Friday, March 31, 2006

Quick update and meaningless Final Four prediction

Joey Cameron to transfer from Auburn to Alabama.
From TI backboard via Recruiting Eagle
Not sure what to make of this... he's probably a guy that'll give us 5 minutes a game down the road. Maybe he'll surprise us. Who knows.

Final Four- I think we'll see the Gators and Bruins play for the title Monday. While I'm impressed LSU has made it this far and are probably the most talented team left, I see UCLA's D frustrating LSU with Farmar having a huge night. The Gators have breezed through the toutnament and I believe they'll beat George Mason by double digits. Credit GMU for getting this far, but IMO they've been the recipient of a good draw. Michigan State was struggling the end of the year, UNC is young, Wichita State wasn't that good, and UConn was begging to be picked off all tournament. I like the baby Gators to win convincingly.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Erwin Dudley Update

Erwin continues to gain respect as one of the better players in the Turkish D-1 league.

This is a post on the website of Interperformances, Erwin Dudley's agent/representative.

"Erwin Dudley - 27 Points and 12 Rebounds 6'9" center/forward Erwin Dudley scored 27 points and picked up 12 rebounds in the win of Turk Telekom over ITU 95-52 in the Turkish League. He is averaging 18.0ppg , 8.7 rpg and is second in the MVP Rating this season."

After spending one season rehabbing a knee, one in Israel, and now this season putting up excellent numbers in the Turkish D-1 league, he may be able to get his chance next season to make an NBA roster. He is sixth in scoring, fourth in rebounding, and is leading the league in FG%. Unfortunately he could not be #35 on his team over there, but instead #15....

Davidson to return for senior year

Great news for us. With him coming back we could be a Final Four contender next year.
JD returns to Bama

I love this quote:
"I gave it some careful thought and talked a lot about it with my mother," Davidson said in a statement released by UA.

"And we knew what was important to us. I'm on track to graduate, and that's important to me and my family. And I want to help Alabama win championships and reach its goal of making it to the Final Four.

"That's always been my dream, too."

That's great news for us. I can dare dream of seeing Alabama in Atlanta in the Final Four. I'll go ahead and put my name on the lottery list for tickets.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Ranking the SEC East head coaches

I'm looking at overall season not just what they did (or didn't do in the NCAA tournament (or NIT).

Bruce Pearl- I have to give him an A. 12-4 in conference play and big wins over Texas and Florida (2x) in his first year is quite an accomplishment. Say what you will about his antics he did a heck of a job this year. His team did disappoint in the SECT and NCAA, but overall what he's accomplished in a year is amazing.

Billy Donovan- Also an A. He lost his top 3 scorers and started out 17-0 (I believe) reaching as high as #2 in the rankings. The Gators went into a semi-tailspin in February, but rebounded with another SECT championship and as of now a trip to the Final Four.

Tubby Smith- I might be too hard on him, but IMO this year was a C-. Blowout losses to Indiana, Kansas and 4 home SEC losses is an oddity in Wildcat basketball. Even with Randolph Morris sneaking back (via fax found 6 months later) they struggled all year. They're Kentucky and should be better than that.

Dave Odom- C- as well. We might have to call Odom the king of the NIT if he wins it again. I can hear the fans i Columbia now... we're #66 2 years running. Yeay. The Gamecocks were up and down... beat the Gators twice, Bama, and lose at home to Vandy, swept by UGA. I expected more from Odom... he had success at Wake.

Dennis Felton- I give him a C just for having to clean up Harrick's mess. They play hard (or overly physical depending on your view), but lack the talent to keep up with the upper echelon of the SEC. I think we know more about his abilities as a HC next season.

Kevin Stallings- It's Vandy and they don't care about sports... C. They were competitive in just about every SEC game, but lacked the killer instinct to win. Stallings is a good HC, but he'll need more talent to compete in the SEC East.

Comments/complaints welcome.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Mike Anderson to Mizzou... what it means to the SEC

As reported on many local and national sites, Mike Anderson is going to Missouri. I figure I'd give you the local story link.
Missouri gets their man

What does this mean? Well, for one... Arkansas fans are stuck with Heath at least another season and that's good news to us and the rest of the SEC. Heath at best is an average coach hyped up by his one year at Kent St and his years as an assistant to Tom Izzo. He's recruited height (look at Arkansas' roster) yet doesn't use it to their advantage in games. I know a few Arkansas fans that are regularly angry at Heath's approach (most notably sitting Hill down for long stretchs of a game).

Anderson could've been scary at Arkansas... his coaching style and top notch players... whew. Saying that, I kind of wished he'd end up in Arkansas. A strong Arkansas makes for a strong SEC. I know some are saying, "But that's competition to Alabama." My response... A strong Arkansas can make Alabama even stronger.

We'll have to wait a few more years for the Hogs to resurrect themselves. Heath finally got them to the tourney in his 4th year and they flamed out... bad. This was his best team and all they got was an 8 seed. Better them than us.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Quick thoughts on last night's games (3/23)

1) LSU beats up and beats down Duke. Coach K is heard indirectly whining about the officiating afterwards. I guess he missed out on the 13 fouls not called on Williams and the 3 or 4 elbow clearouts by Redick. I have to say Brady's Bunch showed me something.

2) Memphis dominates Bradley. No surprise there as Memphis has way too many horses. Congrats to Bradley for an amazing run. When's the last time we had 4 "mid-majors" in the Sweet 16 (Gonzaga, Wichita St, George Mason, Bradley)? I honestly don't know the answer.

3) Texas wins at the buzzer. Back and forth game... Texas looked like they're going to run away with it late in the 1st half, but the Mountaineers came back strong. WVU ties it with 5 seconds to go, Texas smartly doesn't call a TO and drains a 3 to end it. What a game... even though I was rooting for West Virginia. I'm amazed WVU was in the game being they were badly outrebounded and knocked around inside (43-15 rebound edge I think to UT).

4) How did the Zags lose last night? UCLA looked like garbage for about 30 minutes of the game. Great show of class by UCLA by going over to Morrison afterwards... say what you want about Morrison and his pornstache they guy comes out to play and leaves it on the court.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Jemison Commits to Bama

According to several Bama websites, Demetrius Jemison verbally committed to Alabama Wednesday evening. The power forward from Huffman High School in Birmingham, AL is expected to sign when the early signing period opens up in mid-April. Jemison joins Mikhail Torrance, Verice Cloyd, Justin Tubbs & Avery Jukes in forming Bama's 2006 recruiting class. All 5 rank as 3-star players in the Rivals.com basketball recruiting database. It is expected that Jemison finalizes the class, though Bama would technically have 1 more scholarship to give in this class at this point and 2 if Jermareo Davidson opts to jump to the NBA. Considering Bama's 2 early commitments in the class of 2007 and the lack of upperclassmen leaving and/or graduating following the 2006-2007 season, there would have to be attrition in order for the Tide to sign another player in the late period in 2006 and still accommodate the early commitments for the 2007 class. Considering Bama's interest in and offer to Rico Pickett of Decatur High School as a 3rd signee in the 2007 class, it seems clear that Bama is done for 2006.

As mentioned here previously, I believe Jemison offers the Tide a solid player that will be capable of contributing day 1. He has very good physical strength with a muscular 225 pound build and he is a quick leaper. He has solid touch from 15 feet in and can run the floor very well. Most importantly, Jemison is a gamer, plays VERY hard, and has a nose for the basketball. He is mentioned as a combo 3/4 man, but I believe he will be primarily a contributor in the post. He is a solid pickup for the Tide and will be a solid player to compliment Richard Hendrix, Yamene Coleman & Avery Jukes in the post for the Tide in the years to come.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

College Basketball 101- Box and 1 zone defense

I figured some would like to know what this is.

- Forward on each block (closest to the basket)
- 2 players at the corners of the FT line
- 1 player covers man to man at the key

The forwards and 2 players at the corners play a zone (responsible for a small area around them and your best defensive player (or guard) is on the best offensive player on the other team.

This defense is used to cover the offensive superstar with 2 players as he dribble/penetrates.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Observations on '05 vs. '06

Throughout the 2005 season Bama fans moaned "When will someone guard the perimeter?" Two of our best offensive players demonstrated real problems guarding their counterparts. That lack of defense seemed to result in Bama's losing almost every game in which the outside players shots eluded them.

In 2006 the outside shot frequently was absent but the perimeter defense was much improved. Jonus was a hard worker but his lack of footspeed limited what he was able to defend. Coach Gottfried eventually seemed to elect to let Chuck Davis shadow the hot shooter on the opposing team. What he lacked in quickness he made up for in length and the result usually were good.

After Chuck's injury Jean Felix, whose offense was one of the biggest joy rides of the season, proved to be an excellent shut-down defender. He shadowed, blocked, shoved, harrassed, annoyed and otherwise played mind games with the best outside threat presented by all of Bama's opponents. More often than not Felix won these duels.

Bama also exhibited a different type of toughness this season. In pretty much every other Gottfried coached season, Bama seemed unable to compete in physical games where the officials would not blow whistles on what might have been called fouls some nother nights. The Bama players would not give up or quit; but they never seemed to be able to hack, push, grab or slash back on the other team enough to slow them down to the same degree that Bama's offense was being affected.

Perhaps Richard Hendrix's imposing presence was the key factor. Perhaps Davidson's maturity was a key factor. Perhaps Ron Steele's resolve made the difference. Perhaps Felix's being unleashed to shut down shooters was the key. Perhaps all those things plus many others were modest contributing factors. I am not sure. But I am convinced that Bama won several physical games and came very close in other games (including the loss to UCLA) the would have lost in earlier seasons.

Let's hope that Coach Gottfried and his staff have solved that part of the puzzle on a permanent basis. If so, they can devote their attention to the very few other details that have been the only real difference between Bama's program and the power houses that inhabit the Sweet 16 on an annual basis.

The future of Alabama basketball

As we close out a mostly enjoyable 2005-2006 season, let’s look ahead to next year. What will our roster look like? As excited as we must be about our future after returning the nucleus of this year’s team, I am suddenly sobered by the breakdown of our roster by class. Let’s take a look:

Sr.(1)
Jermareo Davidson

Jr.(1)
Ron Steele

Soph.(3)
Brandon Hollinger
Alonzo Gee
Richard Hendrix

Frosh.(5)
Yamene Coleman(RS)
Mikhail Torrance
Justin Tubbs
Avery Jukes
Verice Cloyd(I'd say 60/40 that he gets accepted)

This leaves 3 additional scholarships. If you count the 2 early commitments for 2007, that leaves 1 scholarship. Of course, the decision of Jermareo on his future is a huge wildcard and hard to predict at this point. One thing seems clear to me…we would benefit from signing another post player in the late period. If Jermareo stays, let the late signee and Avery Jukes battle it out for who fits into the rotation and who takes the Yamene Coleman path of redshirting(thank goodness CMG stuck to his guns on that plan). If Jermareo leaves(I think we all can agree this is a very real, if not likely, possibility), we have another big man to potentially provide depth next season along with Jukes behind Hendrix and Coleman. I think we are going to sign one, but no more than 1 player in the late period. That leaves the other scholarship for Jermareo and/or to be used in the class of 2007. That means with Jermareo staying and 1 signee in the late period, we’ll have 2 upperclassmen and 11 total players on scholarship. If Cloyd doesn't get in, I suspect we'll wait to sign someone in his place in next year’s class and go into next season with 10 on scholarship. If Jermareo leaves and Cloyd doesn’t make it to T-town, we’re suddenly back to 9 scholarshipped players and 8 if we don’t sign a player in the late period. Dizzy yet?

Looking at this roster is another sobering reminder of our problems in the 2003 and 2004 classes. Our best case scenario is to have 2 upperclassmen on scholarship and there’s still a real possibility that we’ll have 8 on scholarship next season with 4 being freshmen and 1 an upperclassman. How many other top-25 programs are in that situation??? In my view, this is blemish on CMG but leads to an amazing feather in his cap that he was able to do so much in a similar situation this season. And while I believe upperclassmen are important, we still stand to have a great team next year. It’s amazing how different things will look with Jermareo and without Jermareo.

Who would we sign in the late period? The two most prevalent names being mentioned are Jason Bennett, a 7’2” Center prospect from Jacksonville, Florida(reportedly down to AU, Bama & Michigan) and Demetrius Jemison, a 6’6” PF prospect from Birmingham’s Huffman High School(Rivals lists 7-8 schools with medium interest from Demetrius and none are Bama, though it is thought Bama is still very much in the picture and would be tough to beat if they offer). There has also been mention over the past 6 months that our staff is keeping an eye on some JUCO prospects, which might make sense considering our upperclassmen issues and the fact that post players tend to be less physically ready to contribute as freshmen. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

I, for one, am highly skeptical that we’d sign a JUCO player. We haven’t done it much under CMG and save the mixed results from Jean Felix, haven’t benefited much from JUCO players over the past 8 years.

That leaves us three options in my view:
1) sign Jason Bennett
2) sign Demetrius Jemison
3) sign nobody.

CMG could care less what this fan thinks, but let’s chalk one vote up for option 2. A 6’6” PF that is in all likelihood, 6’5”….Have I lost my mind? Perhaps. Nevertheless, I believe Jemison is an ideal signee for the Tide. When you are evaluating, I think you would look at immediate impact and upside when looking specifically at the talent component. My assessment(granted my Bennett evaluation is based on internet film) is that Bennett probably has a greater upside but Jemison is more likely to help immediately. Jemison has good strength and is a quick leaper. He can give us 8-10 minutes per game next year and be every bit as good if not better than Evan Brock was this year. Considering our current situation, I think immediate impact carries some priority over upside/project. Nevertheless, I’m still willing to call those two variables a wash. That leaves us with intangible items, which are the deciding factor for me.

Intangible item #1: Jemison gives GREAT effort all the time. He’s constantly after loose balls and has a nose for getting rebounds. He’s a very self-motivated kid that, pardon the football term, has a motor that runs all the time. I think this is a key attribute for kids playing under CMG. We have done our best when we have these types of kids. This is a big part of the reason I want Jemison. Intangible item #2: The kid is from Birmingham, Birmingham City Schools. We need to re-establish this pipeline. Playing for Alabama will likely mean more to a kid from Birmingham than a kid from Jacksonville. I think this is also a reason to favor Jemison. Who does Jemison remind me of? How about Demarre Carroll of Vanderbilt. I’ve seen that comparison drawn and I like it. Carroll has been a solid contributor at Vandy and we certainly could have used him this year. We didn’t offer him and I agreed with that assessment by CMG, but let’s not make that mistake again with Jemison. Let’s get him. He’ll make a difference for us.

Here’s to the future, as bright yet uncertain as it is.

WL

Monday, March 20, 2006

March Madness opening weekend thoughts

Wow... upsets galore. Who'd thunk two 2s, two 3s, and two 4s would be home already? George Mason and Wichita State fighting for the an Elite 8 spot. I bet everyone's bracket had both of them in the round of 16.

IMO the two most impressive teams so far are Florida and West Virginia. Never have their games been in question. Memphis has been impressive and their route to the Final Four could be done without playing a single team in a power conference (if Gonzaga beats UCLA). Not discounting Bradley, but I don't think they have the horses to play with Calapari's bunch. Saying that I bet they put a scare into the Tigers of Memphis (St).

For giggles my Final Four bracket is still alive as I have West Virginia coming out of Atlanta (and I'm hoping to catch one or both days of the regionals), Gonzaga
out of Oakland (I had Bama beating UCLA and now believe the Bruins are too much for anyone in this bracket), UConn in D.C., and Villanova out of Minneapolis. I got 4 Big East teams in the Elite 8.

Rod Barnes was fired from Ole Miss a few weeks ago and IMO would be a great addition to the Alabama staff. He preaches tough D, something our team isn't exceptional at. I wouldn't count him as a long term hire as I'm sure he'll be a HC again somewhere. People got to remember he was the coach at Ole Miss... which is almost the equivalent of being the football HC at Vanderbilt. He had success early on... 3 out of 4 years in the NCAAs before 4 consecutive losing seasons.

More info on Rod Barnes' Ole Miss highlights:
1998-99: 1st ever Ole Miss NCAA tourney win vs Villanova
2000-01: SECT finalist losing to UK and Sweet 16
2001-02: First Round loss to UCLA

Ole Miss Archives

I realize these accomplishments were 4 years ago, but not continually sucking at Ole Miss is worth something. I believe adding him to our staff would bring us even closer to a Final Four. JMO.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Day After- tough loss to UCLA

What can I say... we played one of the best teams in the county tooth and nail for 40 minutes and was merely a foot away from advancing in front of a largely pro UCLA crowd. I'm proud of what the team accomplished this year. Mark Gottfried and staff remolded a floundering NIT bound squad into a tough out in the round of 32. I can't say enough about what was accomplished after Chuck Davis went down against Ole Miss to open the SEC schedule.

Quick recap on the season... we ended up 10-6 in conference good for 3rd best overall. We beat the Gators, LSU, Tennessee, Arkansas, and won at Kentucky. The win at Kentucky IMO was the turning point of the season. After the opening home loss to Ole Miss we ran the table at home (7-0). There were some bad road losses, but winning any game on the road is tough in the SEC.

Hopefully Davidson comes back. If he does this squad could be a Final Four contender. A Final Four contender at a football school... now that would be something. If Davidson opts for the NBA I wish him luck. We'll be ok without him as the core of Steele, Hendrix, and Gee will keep us in the top echelon of the SEC.

I've ripped Brock and Felix at times, but I want to thank them for their effort during their careers at Alabama. We wouldn't have beaten Marquette in the 1st round without Felix. They were our 2 best defenders and that aspect will be hard to replace.

That's all I have... the loss hurts, but not too much as when I look back we overachieved this year. Let's hope this is a sign of better things to come.

Note- this is an idea that hopefully will blossom into something more and give Alabama basketball fans a place to get info on hoops.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Day 1- Bama-UCLA

After a great win over Marquette, it's time to match up with IMO one of the best 5 teams in the nation.

Keys to the game:
1) Control tempo. We don't need to go up and down with UCLA. They play 10 and can run us to death.
2) Keep UCLA's guards in check. Ok that's unlikely, but keeping Farmar and Afflalo from going off is huge.
3) Get the ball inside to Davidson and Hendrix. We have a height advantage inside. Use it.
4) Someone off the bench steps up. Felix did so against Marquette and hopefully he can do so again.
5) Avoid the scoring droughts. We win when we don't go 4 minutes between FGs (no duh).

Prediction- UCLA pulls away late behind Farmar. 78-68. I hope I'm wrong.