Sunday, November 29, 2009

Bama upsets Michigan, 68-66.

This will be relatively short as I think Alias has already posted a solid recap. I don't think a lot of people realize how big this win is for us. Michigan was ranked #15 coming into this week. Obviously they won't be ranked as high after going 1-2 in Orlando, but nevertheless they are a border line top 25 type of team from a major conference, and to beat them on a neutral floor to take 3rd in the tournament is a great "resume building" win for us, not to mention the confidence it will give our young players in what Coach Grant is trying to accomplish.

The first half was not pretty. Once again, we fell down by 12 in the early goings. On the one hand, I love the poise, effort, and never give up attitude of this team. On the other hand, I would rather we not make a habit of digging ourselves a 10+ point hole in the first half. In the first half, we committed too many turnovers, gave up open shots, and generally played sloppy. Still, we were able to take advantage of some Michigan mistakes and make it a 5 point game by halftime.

I thought it was interesting that we started both halves in a 2-3 zone. In the second half it was more of a match-up zone, which was much more successful. While our 2-2-1 full court press did not force a lot of turnovers, I thought it was effective in forcing Michigan to rush things offensively and take some bad shots. After making some adjustments, I thought we did a good job on offense against their 1-3-1 halfcourt trap. Charves Davis made enough shots from the perimeter to keep them honest, and we were able to work the ball down to Green who had a huge day in the post. Green's play was especially critical considering Justin Knox's foul trouble. Torrance had a good day running point with 8 assists to 3 turnovers.

Again, this was a huge win for us. I believe John Beilein is one of the better coaches in the game, and Coach Grant out coached him today. We fell down 12 in the first half to a top 20 team, playing against a defensive system that we don't see very often, and we made the proper adjustments to come back and win. The crowd was split roughly 50/50, with a fair contingent of FSU people there who were supporting us for the most part. Our contingent of 250 or so was very vocal once myself and a couple of other guys encouraged everyone to get into it, and the team seemed to appreciate and feed off of the support. The arena was very small but also very nice, and everything was ran in a first class manner. Major Kudos to the folks at Disney for hosting a wonderful tournament.

Up next, North Florida comes to Tuscaloosa Wednesday night for a 7pm tipoff. For now, I hear Church Street calling. Roll Tide!

Bama Beats Big Blue

Alabama, coming from as many as twelve points down, scratched and clawed its way to the biggest win of the Anthony Grant era over the 15th ranked Michigan Wolverines. Michigan seemed to shoot threes almost at will for the first 25 minutes of this game while Alabama's guards could barely buy a trey. Most of Bama's early offense came underneath the basket as the guards tried to work the ball around Michigan's 1-3-1 zone. On the other end of the court, Michigan kept hitting threes and finding open looks underneath the basket.

The Tide got into early foul trouble, Hillman being the first player from either team to head to the bench with two fouls well within the first ten minutes of the first half. His presence was sorely missed on the defensive end where his quickness was helping to pressure the Big Blue ball handlers. Defensive intensity increased dramatically when he was inserted back into the lineup in the second half.

Torrance, who did not score many points in the first half, came on to hit a huge three and to make an important dish that finally gave the Tide a lead with about four minutes to go in the game. Knox had an important bucket and hit one of two free throws to maintain a one point Alabama advantage.

At the end of the game it was Green who made the last two big plays. Alabama rebounded a missed Michigan shot with about 32 seconds left on the game clock. Torrance dribbled around near mid-court killing all but about 12 seconds. Green, who eventually was voted the player of the game and scored 20 points, fielded a missed shot and slammed the rebound through the hoop. Then on the other end he swatted away Michigan's layup attempt before it could get to the hoop.

The win is the most important event of the night. The poise and patience necessary to work their way slowly back into a game they easily could have abandoned in the second half comes not far behind. Finally, the quality minutes earned by several of our new players against a quality opponent were extremely valuable.

I'm sure BobbyJack will post some more poignent comments and the game stats soon. DJC was at the game in Orlando. Hopefully MSmilie saw the game.

Roll Tide

Green's dunk and blocked shot helps Tide pull the upset 68-66

JaMychal Green puts in a dunk followup with under 56 seconds remaining and caps it off with a monster rejection as time expired to hold off Michigan.

Box score or this one

I missed the 1st half as I was coming back fro yet another football game. I know in the 2nd half that Green dominated while Torrance hit some big 3s and set up his teammates nicely on some easy baskets. Charvez Davis carried us in the 1st half with his outside shooting (from the commentary).

The good:
- outhustled Michigan in the 2nd half
- Green and Torrance took over
- held Michigan to 38% FG and 24% 3PT FG

The bad:
- turned the ball over a bunch on steals
- 19 turnovers (addendum to above)

Nice win by the team. Coming out of this tournament 2-1 is pretty sweet.

Side note- Fran Fraschella might be the most annoying and inept(sp?) analysis on ESPN. As annoying as Duke Vitale might be, at least he does his homework on the teams he's covering... once you get past the Duke, UNC, Derek Jeter, and NY Yankees references.

Michigan stats pack

The 3-1 Wolverines play the 3-2 Crimson Tide for 3rd place in the Old Spice Classic. Should be another good test for us.

Stats (requires adobe acrobat)

The funny thing is we've been tested more in this tournament than we were last year in Maui. Go figure. Anyways, unlike our 1st two games, we won't be seriously outsized today... they only play one big man (Zack Gibson) regularly.

I haven't gotten a chance to watch the tournament with me being in Auburn for the Alabama-Auburn game (note I did not call it the Iron Bowl) so I haven't seen Michigan play this year. They should make the NCAAs, but they're still a middle of the road Big 10.

Manny Harris is a preseason Big 10 1st teamer averaging 21 points 9.5 boards and 7.5 assists per game. It is obvious we have to somewhat contain him. Deshawn Sims is 2nd on the team in points (17) and boards (8.3). Starter for starter we match up well with them as so far they're playing a 4 guard lineup.

Stats:
- 80.5 PPG
- 45% FG
- 32% 3PT FG
- Rebound margin of only +.8
- 2.5 Blocks per game

Prediction: I'm going to be a homer again... I believe we out uptempo Michigan and squeak out a victory. Bama by 3.

Gametime is 5PM EST (4PM CST) and it's on ESPNU (channel 614 on DTV). I should be able to actually watch this... maybe missing part of the 1st half as I'll be seeing your Atlanta Falcons drill my former favorite team in the Tampa Bay Yuccaneers.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Playing for 3rd now. FSU 60 Bama 51

Like everybody else, I missed most of this game because I was at the football game on the ugliest village on the plains. I did make it to a local sports bar in time to catch the last 9 minutes of the game. We were down 12 when I arrived, and we cut it to 7 at one point, but couldn't really make it a game. From what little bit I saw, it appeared that we were playing very aggressive on defense, but FSU had some ball handlers and was able to knock down some open shots at key moments. Every time it looked like we might make a run, they had an answer. FSU is a good team, and this was basically a home game for them. I was trying to keep an eye on the score while at the football game, it must have been a sloppy start as it was a 4-4 tie about 5 minutes into the game. It looked to be back and forth in the first half, but we fell down by 5 around halftime and they stretched the lead out in the second half. Sorry for the lack of quality analysis on this game, but 1) As I said, I only saw the last 9 minutes and 2) After that football game, then driving from auburn to Lake City, FL, I really don't feel like looking at the box score right now and trying to guess what happened. I'll be at the game Sunday, and depending on my internet connection I'll either get a recap posted that night, or Monday night after I return home to Birmingham.

Up next, another tough matchup against a top 25 Michigan team, at 4pm Central (5 EST) for 3rd place overall. The game will be televised by ESPNU.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Florida State stats pack

Super abbreviated today as there's a another sporting event on the schedule today.
FSU stats

They got kilted at Florida. FSU is supposed to be a projected NCAA team so either it was an off night or the Gators are better than advertised.

Stats:
- 47% FG
- 35% 3PT FG
- 66% FT
- +10 rebound margin

Prediction: I think we're on a roll and we win this one. I don't think it's a road game as FSU basketball fans are pretty scarce... and we had a pretty good contingent there yesterday. Bama by 5.

If we win tonight I think we go ahead and win this tournament.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Bama Busts Butt, Beats Baylor Bible-thumping Baptist Baylor Bears by 3, 79-76

Unfortunately, I don't think we had any members of this blog present to give a first hand account, so my perspective is having watched the game on TV like everyone else. Well, I should say watching the last 30 minutes on TV...I had to listen to the first 10 minutes on the radio thanks to ESPN's piss poor program planning.

We trailed early in the game, and it sounded like we were a bit out of sync and having difficulties with Baylor's big men. Maybe they just needed me to be able to watch, because by the time ESPN got around to broadcasting the game, the Tide was rolling. This was a big win for us. Scott Drew is one of the hot "up and coming" names in coaching (if you look back to my posts during our coaching search, you'll know that I think he is somewhat overrated, but that's neither here nor there), and after their run in the NIT last year many were picking them to be a legitimate player in the NCAA this year. There is no doubt they have more size than us, and most would agree they have more overall talent and depth than us. We simply outcoached and out hustled them tonight, and that is why we are advancing in the winner's bracket of this tournament.

Again, we did not press them as much as I thought we might, but we were very effective when we did. We were able to get them in foul trouble in the second half which hurt their offensive game plan. Our undersized post players did a great job of containing their big men. Justin Knox got into some foul trouble, although his 4th foul which was called a block, should have been a charge.

Speaking of bad calls, overall I thought the refs called a pretty good game, but the ones they missed were REALLY bad. I've already mentioned Knox's 4th foul, but Tony Mitchell nearly got his nose broke on an over the back that was not called. That was probably my biggest gripe with the officials was the lack of over the back calls tonight.

Offensively, I liked the way we attacked the zone. Our bigs were able to flash to the free throw line and get good open shots. Our drive and dish game was there most of the night, and Hillman and Brock shot well enough from the outside to keep them honest. Torrance had another great game with 20 points and 6 assists despite 4 turnovers. Green had a monster game with 22 points. Free throw shooting continues to be an issue, and we had some key misses down the stretch that allowed the Bears to keep things interesting.

We look to be a well coached team. We adjust to what our opponents are doing on both ends of the floor, and we give great effort, especially on defense. I think we have improved every game...this was our best game thus far, and you could say that for each of our previous games at the time. All of that being said, there is no excuse for what happened in the final minute. We ran an inbounds play underneath the Baylor basket which called for a pass down the baseline before inbounding the ball. Problem is...it was a spot throw in. You can only run the baseline following a made basket. To Coach Grant's credit, he took the blame for it, and luckily we got a charge call right after so it didn't hurt us, but if Baylor scores there and makes it a game, that is an inexcusably bad mistake. That doesn't negate of all the positives, and you've got to like the way this team is playing right now.

From what I saw on TV, it appeared that we had a surprisingly decent sized and vocal crowd there tonight. I hope that continues throughout the tournament, and I will do my part for the Sunday game.

Up next, the winner of the Florida State-Iona game at 4pm Central on ESPN2. Unfortunately, we have a football game against some no-name scrub school that likely won't be over till 4:30 or so. I'll be at the football game, but I hope to at least catch the 2nd half. RTR!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Brock reinstated and Baylor stats pack

Brock has been reinstated by CAG.
“Anthony Brock has met the requirements that we set for him to end his suspension effective immediately,” Grant said. “Anthony is committed to this program and understands the expectations that we hold for our basketball team.”

Full link.

Baylor stats pack...

A relatively young team... 4-0 so far, but against pretty crappy competition. They escaped the mighty Hartford Hawks with a buzzer beater.

Led by LaceDarius Dunn (25.3 PPG) and Ekpe Udoh (8.8RPG), the Bears will test us by playing uptempo basketball. I think we match up well with them... as long as our big men stay out of foul trouble. They have 2 7 footers that see the court. Overall, they're simply bigger than us.

Stats:
- 51.9% FG
- 40% 3PT FG
- 57.4% FT
- 13 turnovers per game
- 81 PPG

Prediction: As long as Green and Knox stay out of foul trouble I think our guards are better than their guards (collectively). With Brock back we have another outside threat that should be the difference. Bama by 7.

Oh yeah, the game is on ESPN2 (thanks finebammer for reminding me of that). No grainy internet feed. YAY!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Pugnacious Pachyderms Prevail Over Providence

BobbyJack already has given you the game essentials. What he did not take time to tell you was just how exciting this game was to watch.

I estimated the crowd to be between six and eight thousand. The announced crowd was closer to ten. Any of those numbers reflects a marked improvement over what we have seen for recent "preseason" games, even against named opponents.

The initial intent was to pound the ball inside. Green did score the games first five points before the Friars called time and established an effective defense. Bama then began trying to set up the three point shot. They earned several clean looks, the players set their feed and squared up to the basket. The shots did not fall. Enter plan C: the promised dribble-drive, half-court offense. This worked well enough to keep the Tide in the game.

Providence started out blazing from beyond the arc. They had two players with hot shooting hands and they used that to take the lead and hold it for the balance of the half.

As the second half started Bama fans saw something they've waited years to see, an effective perimeter defense. Providence hit only one of the ten threes it shot in the second half. Unfortunately guarding them so closely on the perimeter made it difficult for the Tide to defend against the Friar's dribble penetration. When that did not create open layups it freed their inside players for the unguarded dish. Providence seemed to score almost at will in the second half until Bama's guards began to harass the Friar forwards from behind.

Providence might not be the most talented team in the Big East, but Alabama is not among the SEC's premier programs this season either. This still was an important victory by a gritty, gutsy Alabama team. The game was exciting for forty full minutes. Both teams played with great energy and enthusiasm. The crowd responded too and encouraged the home team to dig deep as they approached crunch time.

Hillman's steal and dunk might have been the game's hi lite, but Torrence's offense and Knox' consistent shooting from the foul line (I believe he hit ten of his eleven free throws) while Green was on the bench, first with foul trouble and later with some sort of injury, are what kept Alabama in the game. Even with a shortage of post players this team could become a force to be reconned with if they could find one or two reliable three point shooters.

If you are a Bama Basketball fan I would encourage you to see this team play as often as you can. If they continue to perform like this, tickets might become a valuable commodity in a very short time. The new regime still is in its infancy and the players certainly could use your support. I don't regret any of the eleven hours I invested to see this game and post this meager entry. I hope to see you all in Coleman Coliseum soon.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Late steal by Torrance leads Tide to victory 84-75

Box score

This is indeed a nice win for Coach Anthony Grant and the team. I love the defensive intensity... even though we were pretty miserable offensively, the defensive pressure kept us in the game. When we full court pressed we either got the turnover or took the Friars out of their offense. This full court press thing is still foreign to fans that watched last year's team. :)

The good:
- Torrance. Although he shot the ball more than I would like my PG to do, it didn't seem like anyone else wanted to.
- Knox with a double-double
- 77% from the FT line
- 8 turnovers, forced 14.

The bad:
- Green and foul trouble. Actually all of our big men were in foul trouble, but I pick on Green as we need him on the court the most.
- 40% FG. Like I said, the D kept us around, but the offense stunk it up. Give credit to Providence for some of that, but I also saw a lot of bad shots in the 1st half.

It's obvious CAG reads this blog as Mikhail Torrance is his favorite player. Why else would he log 39 minutes? :)

Interesting stat- the loss tonight for Providence was the first one this year in the Big East.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Providence stats pack

Abbreviated for now... if I have time tomorrow I'll edit it with more info.

They're 3-0 with a huge win over the always tough Mercer Bears (we know them from last year... losing at home to them). Ok, really they're a middle of the road Big East team that'll challenge us. I haven't seen them play this year so I can't give any insight, but from the stats they have no problems using their bench with 11 players averaging at least 9 minutes per game.

(edit)Stats
- 42% FG
- 28% 3PT FG
- 60% FT
- +15 rebound margin
- 8.3 turnovers per game

Those offensive stats look AUful.


Prediction: With the loss of Brock (indefinetly) we really need to shoot well from outside to win. I just don't see it happening. Friars by 6.

Game time is 7PM CST and you can watch it at the usual place. I'm too lazy to link it, but scroll down and you'll find it from another post. I hope there's a good crowd there tonight.

Remember Stan Heath? Looks like he's in trouble at USF

Most of the NCAA violations involve USF video and conditioning assistant Terrelle Woody, who was hired Aug. 26, 2008, in a non-coaching position by USF coach Stan Heath (right) as part of a package deal to guarantee the signing of highly touted Maryland transfer Gus Gilchrist.

The violations include Woody providing transportation to student-athletes, watching "open gyms," coaching players and illegally working out USF players.
Heath, who is 23-41 and in his third season at USF, denied the allegations or said he had no knowledge of them.

"You want to keep nickel and diming him," Heath said. "All this little [crap] ... I don't know what this is all about. It's stupid."

Besides the alleged violations, three current USF players -- Dominique Jones, Anthony Crater and Justin Leemow -- were the primary suspects in the April 2009 theft of nearly $8,000 worth of items stolen from former players Gaby Belardo and Jesus Verdejo, according to a Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office report. The father of one of the victims said he believes that Heath never contacted the police about the burglary to protect the current players. The items have not been recovered and no charges were filed.

Read the rest here.

Looks like someone's coaching career is about to end. Badly. I hope he saved up all the money he got (stole) from Arkansas.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tony and Tide tame Tigers; 86-69 over Jackson State

Tony Mitchell had a coming out party tonight and showed why he was such a highly regarded prospect. He played very well within the offense and capitalized on his high percentage shots in the paint, to finish with 23 points. He also played good defense and pulled down a few rebounds. About the only flaw in his game tonight was taking a couple of ill advised 3's.

Speaking of perimeter shooting, I have stated that a lack of consistent shooting may be the biggest problem with our current team trying to run this system. We were a respectable 7 of 17 from the 3 point range tonight, but that includes 5 of 7 from Charvez Davis. Davis's ability to consistently shoot may end up being the key to the season...the rest of the team was only 2 for 10.

One of our key shooting threats, former starter Anthony Brock, is suspended indefinitely for violation of team rules. I have no idea what he did, but I trust Coach Grant is handling the situation in such a way that will be beneficial to the program in the long term. Andrew Steele started in his place, and Ben Eblen saw a lot of playing time. Both took good care of the basketball, but neither is the scoring threat that Brock can be from the outside. Eblen is somewhat undersized defensively, but he makes up for it with his basketball IQ. He handles the ball very well and makes good decisions, and he is quick enough to defend despite his lack of size. Nevertheless, he's not much of a threat to light up the scoreboard.

We were not getting good shots in the first half and allowed Jackson State to keep the game within 5 points. I think our pressure defense wore them down somewhat in the second half, but our press was not as successful in terms of forcing turnovers. In fact, Jackson State broke it fairly easily for much of that night. Conversely, our half court man to man defense was very solid tonight. Jackson State did not have a lot of size inside like Cornell did, and we were able to block a few shots in the post to create some transition opportunities. We contested most all of their shots from the perimeter when we were in a half court man to man. Jackson State's lack of size also allowed Green and Mitchell to dominate in the paint. Davis kept them spread out enough by knocking down the 3's to allow our point guards to get the ball in to them. It was nice to see Green stay out of foul trouble. It was also good to see a fairly well officiated game, thanks to a lack of Ted Valentine on the court.

Overall, a solid win against an inferior opponent after a sluggish first half. For the first time this year we did not shoot ourselves in the foot with turnovers. We only had 10 for the game, which is pretty good considering the pace at which we play. Green and Hillman both had to come out of the game due to bumps and bruises, but both returned and appear to be fine. With Brock's suspension and Jemison already out for the year, we can't afford to lose any more guys. With the exception of Torrance, free throw shooting continued to suck tonight.

