after spending the previous 10 years as head coach of the Texas AAU program, Texas Titans. He coached Avery Johnson Jr. at the AAU level so he and CAJ obviously had previous ties.

The Titans have been an elite AAU program during Pospichal's tenure, and he has had the opportunity to coach several notable players including Damion Jones [Vanderbilt], Julius Randle [Kentucky, L.A. Lakers], and Prince Ibeh [Texas]. In 10 years, Pospichal led his AAU team to seven national championship games, winning four of them.

At the collegiate level, Pospichal's career includes a stint as an assistant coach at UNC Charlotte from 1983-85; and he was the head coach at Palm Beach Community College from 1987-1995, where he compiled a 181-72 record (the winningest coach in program history) and won three conference championships. Perhaps most impressively, he placed 48 out of 50 players into four-year universities. He brings experience from several different levels of basketball, though this will arguably be the biggest challenge he will have faced as a coach.

I'm certainly no fan of AAU basketball, but if you're a coach that wants to recruit at a high level these days, you need to have ties to the AAU world or a staff member with those connections. Pospichal should help Alabama basketball recruit at a high level, particularly in the talent-rich state of Texas. On the surface, it certainly appears to be a good hire.

So, a quick review of the Alabama coaching staff:

Avery Johnson - Former college and NBA player. Former NBA head coach, selected as NBA Coach of the Year in 2006. Compiled a 254-186  (to be fair, 116 of those losses were with the awful New Jersey Nets) record as a head coach in six seasons.

Bob Simon - Ten years coaching experience at the high school level, and a little over 20 years of experience at the collegiate level. Coaching stops include Providence, Fairfield, Toledo and Wayne State.

Antoine Pettway - He is of course a beloved former Alabama player. Including the one year he spent as a graduate assistant at Alabama, Antoine has seven total years under his belt as an assistant coach. In what has to be a dream come true for Pett, all but two (Jacksonville State) of those seven years have been at Alabama. He has now survived two coaching turnovers, and has become a dynamite recruiter during that span of time, particularly in the state of Alabama. Pettway played a large part in recruiting current members of the team from Alabama along with the current 3-man recruiting class of Dazon Ingram, Donta Hall and Brandon Austin. At this rate, I think Pettway should be allowed a chance to interview should the head coaching position open again (hopefully not in the near future).

Lou DeNeen - Coach Lou was retained by CAJ, thus marking his third season at Alabama. DeNeen has 30 years of experience in the profession, having coached at the collegiate level as well as serving as a personal trainer to professional athletes. Personally, I think he's done a great job in his two seasons at Alabama. While the wins and losses weren't what we had hoped for the last two years, the teams were in the best shape we'd seen them during the Grant tenure. He's also worth following on Twitter #HaveAKickAssDay.

Taken all together, it's a staff with experience at several different levels of the sport, former players, connections to the all-important AAU circuit and the NBA. It's way too early to call it a homerun staff, but I like the potential of this staff to do great things in the years to come. Buckle your seat belts!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

SEC Announces "Permanent" Basketball Opponents

The SEC is currently holding its annual meetings in Destin, FL. Today the conference announced the new scheduling format for basketball. This model will begin in 2015-16 and continue indefinitely. The new model will feature three "permanent" opponents that teams will play home-and-home each season, two rotating home-and-home opponents, with the remainder of the teams playing each other once per season. The total number of conference games will remain 18. The conference also announced the full schedule will be released in August.

Alabama's three permanent opponents will be Auburn, Mississippi State and LSU. In years past, this would be a disappointment from a schedule strength standpoint. However, all three teams appear to be trending upward with the hires of Ben Howland at Mississippi State, Bruce Pearl at Auburn, and the recent resurgence of LSU under Johnny Jones. From a recruiting standpoint, the games with both Auburn and Mississippi State will be incredibly important as all three programs recruit the same region and offer many of the same recruits.

One criticism: Arkansas and Kentucky both have proud basketball traditions with the two most sympathetic basketball fanbases in the football-centric conference. Those two programs should play each other twice each season. A missed opportunity, in my opinion.

Here are the permanent opponents for the other conference teams:

Arkansas - Missouri, Texas A&M, LSU
Auburn - Alabama, Ole Miss, Georgia
Florida - Kentucky, Georgia, Vanderbilt
Georgia - South Carolina, Florida, Auburn
Kentucky - Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt
LSU - Texas A&M, Alabama, Arkansas
Ole Miss - Mississippi State, Auburn, Missouri
Mississippi State - Ole Miss, Alabama, South Carolina
Missouri - Arkansas, Texas A&M, Ole Miss
South Carolina - Georgia, Tennessee, Mississippi State
Tennessee - Vanderbilt, Kentucky, South Carolina
Texas A&M - LSU, Arkansas, Missouri
Vanderbilt - Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida