Thursday, March 31, 2011

Know your enemy- Wichita State Shockers

This is the last 'know your enemy' this season as basketball comes to an end. Let's end this right with a NIT Championship!

Press release from the Shockers website.

The Shockers come in at 28-8, 14-4 in the MVC, and off a beatdown of Washington State in the semifinals of the NIT (75-44). I caught the 2nd half of the game... I thought it was more Washington State not being able to buy a basket than Wichita St playing lights out that caused the blowout. Wichita does play hellacious defense which probably led to Wazzu's poor outing.

Still, this is the team we need to get by to win it all and proclaim ourselves the 69TH BEST TEAM IN COLLEGE BASKETBALL! Okay, that's not really accurate... all of the semifinal teams are better than the all but one of the first 4 in the NCAA tournament and most of the automatic bids.

Stats

Outside of that 2nd half Tuesday and the 2nd half of their game vs College of Charleston I haven't seen much of them. In their last game... like I said it was more Wazzu not hitting shots. Their game vs CoC was a different story as they were hitting everything from the perimeter. They jumped out to a huge lead only to let Charleston come back and make it respectable.

Roughly 36% of their shots come from 3... at a 35% clip. Not scary, not horrible. TJ Durley is only guy that averages double figures (11.2) and they only average 72.9 PPG. David Kyles, Ben Smith, and Darrin Hatch are statistically their best 3 point shooters.

Wichita State is a defensive minded team like us. We give up 59.2 PPG, they allow 61.8. Don't expect this game to go into the 70s... unless it's double OT.

They run in a lot of players... we need to keep Green out of foul trouble as he should be able to dominate inside.

The one weakness in the Shockers D is guarding beyond the arc. We need Tony Mitchell and Charvez to exploit that as they allow 34% beyond the arc.

Prediction: we're going to prove that the Paradise Jam was a tougher tournament than the NIT. Charvez has a final game to remember with Green and Releford dominating their positions. Alabama is your NIT champs in front of a mostly hostile crowd of Shocker fans. Tide by 9 as we come home... CHAMPIONS!

Game time is 7PM EST (6PM CST) on ESPN.

If there are any typos, please forgive me as this was written really early in the morning.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Bama barely beats Buffaloes, 62-61


The view from my seat. My gf was not able to make the trip, so pictures are sorely lacking in both quality and quantity. My apologies.

The battle of the two most deserving teams left out of the NCAA tournament lived up to its hype, with Alabama pulling out a one point victory in the final minute.

We led by as much as 11 in the first half thanks to JaMychal Green's post moves and his mid-range jumper, and the pressure defense keeping Colorado locked down and creating turnovers.

We couldn't put the game away, as Colorado was able to make just enough perimeter shots to stay in it. Whenever Releford or Green wasn't in the game, we seemed to go into somewhat of a funk.

The Buffalos torched the nets in the 2nd half, and when Green picked up his 4th foul with about 8 minutes to go, things were not looking good. We struggled to score offensively, and they took advantage of their size on the court on the offensive end. When we resorted to playing Carl Engstrom for several minutes midway through the 2nd half, I thought we were toast.

Thankfully, Coach Grant decided it was worth the risk to play Green with 4 fouls, and he did a great job until fouling out with almost 4 minutes left to play. Things were not looking good at that point, but Tony Mitchell stepped up and played big on the defensive end, and we forced some key turnovers down the stretch to put us in position to win the game. Releford got to the rim and made the game winning layup with 13 seconds remaining to send us to the championship game.


Final Score

As you can hopefully tell from the pics, I had pretty good seats. In fact, I ended up sitting right next to Marty Lyons. He seemed like a super nice guy and you can tell he really loves the University of Alabama. He does the radio broadcast for the NY Jets now. He was kind of enough to share some of his insight and opinions about football during timeouts and halftime. It was truly a pleasure to watch a game with him. Also, I got to briefly meet JaMychal Green's family at a pizza joint after the game. They were very nice and classy folks; it's obvious where JaMychal gets it from. We should all be proud to have them representing our University.

The arena was not even close to being halfway full, with nobody sitting in the upper levels. To the naked eye, it appeared that Colorado had a lot more fans than us, but keep in mind Wichita State shares their colors. While Washington State's colors are similiar to ours, most of their fans bailed by the end of the 1st half of their game. I still think Colorado had slightly more fans than us, which is disappointing, but they certainly had more students and more enthusiastic fans. Most of the Alabama faithful there were NY residents with ties to UA who showed up to support the Tide because we don't often play in this geographic area; but were probably wishing it was football instead.

Madison Square Garden is a great place to watch a basketball game, but I'm not certain that it's not a bit overrated. I didn't go up there, but the upper levels sure do appear to be a long way from the court. The concourse and lobby areas are not even close to some of the nicest I have seen even at the college level. I can see why players love it though, the lighting on the court looked excellent and the darker background and neutral colors in the seating areas would likely make a very nice shooting background.


New York Knicks Championship banners. You have to respect their tradition, but the lack of anything significant from the 1990's brings a smile to my face.

Up next, the Wichita State Shockers, on this same court Thursday night at 7pm EDT, 6pm Central, for the postseason NIT Championship. We have never won this storied tournament, and so this another chance for this special team to make Alabama basketball history. I thought Colorado would be our biggest obstacle, but Wichita State easily defeated Washington State and is playing very good basketball. Furthermore, I cannot over emphasize the tremendous following they have. They had more fans at our game tonight than both us and Colorado combined. Kansas is a great basketball state, and with the Shockers not having a football program, they enjoy surprisingly good fan support for a school of their size. Unfortunately, this will be like another road game for us. Let's find a way just one more time.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bama Advances to NIT Finals

In an exciting game that saw nine lead changes, including three down the stretch, Alabama held off Colorado 62-61 and will play for the NIT championship Thursday night.  Releford scored the go-ahead bucket to give the Tide the final lead of the game with Green on the bench after having fouled out with about 2 and a half minutes left.

Bama had to survive another physical game where the teams were allowed to pound on each other.  The Tide does not have enough big bodies to survive that type of war of attrition.  Perhaps that is one of the reasons Coach Grant elected to play a zone defense much of the night.

Colorado played well on both ends of the court.  They only missed one or two free throws all night and must have shot near 50% from outside the arc.  This was a fun game to watch.  I might keep it on my DVR until football season starts back up.

Perhaps I will have a coherent thought tomorrow.  Right now I'm just tired and wishing I had been able to travel to the game with DJC.  I'm the only person in my family who's never been to NYC.  Maybe some day I'll get to attend an NCAA Tournament game in the Big Apple.

Roll Tide!

Know your enemy- Colorado Buffaloes

Darien Hagan and Michael Westbrook lead their high powered attack against the Crimson Tide at Madison Square Garden in what should be a great game. Wait... that was the Blockbuster Bowl of 91. Let me start over again.

Chauncey Billups... wait.... that's not right either. Let's go with this: two teams that should've been in the NCAA Tournament match up in Madison Square Garden looking to advance to the championship game on Thursday.

There's a nice writeup on Coach Grant on the Buffaloes' website. Read it if you get a minute.

Stats

Alec Burks and Cory Higgins lead the Buffaloes in scoring at 20.5 and 16.1 a game. Neither are serious three point threats, but they do try. The one shooter we need to watch out there is Levi Knutston. He's hitting at a 48% clip out there. Marcus Relphorde is also shooting over 40% beyond the arc so we're going to have our hands full around the arc.

Keys to the game:
- keep the score in the 60s
- pound the ball inside
- hands up on defense on the perimeter
- limit 2nd chance shots

Prediction: This one worries me. While we haven't played a neutral site game since the Oklahoma State one (and that was in OKC) we didn't fare too well (winless). Colorado won 3 neutral site games. Still, I can go against my boys... Mitchell and Releford shine in NYC with a boost from Hillman as we move on to Thursday's championship game. Bama by 6.

Game time is 9:30PM EST (8:30PM CST) on ESPN and espn3.com if you can't get in front of a TV. I want to note that the times given is from ESPN3.com. I saw on both the Colorado and Alabama websites that 9PM EST (8PM CST) is the start time so you might want to verify. I assume the 9:30 time is to allow 30 minutes after the Wichita St/Washington St game for cleanup.

DJC is there. Hopefully he's dining on some good NY pizza and not the Sbarro's across the street from the Garden.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Coaching rumors- Mark Price and Ga Tech, Mark Gottfried and Utah?

Regarding Gottfried... it looks like he's trying to muscle his way back into the coaching ranks. If he's the best Utah can get so be it... but I have to think they're aiming higher than this.

This opening is better than what people think it is. Utah is about to join the PAC-10 (or is it 12 now) thus gaining instant prestige for being in a big 6 conference AND having some sort of winning history behind it. It's a job that with the right coach can win and win quickly as the PAC-10 is pretty much a 3 team conference with lots of ground to be made up in the middle. I'm not sure Gottfried is a good fit there, but that's their call not mine.

While I'm thinking about Gottfried... I got a few bones to pick with him. Indulge me for a minute or 10...

While I do appreciate him leading us to our 1st (and only) week as the #1 team in America (lasted a week with a loss at Utah... ironic) and the improbable run to the Elite 8, I never really got behind him as our coach. He inherited a trainwreck from Hobbs... no doubt and took us eventually to 5 straight NCAA tournaments, but is that really that big of a deal? Heck we sweated out 3 of those and when we were a 5 seed or higher we exited stage right the 1st week of the tournament.

Let me go back to before our first NCAAT under xCMG. We made it to the NIT Finals while was great considering where we were. Got beat down by Tulsa. From memory I believe he asked for and got a raise for that. A RAISE for fighting for the #65 slot in CBB? I guess good for him for getting it and bad for Mal being asleep at the wheel and giving it to him, but DAMN... how about a little more success before asking?

Fast forward to the 03-04 season where we make our improbable run to the Elite 8 (to lose to that freight train called UConn... no shame in that). Along the way we sneak out a win over SIU, then the upset over Stanford (who came in as the #1 overall seed with only 1 loss on the season), and then the following week a beatdown of defending champs Syracuse. All that is great... and if you look at our regular season you can see the improvement of the team despite the loss of Chuck Davis. Not even a week after the tournament Gottfired is looking for another raise and uses openings at a couple places (South Carolina off the top of my head) to parlay that into another payday. Again, good for him for pulling this off, but again... it's not like he was lighting the SEC basketball world on fire. IMO he again held the AD hostage and Mal caved again... paying him more than Mike Shula (I've made my rants on Shula before so I won't cover that).

We know how it all ended and it was probably about 2 years too late. Then again we probably don't have Grant if we cut our losses earlier.

All that is in the past... what irritated me recently about him was his smug, almost "I don't want them to make the tournament" attitude he put out there (at least to me and most of the people I know) regarding his in studio analysis job. He went out of his way to praise others while pretty much dogging his former employer. I get it, he's butthurt over his ouster (getting fired), but many of those kids fighting for their 1st NCAA appearance were kids he recruited and coached. I wasn't asking for him to be 'rah rah', but maybe some unbiased thought (like he supposedly paid to have) would've been nice. It was "Alabama's non-conference schedule was blah" and "UGA played tougher opponents" that really got to me. IMO he was butthurt in 2 ways...

1) for getting canned
2) seeing how Anthony Grant took mostly his players and got them to believe in themselves, play defense (gasp), and even win.

I can't stand the guy. Can't stomach watching him on TV breaking down games since I wonder if he did that while coaching the Crimson Tide his last 3 years. In retrospect the Elite 8 appearance probably did more harm to our program than good.

Note- I kept this strictly to coaching. I have no interest in personal lives.

Price to Georgia Tech is getting some legs. I don't think it'll happen, but it might not be the worst option on the table. The rumor is Mark Price comes in as HC with Kenny Anderson and Craig Neal as assistants. It's a relatively cheap and it's an appealing option to those fans of the past. Truth be told... I think any of those guys could do the job Paul Hewitt did and then some.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Seniors, Senario, Start Spreading the News.

I will keep this fairly short as Alias did a great job in his recap below. I just wanted to reiterate a couple of his points and share a few pics my gf took at the game. My apologies for the delay in posting a recap. I got home around midnight, in bed after 1 am, and have been fighting fires on various fronts all day long today.


Bama finished with a perfect home record.

Alias is right, the crowd was awesome. They announced the attendance at 8,600, but it looked like closer to 10,000. I think it really helped us on defense, as Miami appeared to get rattled when the crowd got noisy. At times, Miami looked a lot like our teams under Gottfried did on the road. Their guards had no clue how to handle our trap.

The undefeated home record is a huge accomplishment for this team, and a key to building this program. No team will ever win more home games than this team. I spoke to a fan last night who had not been to a game since the Wimp Sanderson era. We can talk all we want about marketing, but fans have fun when the home team wins. When fans have fun, they want to come back, and invite more friends to do so. I think we are starting to see the cumulative effect of that.

I was shocked that Miami brought a solid following. They had about 100 or so fans scattered throughout, including a few loud, obnoxious, trash talking douchebags sitting a few rows behind us. Sporting backwards hats, nut dusters, and gold chains, they were stereotypical of the early 90's Miami football fans. But on this night, it wasn't about "the U."


Miami's body language says it all, hands on the hips, heads hung low.

Releford got into foul trouble in the first half, and we had an unusual lineup on the court of Eblen, Hankerson, Hillman, Mitchell, and Hines. You could tell this combination had not played together much as the offensive chemistry was definitely off. Thankfully, we maintained the lead with good defense.

The seniors all had games that were representative of their UA careers. Davis played good defense and made a 3 to bust the zone. Chris Hines didn't score much, but pulled down 9 rebounds and defended the paint, doing all the little things. Most importantly, Senario Hillman was all over the court. He had a few of those poor jumpshot selections that make you scream "NO!" when you see him pulling up. He also fouled out. But despite not being able to shoot a jumpshot or a free throw, he scored 17 points by getting to the rim, getting rebounds, and creating steals that led to fast break points. He took over sole possession of the UA record for all time steals leader.


This dunk by Hillman got the place rocking and led to the big 2nd half run that put the game away.

The assistant coaches did a good job of preventing Coach Grant from getting a technical near the end of the game. Miami players generally had a bad attitude, and things were getting a bit chippy. I think the refs gave them a number of mercy calls in the final 4 minutes when it was obvious we were going to win, to try to keep things under control.


Green scored 14 points despite playing much of the game in foul trouble again.


Coach Grant celebrates with appreciative fans after the game. This doesn't look like a man who is thinking about leaving anytime soon.

As most of you know, we now go to Madison Square Garden in New York for the NIT final 4. We will play Colorado Tuesday night at 9pm Eastern, 8 central on ESPN2. Colorado is perhaps the only team who has even more of a beef than us relative to the NCAA selection committee. They are a lot like us, except they are more of an offensive oriented team. This will be a tough game for us. The winner will play either Washington State or Wichita State for the NIT Championship Thursday night.


Bobbyjack and I have previously discussed the significance of the NIT, and I admit to saying in the past that it should be scrapped, but this year has changed my mind. The tournament serves its purpose for a team like Alabama who played horrible early in the season, but turned it around against all odds. This team played above their heads in SEC play, and deserved the reward of post season basketball. Instead, our spot was given to teams like UAB (who lost their play in game by 20) and Tennessee (30 point loss to Michigan first round). In the post game interviews, many players said they had never been to New York and are excited about playing in Madison Square Garden. This has been a special season, and I'm happy to see the players getting that reward.

The Garden is the world's most famous arena, and the best player to ever play the game once called it "the Mecca of basketball." I will be making my first pilgrimage there Tuesday night, and will stay for the Championship if we are fortunate enough to win. I will try to post updates from the Big Apple. RTR!

Crimsons Capsize Canes

I am sitting in front of a computer for the first time since leaving for Tuscaloosa yesterday afternoon.  I guess DJC and our other regular "real" posters have not yet slept off their post game celebrations because none of them seems to have posted a legitimate account of last night's game.  Hopefully some of our regulars can leave a few comments that will be useful and informative.  Those are not my strengths and I am too tired to try to fake it this morning.

To my old eyes perhaps the biggest story of last night's game was the crowd.  My best estimate would be that there were between 10,000 and 11,000 on hand for an 8:00 P.M. tip off on a Wednesday night.  That probably is a quarter more people than the team used to draw for a mid-week game against a major conference opponent.  And the crowd was boisterous!  They were loud from the opening tip and seldom quieted down.  This is the first time since the game against Florida where we secured our last SEC regular season championship that I recall having to stand up for more than half the game just to see the floor.  And I can remember the days when the people behind me would shout at me to sit down just for jumping up and applauding an exceptional play or effort by our team. 

The Tide seemed to start sluggishly last night.  In fact that almost seems to have become one of this team's trademarks.  They were not helped by the fact that Miami started the game in a zone defense.  (I've wondered why ever opponent does not start the game against Alabama in a zone.)  Miami scored the first bucket of the game.  Then Bama turned up its defensive intensity, but not until after the home crowd cranked up the noise level a notch or two.  As Emerald Agassi would say, "Bam!"  Between turn-over, fast-break points and Tony Mitchell's three point shot, the Tuscaloosa Pachyderms erased the deficit and build a lead they would never relinquish before the Hurricane coach realized he needed to burn his first time out.  It was not the last time the Coach Heath had to call a TO to try to interrupt and Alabama offensive run.

JaMychal Green got into early foul trouble again and had to ride the pine the last ten minutes of the first half, so Mitchell, Releford and Hillman took up the slack.  Releford hit his only three point shot, made several baskets off of his dribble drive, and earned trips to the free throw line on several similar efforts.  Hillman created several shots of his own and was the beneficiary of two feeds leading to dunks.   Releford lead all scorers with 22 points, but Chris Stewart and Brian Passink rightfully awarded Hillman player of the game.  He was credited with 17 points, five rebounds (four offensive that lead to six immediate points), one steal and ZERO turnovers before fouling out with about two minutes left on the clock.  This might have been Scenario's most complete game since his freshman year, and his energy off the bench seemed to help spark the defensive intensity two minutes into the game that lurched the momentum back into Alabama's favor.  It also is the first time I recall having seen Hillman play without his trademark headband.  Perhaps he should leave it behind when they board the plane for The Big Apple. 

Bama started the second half sluggishly too.  Miami increased its defensive efforts and sometimes employed a back court press that generated 3 or 4 turnovers leading to fast break points.  They also packed the lane in the second half to keep the ball out of Green's hands.  About eight minutes into the second, half Alabama's 14 point lead had been cut to three.  Then green scored a dunk to knock the lid off the basket, the defensive intensity returned, and the Tide never looked back. 

Coach Grant was animated during the entire game and almost picked up a technical on Hillman's fourth foul.  He was not arguing the foul, but that the Hurricane guard took a step and a half after the whistle blew before attempting the shot at the basket that the official counted as good.  The Cane guard also made the resulting free throw, completing the old style three-point play.  The same official made an obvious make-up call on the next possession, but he would not erase Hillman's fourth foul. 

Back to Coach Grant.  There have been rumors that he might be headed to Georgia Tech.  That could be true, but the man I saw last night appeared to be right where he wanted to be.  The fans loudly cheered their appreciation for his efforts and results every time he walked onto the court or his face was displayed on the jumbotron.  Grant acknowledged the crowd on his way onto the floor just before the National Antheme and celebrated briefly with his team at mid court after having congratulated Coach Heath, his players and staff. 

Coleman Coliseum finally is becoming again what it was during Wimp Sanderson's hey-day.  CM Newton had some great teams during his tenure with our program, but those crowds never got into the games the way they did when CM was coach.  I think Coach Grant feels truly appreciated, both by the Administration and by the fans, and recognizes that we are trying to do what we can to make Coleman Coliseum one of the most difficult arenas to visit in the College Basketball world.  A 19-0 home record suggests both he and we are well on our way to accomplishing just that.  Again, that is exactly what Coach Grant consistently has said he wanted to achieve ever since he first stepped off the plane at the Tuscaloosa Airport.  We all hope that means he is happy and is staying with us for a long, long time.

Roll Tide, babeeeeee!!

New York City here we come.  (Just how long does it take to drive a 15 year old Acura up there and back, anyway?)

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Know your enemy- Miami Hurricanes

Gino Torretta and Lamar Thomas come to town looking for the upset. Wait... this is a basketball blog... nevermind.

Let's try this again... Malcolm Grant leads his team to Tuscaloosa looking to advance to NEW YORK CITY! (in my best Texas Pete commercial ripoff). This Hurricane squad lost 11 games by less than 10 points so this should be a back and forth game. They blew a huge lead to North Carolina in the 2nd round of the ACC tournament to lose 61-59. They dominated that game for about 30 minutes.

Stats

Malcolm Grant leads the team at 15 PPG and is also their best 3pt threat hitting 42.8% beyond the arc. Adrian Thomas is the other guy to keep an eye on outside. Inside, Reggie Johnson is a load at 11.9 and 9.7 boards a game. I can't remember us having to guard a 6'10 300lber this season so Green/Hines will have their work cut out for them.

As a team, they go 8 deep so like us, they're not going to wear us down running guys in and out.

Keys to the game:
- get Reggie Johnson foul trouble. He can dominate inside.
- keep Grant in check.
- Charvez/someone keeping the Hurricanes honest with some outside shooting
- Releford is needed more than ever to dribble drive.

Prediction- We're going to NYC... too much JaMychal and Releford as we squeak out a close one in front of a raucous crowd at Coleman. Bama by 5.

Game time is 9PM EST (8PM CST) on ESPN2.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pachyderms Punish People from the Pit, 74-67



Alabama advances to the quarterfinals of the NIT with an impressive win over a good New Mexico team. It was a game of runs early on. New Mexico jumped out to a 6-0 lead. We answered by scoring the next 12. It was back and forth for most of the first half. I felt like we were playing pretty good basketball, but just couldn't pull away.


The Tide takes the floor

New Mexico's zone gave us some trouble early, until Charvez Davis busted it. Tony Mitchell had a great game, forcing steals on defense, knocking down a couple of 3s and of course a couple of spectacular dunks. The Lobos had nobody who could match up with him. There was a span of a couple of minutes in the first half when he seemed to let the officiating get into his head a little bit. I love his competitive fire, but I feel he hurts his case more than he helps it by getting into animated discussions with the officials. Same goes for Chris Hines. Just play ball guys, and let the Coach work the officials. I know that is easier said than done.

Speaking of the officials, the crowd was on them pretty hard much of the night. I felt they missed a couple of out of bounds calls that went both ways. For what it's worth, most of the "controversial" calls they made on my end of the floor, I agreed with. I thought we got the short end of the stick on some calls at the other end, but obviously they were in much better position to see those plays than I was.

JaMychal Green spent most of the evening in foul trouble. Andrew Steele did not play as he is still recovering from a concussion. Jason Carter did not dress out. Tony Mitchell, Trevor Releford, and Charvez Davis more than picked up their slack. Carl Engstrom even got a little playing time at the end of the first half in a great coaching move by Grant. With Mitchell having 2 fouls, and Green already in foul trouble, he used an offense/defense substitution, taking Mitchell out on defense to avoid picking up the 3rd foul. He used the "use it or lose it" timeout after a made shot to get the Swede into the game. In what most would consider a smart move, Alford designed his last shot play to create a one on one matchup with Engstrom. Carl played picture perfect fundamental defense, moving his feet to stay in position facing his opponent, and went straight up to block the shot. It was also good to see Hankerson get some quality minutes and help us out on defense.

Releford had another great game. He had 20 points, 6 assists, and only 2 turnovers. He was able to consistently beat his man off the dribble, especially in the 2nd half. As the game went on, the Lobos seemed to get tired and were not as active in their zone. Releford was able to penetrate it, and we were also able to get some good looks with solid ball movement from the high post.


Hankerson checks in.

The Tide was rolling for much of the 2nd half. After Releford converted a turnover into a beautiful alley oop pass that Mitchell went up and slammed down, Coleman Coliseum was as loud as it's been all year. While the full court press did not force a ton of turnovers, I thought it wore down the Lobo players. The turnovers we did force, both in the full court and half court, usually led to points. With an 18 point lead in the 2nd half, the game was pretty much over.


Congratulations to senior Senario Hillman, who became Alabama's all time steals leader with another great defensive performance.


Chris Stewart calls the game. Bryan Passink was absent for some reason.

The game was not as close as the final score indicated. The only negative from last night was the God AUful free throw shooting. The combination of shooting less than 50% from the line with New Mexico making a bunch of 3s in the final two minutes, and the final score became more indicative of a close game.


We built a brick mansion at the free throw line.

The atmosphere was great at the game. The announced crowd was 6,800, but it seemed like closer to 8,000. The General Admission seating allows more fans to sit closer to the floor who might otherwise be relegated to the rafters. They are filling seats that the people who buy season tickets only for the football points commonly leave empty. As you can tell by the pics (thanks to my wonderful gf), we were not in our usual seats, but I was lucky enough to get reserved seats on the 3rd row of the floor directly across the court.


Don't tell me these guys aren't having fun playing postseason basketball

Up next, the Miami Hurricanes come to Tuscaloosa tomorrow night for the final home game of the season. If you haven't made it to an NIT game yet, do yourself a favor. Despite the smaller crowds, these last 2 games have been as fun as any this year. Tip off is set for 8pm and will be televised on ESPN2. Let's send these seniors off to New York with a perfect 19-0 record in our house.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Know your enemy- New Mexico Lobos

Steve Alford brings his Lobos (not Rebecca... the team) to Tuscaloosa in what should be a good game. For those that don't know, Steve Alford used to be the Iowa basketball coach before this gig... was forced out 'cause he wasn't doing enough. I bet Iowa fans (those that are left) are wishing he was back.

Stats. This is the first meeting between the 2 teams (as far as I know).

New Mexico has a balanced scoring attack (4 guys averaging double figures), but are missing Dairese Gary (torn ACL vs BYU). McDonald, Gordon, and Williams picked up the slack vs UTEP and need to do the same to have a chance tomorrow night. Kendall Williams is lethal from 3 (42.5%) so we need to keep an eye on him. Inside the Lobos are small and should not give us much trouble on either end. Drew Gordon is the only real offensive option inside. Still... if they pack the paint we're going to need someone to keep them honest from outside.

Prediction: too much JaMychal, Hines, and Charvez finds his stroke from outside. Close game for 30 minutes and them we pull away. Bama by 12.

Game time is 3/21 at 9PM EST (8PM CST) on ESPN.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Update on Other Bama Basketball Teams

The women's team beat Memphis in the first round of the WNIT, and will play at Northwestern Sunday in the 2nd round. Also, congratulations to the women's wheelchair team for winning their 3rd straight National Championship!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Crimson Castrates Country Cliff's Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, 68-44

According to Wikipedia, a Chanticleer can be anything from a rooster; a male vocal ensemble, a race of angelic humanoids, or a Navy ship. Last night, they were a badly outmanned, unathletic basketball team with a subpar, cheating coach who should probably reconsider pursuing his career in country music.


Judging by their logo, I guess it's a blue rooster.


I couldn't find anything more recent, but after listening to that, perhaps a music career is not his best option either.

I was concerned about how the team might perform after getting left out of the tournament. It's not uncommon at all to see NCAA quality teams get bounced early from the NIT. It's hard to want these games as much as your opponents who are just happy to be in the postseason. Given our recent history, we should be happy to be in the postseason, but I'm sure the team feels disappointed as we all do about barely missing an NCAA tournament bid.

I'm not going to say the team looked happy to be there, but I think they are making the best of a bad situation. We jumped out to an early lead and the game was never really in doubt. Andrew Steele did not play due to a concussion.