The crowd tonight was very small, I would say about 2,000 at best. Jackson State brought a small group of 10-20, including one of the most loud obnoxious fans I have ever heard. This lady (and I use that term very loosely) literally screamed at a very high pitch throughout the entire game. At their players, at the refs, at our players, at our fans, anybody who would listen, or even if they wouldn't but had no choice due to the sheer volume. She is missing a great opportunity to be a Mississippi $tate fan, she would fit right in with that bunch of loudmouth jerks.

Also, kind of off topic, but we really need to do something about our halftime shows. Saturday we had a bunch of kids on unicycles trying to hit layups, and they shot an even lower percentage than we do from the free throw line. Also, they went over their time slot delaying the teams from coming back out to warm up. Tonight, our halftime show literally consisted of 4 people eating a Chic fil a sandwich. I love me some Chic Fil A, but watching other people eat is not exactly my idea of entertainment.

Up next, the Friars from Providence will come to Tuscaloosa Friday night for a 7 pm tip. They are undefeated and come from arguably the nation's best conference in the Big East. We have a history with Providence, as they eliminated one of Wimp Sanderson's better teams in the Sweet 16. Billy Donovan played on that team, against Mark Gottfried. This is a winnable game for us, as Mercer played them within 2, but it will not be a cake walk. There is no reason why we shouldn't have a big crowd Friday night. The football team has an early game on Saturday, so go ahead and get to Tuscaloosa the night before and support our young basketball team!

Jackson State stats pack

Are they the Southern Miss of our basketball schedule? It seems like we play them every year. Anyways, here's their season stats.

They got drilled by Memphis (82-53), but a lot of team are going to be so I wouldn't pay too much attention to that. It looks like most of their scoring/shooting comes from Gertavin Blake and Garrison Johnson (30 of 57 shots), but it looks like they play their entire bench.

Stats:
- 37% FG
- 33% 3pt FG
- rebouund margin -10
- 54% FT
- .6 assist/TO ratio (horrible)

Prediction: This should be a game where we get some kinks out of the offense. I fully expect us to run them out of the gym. Alabama by 21.

Game time is 7:30PM and it's viewable on rolltide.com

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Prosperous Preview Preempted

Please forgive the belated update. An overnight stay without Internet access and a visit to a friend who lost his mother kept me from posting anything until after Bobby Jack had delivered his comments, all of which seemed to be directly on point.

Anthony Grant said a few weeks ago that he expected to run a dribble-drive half-court offense. That is exactly where they started Saturday, without success. We must have turned the ball over at least three of the first five trips down the court. One was a mishandled pass (I believe to Knox) and the other two were reach ins by the defense. I was shielded from the defensive moves so I cannot say whether the steals were legitimate or our players were being hacked. I do know that the officials did not call a single foul underneath the Alabama basket for the first 13 minutes of the game. The defensive plays could have been clean, but I really don't think Cornell was that much quicker that the Tide.

To say our offense sputtered when the dribble drive proved ineffective would be a gross understatement. Coach Grant did eventually try some adaptations of that approach. The readers will be pleased to know that none of them involved the UCLA High Post Offense and that some of them were effective.

We had no answer for Foote, Big Red's seven foot center. We did not even have a large body to lean against him to keep him from backing into the lane once he received the entry pass. When all else failed, the officials allowed Foote to clear out his path to the hoop with his off arm. There will be games where that play will be allowed. Unless something changes, Bama will not have an answer for it.

Number 20 for Cornell was a swing type player who appeared to be about 6'5" who turned out to be their three point expert. I don't think he missed a single open shot. They set screens to get him open and the big men kicked the ball back down to him when the guards collapsed to offer help.

I had heard that Bama had two plays to inbound the ball. I don't think I saw either of them Saturday. I recall at least three occasions where we had to lob the ball to or beyond the half court line to inbound it underneath our own basket. One other time they burned a time out because no one could get open.

Bama did alternate its approach to generate some offense. When Cornell came out in a tight man defense in the second half, Bama cleared out from underneath the basket and allowed Torrence to drive in for easy layups. A switch to a zone put a stop to that. They also tried to set some screens for threes. I am not a good enough student of the game to know what is wrong, but our screens do not work. I don't know whether the problem lies in where we set them, how long our player stays set, or how closely the moving player approaches, but they seldom seemed to create an open look.

Cornell's point guards were allowed to penetrate too closely to our basket without anyone offering help to the man guarding the point. That generated open looks and open passes underneath the basket. These last three points make me tend to believe that old habits really are hard to break.

On the positive side, Green did have some nice moves against the seven footer underneath the basket. Hillman showed spots of his upside when Bama turned on the pressure. The pressure generated at least two steals for turnover goals. Mitchell had a good game. I think he had one steal (I don't see on in the box score), he had a nice offensive rebound for a put back, and scored effectively from the field. Alabama wins this game but for the two missed dunks and three missed layups in the second half. The effort was good. Unfortunately the team does not yet appear to grasp what Coach Grant is trying to do offensively (gee, no surprises there!) and looks like it has not worked together for very long. The upside potential might be better than any of our regular contributors predicted. Then again, it might not. So long as they continue to demonstrate the type of effort I saw yesterday, I will be happy to make the round trip from Mobile to Coleman Coliseum as often as work and family obligations will allow.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cornell spoils Grant's debut 71-67

It's hard to give analysis on a grainy feed, but I'll try my best.

Cornell I believe has 6 3s to start the 2nd half. I like the way we kept on fighting, but it seemed like everytime we got under double digits, Cornell hit a big 3. Some things haven't changed though... white guy draining 3s.

When we got it within one score give Cornell credit as they'd either hit a shot to make it a 2 possession game or hit their FTs.

I saw a lackluster first half, but was impressed with our 2nd half performance. When we really made a run at Cornell the ball went through Torrance and for the most part he made good decisions.

Box score

I thought Green and Hillman rushed their shots... although in Green's case he had to contend with a 7 footer. Brock was a sharpshooter from 3. He's easily our most reliable option out there.

Anyways, most of us know this season is one that will see some growing pains. As long as I see the hustle I saw today I'll remain optimistic. Last year's team would've quit when Cornell took the lead to double digits.

We are what we are now... let's see how much this team gels going forward.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cornell stats pack

I'll give you stats from last season. How about that?
Also here's a blog about Cornell. A pretty good one at that. The poll on the main page comes up with 50% saying Cornell wins a close one.

They're the 2 time defending Ivy League champs and preseason favorite to win it again, returning most of the roster from last year.

Ryan Wittman led them in scoring (18.5) and 3pt FGs (97 made) while Jeff Foote (a 7 footer) cleaned the glass (7.2). Louis Dale averaged 13 PPG.

Prediction- A close game throughout with Green being just too much inside for Cornell. Alabama by 2 in a squeaker.

Gametime is 1PM CST (2PM EST for me). You can watch it online here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Alabama Squirms Past Augusta State, 61-55

An uninspired Alabama basketball team playing in front of an equally uninspired crowd needed six straight free throws late to hold off Division II, Augusta State. JaMychal Green, limited to nineteen minutes due to 1st half foul trouble, led Alabama with 12 points and 5 rebounds. He was the only player to score in double figures. Alabama trailed in the 1st half by eight points before rallying to take a one point lead into halftime.

I missed the first 5-6 minutes of this game so I can’t comment on that portion of it. However, what I did see was not very encouraging. Augusta State is a Division II power, they deserve respect, but Alabama did not play well at all. Turnovers were once again an issue (23), though the Tide did shoot extremely well from the free-throw line (90.9%), which was the difference in the game. JaMychal only played three minutes in the 1st half before picking up two fouls. With its best post player off the floor, and facing a zone defense, Bama relied on the three-point shot, which wasn’t there for most of the evening (29.4%).

There isn’t much good to report. However, the defensive pressure did force Augusta into eighteen turnovers and 38.9% shooting from the floor.

Bottom line: The team won the game. It’s better to play poorly and win than to lose games of this nature. With an extremely tough Cornell team coming in Saturday for the season opener, Alabama has a lot to work on if it wants to emerge a victor on Saturday. The best place to start is what has been most consistent the last two games - their defense. This team is going to have to bring it on the defensive end every single night in order to have a chance to win; they simply don’t have much offensive firepower based on the first two games to outscore anyone.

Oh well. It could be worse. We could be Arkansas fans.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Alonzo Gee is an Austin Toro

In case you didn't know it, the NBA Development League had its draft this past week. Former Alabama player, Alonzo Gee, was selected by the Austin Toros with the sixth pick of the first round.

From Draft Express: Alonzo Gee goes 6th to the Austin Toros. Gee barely played for the Spurs Summer League team this year, but I guess they liked what they saw. He has some skills, but hasn’t really ever brought them together. His biggest weakness is three point shooting. And free throw shooting. Well, just shooting in general really. Usually a pre-requisite for a shooting guard/small forward, but in the D-League anything goes.

Congratulations to Alonzo. Hopefully he can parlay this into a possible NBA shot at some point. This gives me even more of a reason to enjoy Toros games this season. With salaries that range from $12,000-$24,000/season in most cases, these guys aren't living the high life by any means. They are hanging onto their basketball dreams by their fingernails. Most of them won't make it. The attendance at these games is sparse (despite the level of basketball being frequently quite high) and media attention is minimal. It also doesn't help in a town like Austin where you have a college basketball program that is a consistent top 25 team. Particularly this season, which could end with a national championship (Texas is my pick to cut down the nets in April). I think of the D-League players as underdogs, and I love a good underdog. As
Captain Renault would suspect, I'm a rank sentimentalist.

In case you are interested in the other D-League draft choices, click here.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Anthony Answers Alias . . .

or Alias' questions at least. Okay, so they were your questions, but I did ask them for you.

Coach Grant gave a detailed history of each of his assistant coaches, but he did not break down their duties along the lines that DJC asked. He did talk a good bit about the Strength and Conditioning Coach and about the Video Something-or-other Coach. He said that at this level someone has to record the practices to give the floor coaches the information they need to instruct the players. That might be old news to some of you, but I did not know they did that in basketball.

Coach Grant said that all the players were excited about the prospects of running an up tempo game but that they were really surprised by the September workouts that were necessary to prepare them for that style. They were surprised but they all evidently did accept the responsibility.