We pressed a lot more than we have been and also ran more after missed shots. We had a lot of opportunities to run, as the Chanticleers shot about 5 or 6 air balls in the 1st half. Senario Hillman got the start and actually went 5 for 9 from the field including a 3 pointer. Problem is, all 4 of his misses were horrible shots, and I fear his one made 3 will give him the confidence to jack up 7 or 8 in the next game. We will miss his defense next year, but it's a little late to be developing a jumpshot. If he sticks to steals and dunks, he can help us get to New York. Hillman got his 1,000th career point and is one steal away from tying the school record.


Coach Grant works the official.

Tony Mitchell came off the bench to provide a spark including making three 3s. Green dominated their big man inside, but played a part in another double technical after getting up in a guy's grill after a dunk. A friend of mine commented that we were playing for next year, with the extra pressing and running style that Coach Grant prefers. It would also explain why younger guys like Hankerson got some quality, meaningful minutes. On the other hand, I think we knew we could run CC and their 8 slow guys out of the building easily, so it also made sense from a strategic standpoint.


Playing defense in the first half.

At one point Ben Eblen had a fast break with no defenders near him, and Tony Mitchell trailing behind. Eblen turned and handed the ball off to Tony for the dunk. I found it somewhat humorous that he didn't even want to risk missing a layup or botching the alley oop.

The final score could have been a lot worse than it was. We switched to a zone defense and took the air out of the ball on offense with about 8 minutes left and a 25 point lead. Coach Grant called off the dogs and emptied the bench in the final minutes. Only Jason Carter did not get into the game.


Final.

The atmosphere was actually not bad. The attendance was only 5,000, but the crowd was into the game. The general admission seating allowed people who normally aren't able to get a good seat to be closer to the court. I got there about an hour early and our normal seats were already taken, but we were able to get on the same row just 2 seats down.

It was interesting that all the advertising had been removed from the arena, we didn't dim the lights for the starting lineups, and all the championship banners had been taken down. I suppose all due to NIT rules.


Starting lineups under the lights. Thanks again to my gf for taking the awesome pics.

Up next, we play the New Mexico Lobos who beat UTEP in the first round. New Mexico is a good team. They beat BYU twice and played other tournament teams very close. The game will either be Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or Monday. I had heard rumors that the game would be Friday, and earlier today it was listed on our official athletic website (rolltide.com) as being Friday with time TBD. They have since removed that. EDIT: I originally stated that they may schedule this for Saturday and make us play in the Pit due to gymnastics being at Coleman. I'm an idiot, gymnastics is in Birmingham Saturday so there is no reason why we won't be able to host. I will try to post something as soon as I hear the date and time..

Monday, March 14, 2011

Know your enemy- Coastal Carolina and yahoo.com free bracket

1st round of the Not Invited Tournament tips off Tuesday night at 7PM EST (6PM CST). Dirty Cliff Ellis brings his depleted squad (only 8 on scholarship) into Tuscaloosa.

I'm not going to pretend to know something about them so here are their season stats.

Tickets are $8 for adults and $4.00 for children. If you act like a child you might get the discount as I'm sure they'll want you in there.

Prediction- My guess is the players are down and it'll be hard to get up for this game in front of a modest crowd. In the end, our 8 are better than their 8 and we win by 13.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Screwjob! Alabama, Colorado, and Virginia Tech not invited to the NCAA tourney

Somehow the retarded committee thought higher of UAB, VCU, Penn State, Tennessee, and UGA.

If I wrote this an hour ago it probably would've been profanity laced... after a couple of hours I've calm down, but still am pissed at the exclusion. Essentially the committee told us and Colorado that our season was over in December. WHAT A CROCK!

I feel really bad for the players and coaching staffs of both Alabama and Colorado. Both had a nice conference run and finished strong. I also feel fro Virginia Tech a little bit, but they did lose at home to Boston College the very next game after beating Duke.

Next up is the NIT... while it's been a while since we have been in the postseason I'm going to have a hard time following it. We are a 1 seed vs Coastal Carolina. I hope we draw a decent crowd, but I doubt there will be more than 5000 fans.

I'll put up a free yahoo.com bracket link up in the next couple of days for those that want to compete and a prediction of the NCAA tournament.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Bama's Bubble: Making the Case

Click on the title or here for my amateur, worthless analysis of our NCAA tournament hopes.

Calipari's Cats Crush Crimson, 72-56

Alabama ran into a buzzsaw in the final 4 of the SEC tournament. Kentucky took the lead early and never looked back. The game wasn't even as close as the final score indicated.


My view for the game.

I knew UK would be motivated to even the score after a close loss in Tuscaloosa early in the season. I was concerned about our energy level following a come from behind overtime win the day before. They executed, we missed some easy baskets, and the game was over not long before it started.

Tony Mitchell's injury was a key to the game. He was our leading scorer in the first half, but missed the last 5 minutes of the first half after colliding with Andrew Steele and apparently hurting his knee. He returned to the game, but UK stretched their lead from 9 to 16 in the time he was out, effectively putting the game out of reach.

Kentucky seemed to feed off the energy of the vocal Rupp Arena like crowd. They played with much more chemistry as a team than the last time we saw them in Tuscaloosa. The Cats set great screens and got plenty of open shots against our man to man defense. We switched to a zone later in the second half, but they torched that too.

Once again, we were held to only 21 points in the first half. We missed way too many high percentage shots to have a chance at winning today. I appreciate Senario Hillman's defense, but he should no longer be allowed to shoot unless it's a dunk. He's completely worthless on the offensive end.


The halftime stats pretty much tell the story.