In response to the half-court defense question, he said they would be primarily a man-to-man team but that the one thing no team could afford to do at this level is to become predictable. As a result, he said they would change defenses and change fairly frequently to keep opponents off balance.

Coach Grant was very diplomatic when trying not to be too specific in addressing the talent level of our team. He did describe with particularity the individual strengths of each member of the roster. The comment the assembly enjoyed most was when he described Justin Knox as being "very laid back off the court." He said he'd told Justin "that needs to change when you go on the court."

This was my first visit to a Tip Off Club meeting. I was not the only rookie there tonight. The local leadership evidently had expended considerable effort to try to produce a good crowd for Coach Grant's first visit. Most of the other attendees spent their cocktail time talking about football. One Bama Basketball stalwart from my class back in the seventies asked a number of pointed questions. I promised Coach Grant I would put that friend in the car and drive him up to Coleman Coliseum before the season ended. I also promised to be in my seat next Saturday.

I was very encouraged by everything Coach Grant said. He knows the facilities must be improved and he explained that Coach Moore and President Witt are doing everything they can to help him. He also said that he had only one chance to do this right so he was more than happy to be patient to achieve that goal.

Elephants Excel in Exhibition, 81-53 over Montevallo

A couple of years ago Montevallo came in here to play an exhibition game against us and led at halftime. We were fortunate to pull it out in the second half. That was not the case last night. The Falcons only lead came at 3-2, and the game was never in doubt as Coach Anthony Grant emptied the bench and tried a variety of different lineups.

The starting lineup consisted of Mikhail Torrance, Senario Hillman, Anthony Brock, Chris Hines, and Jamychal Green. Our style of play is completely different from what we have become accustomed to over the last few years. The high post appears to be a thing of the past. We push the ball up the court on every rebound, and generally take the first open shot available. In the half court offense, we mostly run a drive and dish game, but we actually set off ball screens to get guys open on the wings and in the corners.

Defensively, intense pressure is the word. We put pressure on them in the backcourt for most of the game. We mostly ran a 2-2-1 press, and it was run much more effectively than the swiss cheese version of the 2-2-1 we saw last year. We were very aggressive and fundamentally sound when trapping in the corners. Coach Grant did a good job of making adjustments and switching to a full court man to man and a half court man to man at times to get the Falcons from getting into any sort of rhythm. I do not think you will see us run much zone at all, despite our lack of size inside. It just doesn't seem to fit the identity of this team. Even in the halfcourt defense, we played a tight man to man and picked them up at halfcourt. It's a very high risk/high reward defense. We forced a lot of turnovers for easy baskets, but if teams are able to break the press, they will have numbers that will give them some quick, open shot opportunities. While the game may look chaotic at time due to the fast pace and full court nature of our system, there is definitely a method to the madness. We are not playing street ball out there.

We actually ran a couple of inbounds plays! Even better, they did not consist of throwing the ball up for grabs in the back court for a jump ball tyle situation. We even ran a play from the baseline designed to get a quick shot off, and it worked! We ran at least 3 different inbounds plays last night, which is 3 more than we ran in an average game last year.

I can't say enough about the intensity and effort. I saw more players dive on the floor for loose balls last night than I have in the last 2 years combined.

We did look sloppy at times, particularly on offense. I have not seen a box score, but we had too many turnovers. A major contributing factor was some of the unusual lineups we used. Coach Grant wanted to get everyone significant playing time, so there were times when we had Greg Cage, 3 new players, and one experienced contributor on the court at the same time. A lot of the turnovers were from the post. On several occasions Hines or Mitchell would turn it over trying to pass back out to the perimeter to a guard who was covered. Learning to find the open man from the block should come with time. Otherwise, I thought both Hines and Mitchell played good games. Mitchell is not as tall as I expected, but he plays big. He can get up and down the floor and is solid on the boards. He can also step and defend the perimeter when necessary. I think he will be solid for us as a #3 type. Hines is still a little green, but he's going to be a major contributor in the post even if he doesn't continue starting. Justin Knox was solid as expected off the bench. Anthony Brock didn't light up the scoreboard, but he was nuisance to their guards on defense all night. He and Hillman combined on quite a few steals.

I criticized Senario Hillman quite a bit last year for ball hogging and taking plays off at times on defense. In fairness, Hillman hogging the ball was probably the best chance for us to score at times last year in that offense. He played very well within the system last night. I expect him to excel under Coach Grant. Our system will create a lot of opportunities for him in the open floor where he is dangerous. He shot the ball well last night, but as we all know he is streaky and that will come and go. His defense was top notch, and he caused a lot of problems for them in the backcourt.

One of my major concerns was lack of a consistent perimeter shooter. With our lack of size and depth issues down low, and the fast paced style of play, we will need to be able to knock down open shots from the perimeter when the opportunity presents itself. We know Hillman is streaky and Brock showed some promise last year, but I think we may have found a solution: Charvez Davis. The Juco transfer from Montgomery has a sweet shot. He knocked a couple of 3's, but what I was most impressed with was his flawless form. A quick release, smooth delivery, great rotation, and good follow through. He may not be as athletic as Hillman, but he's more than quick enough to hold his own on defense and he should get some good scoring opportunities in our offense.

Ben Eblen, a freshman from SC, came in and ran the point some. He is a good ball handler and a very serviceable point guard. He's doesn't have the size and athleticism of Torrance, Steele, or Brock, but he takes care of the basketball and makes good decisions.

Unfortunately, free throw shooting continues to be a problem. I stated last year that while we had plenty of legitimate complaints regarding Gottfried, this wasn't one of them. There is only so much a coach can do when it comes to free throw shooting. Prior to last year, we were consistently one of the best FT shooting teams in the SEC, but I do not know what has happened. It seemed like every time we went to the line we made 1 out of 2.

Both teams were in the double bonus with about 4 or 5 minutes to go in each half. That's well over 40 fouls called in this game. The game was called tighter than I would have liked, especially for an exhibition game against a Div.2 school that didn't start until after 8pm. Our aggressive, physical style is going to result in a lot of fouls on both us and the opposition. The way we attack the basket on offense, there will be a lot of block/charge situations. There were probably 7 or 8 block/charge calls that easily could have gone either way in the game. I fear we won't get those calls on the road in the SEC.

I was sitting on the floor directly across from our bench, so watching the game I was not able to observe Coach Grant as much during the game as I would with my normal seats 2 rows behind the bench. From what I was able to tell, he was very active coaching throughout the game, but with a very calm demeanor. Everytime I looked over, he was giving instructions but was never animated or yelling. I'm not sure if he sat down at all during the game, everytime I saw him he was standing and coaching.

In conclusion, great effort, very physical on both ends, good, aggressive defense, and a lot of fun to watch. I don't think you can tell a whole lot in a game like this. The results may or may not improve much this year, but I think we will certainly enjoy watching this team and will be proud of their effort.

Finally, a few non-basketball observations from the game:

First of all, the crowd was great for a late exhibition game being played at the same time as the World Series. I would estimate a crowd of 6,000 or so, although most left at halftime.

The new TV screens and scoreboards look great. However, I do have one complaint. The stats board that showed turnovers/assists/rebounds/steals is gone. I wish they would replace one of the pictures of the fans/women's team/gymnastics team etc with a stats board. I missed being able to look up and check the turnover to assist ratio at any point during the game. Of course, the thing didn't work half of the time anyway, so oh well. Also, the fire alarm went off with about 6 minutes left in the game and continued nearly till the end, that was slightly annoying. On the wall just inside the back entrance, they have placed pictures of all of our All American and All SEC players throughout the year. It's worth the walk around there to check it out, pretty cool.

The women's team lost to UNA. That's the University of North Alabama for those of you who may not have heard of them. Embarassing. I like Coach Hudson, but I have my doubts if Mal really went out and hired the best candidate for that job.

The student section is now known as Crimson Chaos. A horrible name, in my opinion. Of the 4 finalist, The Tidal Wave was the best option. I suggested Grant's Army, but as usual, nobody listened.

Congratulations to Bobbyjack's Yankees on their 27th World Championship. I was glad to see one of my favorite Cubbies (Joe Girardi) lead them back to the top.

I promise all of my recaps will not be so long winded. It was the first game of a new era, so I tried to do this in a way to answer as many questions as possible. Up next, our final preseason game against Augusta State next Tuesday at Coleman Coliseum.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Link to watch Bama-Montevallo tonight

Here. Click on watch live on the right.

Normally I'd watch it, but there's that World Series game that'll get all of my attention. I hope DJC or one of the other contributors can give a wrapup of it.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Tip Off Club

Coach Grant is the scheduled speaker for Thursday night's Tip Off Club. This will be my first meeting so I'm not sure what to expect. (If there has been a Tip Off Club in Mobile before now, I've not been aware of it.)

I do not know whether there will be a Q&A segment, but if there is I would be more than happy to try to ask a question or two for the readers of the blog. Please post your questions in response to this entry and I will try to get them to the coach.

I apologize for not making a contribution to this year's season predictions. I must have missed the email from Bobby Jack asking for the information. While reviewing the blog a few minutes ago I became aware for the first time just how disengaged I had become from our program during last season. I will try to be a better contributor this year.

P.S. Anyone who steals my alliteration shtick this year will be shot on sight!

Cornell tip off set for 1pm

The Cornell game will tip off at 1 p.m. The football team plays mississippi $tate in $tarkville at 6pm that night. I was hoping for a noon tipoff, but 1pm should give me just enough time to get over there. Hopefully we can build a big enough lead that I will feel comfortable leaving early.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Know your enemy- Montevallo Falcons

I know nothing about them. Heck I didn't know there was a Peach Belt Conference. Anyways, you'll know what I know at the end of this post.

- Leading returning scorer, rebounder, and best FT shooter- Freddy Little (Senior G)
- 3 point threats- Little and Jordan Hutchinson.
- Location- Montevallo, AL
- 3 players taller than 6'6"

Here's their stats from last year.

What I expect: Us to run them out of the gym. Our small guys are better than their small guys and I doubt they have anyone that can handle Green inside. Bama by 27.