You have to give credit to Kentucky. They were better than us today. They were quicker, and they made more shots, contested or not.

After falling down 16 at halftime, we scored the first 4 points of the 2nd half. Coach Cal called a timeout and they immediately answered to retake control of the game. There was no quit in this Alabama team, but Kentucky would not let us back in the game.


It was pretty much over by this point.

I was proud of the fact that we never gave up. We kept pressuring them and trying to force turnovers and get quick scores. Davis and Mitchell made some late desperation 3's to at least make the final margin a somewhat respectable 16, as opposed to the 20+ we trailed most of the second half.

It was a great crowd at the dome, but the UK fans had us outnumbered 20 to 1. They were loud and into the game, which actually made for a very fun atmosphere. The Kentucky fans were first class all the way. They were very nice to us and complimentary of our team despite the lopsided score. Frankly, I wish our fans were as knowledgeable, classy, and supportive of the team as they are. I will be pulling for them tomorrow.

Up next, who knows? We will find out tomorrow afternoon. In the meantime, pull against any bubble teams and any underdog teams trying to steal a bid in their conference tournament. In a few moments I will post what I hope is a comprehensive review of the arguments for and against our inclusion in the NCAA tournament. Whatever happens at 5pm tomorrow, I am damn proud of this team for what they have accomplished to date, and will support them 100% in whatever post season tournament we land.

Some photos from the UGA/Bama game

I forget to take pictures in the moment of the game as I'm a horrible multitasker. I'll try to do better today against the Wildcats. Here are a few from the cheap seats...


Robert Horry getting recognition at halftime.














Warmup before the game.








Iphone quality here... too slow getting the Canon out.




Friday, March 11, 2011

Bama Bursts Bulldog's Bubble, 65-59 in OT

Alabama beat UGA for the 2nd time in a week, putting the Bulldogs NCAA hopes in serious jeopardy while greatly increasing our chances.


The view from our seats

Coach Fox made some great adjustments for UGA over the past week. They played us in man to man defense for much of the game, and we appeared to be expecting to see more zone. In the game in Tuscaloosa, we forced a lot of turnovers in the full court press because UGA was making poor lob passes trying to break it. Today, they faked the lob and utilized the bounce pass and had much more success, at least until the last 6 minutes of the game.

Much like the last game, UGA jumped on us early. We fell behind 9-2 early in the game before coming back to tie it at 19 in the first half. We came back in large part thanks to our trapping defense, but Georgia figured out how to break it and made 3 consecutive open 3 pointers to take a 9 point lead. For the next 25 minutes, it looked like that would prove to be the difference in the game, as our halfcourt offense was an exercise in futility.


The Tide takes the floor.


3 straight treys gives the Bulldogs another big lead.


Not a good first half.

It seemed like every time we made a run Georgia had an answer. For most of the 2nd half their lead fluctuated between 6 and 10 points. We had no answer for Travis Leslie. At times, we settled for bad shots and I was afraid it was going the way of the Florida game. The difference was we continued to play solid defense this time.

I'm still not exactly sure how we came back. UGA had a 14 point lead with under 7 minutes to play. This team doesn't give up. JaMychal Green had a huge 2nd half, being aggressive in the post, making shots, and getting to the foul line. Davis had just enough 3's but didn't have a good day by any stretch. It wasn't one of Releford's better efforts. Tony Mitchell got some big time rebounds and made a couple of huge shots, including the eventual game winner in OT. Collectively, the team pulled together and found a way to win.

The full court pressure finally started working, we got to the rim, made just enough free throws, and just enough outside shots to get back into the game. We had a little luck too. Fox called a timeout with .8 seconds negating what would have been a game winning shot for the Bulldogs.


Free Basketball.


Final Score.


Postgame Party is on.



The Georgia Dome is an AUful facility for basketball. There are plenty of seats, but none of them are very good, as you can tell by the pics taken by my wonderful girlfriend. Even the lower level seats leave you a long distance from the floor. We had a very good following, probably slightly more than UGA, which is remarkable given their proximity to Atlanta. Still, Kentucky had more fans than both teams combined, and they did not seem to take a side. The UGA fans sitting around us were very courteous, until after the game when the guy in front of me made a smart ass remark. I responded by simply joining in with the Rammer Jammer cheer in a very loud fashion. We've had several Kentucky fans go out of there way to congratulate us on the win today.


Me building a brick house at SEC Fanfare. I used to be a pretty good 3 point shooter, but this was my first shot in over 2 years. I made 3 in 30 seconds, but needed 6 to qualify for a drawing for a chance of $10,000.


The bracket

Up Next, the Kentucky Wildcats. It will have the feel of a road game, and Kentucky has been great in front of their home fans this year. Hopefully we have something left in the tank after the miraculous comeback and overtime. I still think we are on the bubble, and possibly looking at the play-in game, but a win tomorrow and we should be a lock. Tip off is set for 1pm EST, noon central. It will be televised on ABC. I will be in the Mezzanine level again.

Next up- Kentucky

We should be dancing so IMO this game (and if we win it) is for seeding. I think we avoid the 1st round game in Dayton.

Prediction for tomorrow- the Kentucky home crowd is going to be too much to overcome... we hang with them, but in the end talent and the home crowd win out. Nah... I'm going full blown homer and predicting we win thanks to Tony Mitchell.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Alabama vs UGA- 1PM EST. Be there

I'll be representing. Probably sitting in the Auburn section, but I don't care. I can't imagine too many barners there tomorrow so I should be able to stretch out.

Prediction: the Kentucky fans will us to victory. After that I hope the Wildcats fall flat on their faces against Ole Miss. I want the easiest road to the SECT Finals.

We shall see.

If you want stats on UGA search it's probably at the bottom of this page.

Bama's Bubble: Making the case

Now that the season is over and we await the selection show, we find ourselves squarely on the bubble. I thought I would present both sides of the argument whether we should be in or out as objectively as I possibly can.

The Standard of Review

The selection committee will consider a number of factors in selecting the at-large bids. They have stated they will consider a team's "entire body of work." This includes the win-loss record, strength of schedule, quality wins, bad losses, RPI, and road and neutral site records.

The Undisputed Facts

Alabama had a poor start to the season, including bad neutral court losses to Iowa and St. Peters. They rebounded to go 12-4, win the SEC West title, and finish 2nd overall in the SEC. Alabama is 21-12 with an RPI of 78.

Alabama should be in, Case in Chief

Alabama was undefeated at home and finished 12-4 in a power conference. No team with a record of 12-4 or better from a power conference has ever been denied entry to the NCAA tournament. We won the Western Division, and went 4-2 against the powerful Eastern Division. Alabama has not suffered a bad loss since the start of conference play. Alabama has quality wins at home against Kentucky and on the road at Tennessee. Tennessee is considered a lock by many, but Alabama has a better record than UT, a better conference record than UT, a higher winning percentage against the top teams in the conference than UT, and we beat UT on their home court. Georgia was considered a lock by most until Alabama beat them twice in the same week. We advanced to the final 4 of the conference tournament. The Tide has proven they can play with good teams, nearly upsetting Vanderbilt on the road in Nashville. Statistically, Alabama is one of the top defensive teams in the country, ensuring any game they play in the tournament would likely be a closely contested, entertaining game.

Alabama should be out- Case in Chief

No team with an RPI as low as Bama's has ever received an at large bid. Alabama played a horrible non conference schedule, and did not fare very well against it at that. Alabama has bad neutral court losses to Iowa and St. Peters. Alabama's quality wins are not that impressive. They beat Kentucky at home, but Kentucky lost to nearly everybody they played on the road. Likewise, they picked up a road win against a Tennessee team who has not played well at all in conference play. The SEC record is inflated because they played 2 games each against the horrible West division, including 4 games combined against auburn and LSU. Speaking of which, they nearly lost to an AUful auburn team on their home court.

The selection committee removed the "last 10 games played" consideration for a reason. Allowing Alabama in the tournament sets a precedent that the early non conference games are meaningless. Historically, the lower seeds that have made a "cinderella run" of upsets have had either one superstar, nearly unstoppable player, or great guard play with numerous quality 3 point shooters. Alabama has neither of these, making them an unlikely candidate to advance. When faced against the SEC's only true quality team, they were run out of the gym in Gainesville. They were also blown out in the SEC tournament against Kentucky. That is likely what would happen if they played in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Considering the entire body of work, Alabama should be in the N.I.T.

Alabama's Rebuttal

We were not the same team that endured the bad losses in the non conference schedule. That team was still finding its identity and was playing without injured player Andrew Steele. Our best player, JaMychal Green, was also suspended for 3 games. Furthermore, those losses are now not as bad as our detractors would make them out to be. We barely lost to a Seton Hall team that still had their best player and a full roster. St. Peters is in the NCAA tournament after winning their conference tournament. How can an NCAA tournament team be considered a bad loss? Iowa has wins over Michigan State and Purdue.

While the SEC West is bad from an RPI perspective, that statistic is also misleading. $tate is a very talented team, but played much of the season without their best player. auburn played much better down the stretch, also playing Florida and Georgia very close. The West had several quality wins against the East, most importantly including Alabama who went 5-3 against the East including the SEC tournament. The RPI is just one tool, but the human element should be able to see the flaws of applying it to this case. In all but one game since January, Alabama has passed the "eye test" with flying colors. Common sense should prevail and a team with 13 wins in a power conference should not be left out.

Conclusion

I think we may be in the Dayton play-in game for a 12 seed. It doesn't matter what I think. The NCAA selection committee is the judge and the jury in this case. They will deliberate Sunday and announce the verdict at 5pm CST.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

SEC Awards Announced

Click the title for more info. Congrats to JaMychal Green for making first team ALL SEC, Tony Mitchell for 2nd team ALL SEC, and Trevor Releford for making the ALL Freshman team.

Billy Donovan won coach of the year, which is complete bull crap. Florida was preseason #11, has an experienced team with several McDonald's All Americans on the roster. He did what he was predicted to do, which is win a bad league with a far superior team. On the other hand Coach Grant took a team that was picked 3rd in the horrible Western division, with no depth and no shooting, and went 12-4, within one game of a league championship. I am stunned that Coach Grant is not the SEC Coach of the Year.

Monday, March 07, 2011

SEC Tournament Bracket and Predictions



I know the link was posted below, but this is a little easier to follow visually. In the first round, I like UGA over auburn, but I expect auburn to give them a game. They took them to overtime in Athens and are a bad matchup for Georgia. We need to hope Georgia pulls it out, because another win over auburn would not help us at all.

I will take Ole Miss over South Carolina, but could also see that one going the other way.

Tennessee should beat Arkansas, but who knows what UT team will show up. Pelphrey may be fighting for his job, but I think the Vols take them out.

Vandy gets a first round bye against LSU.

It's hard to beat a team back to back, but I like our chances being well rested against a UGA team that had to work hard to get out of the first round. Kentucky will have no problems with Ole Miss.

Tennessee is capable of beating Florida, but they won't do it. I think $tate is still a dangerous team, and Vandy won't shoot well in the dome. $tate upsets Vandy.

We beat Kentucky once, and UK does not play well away from home. Unfortunately, CATlanta will feel a lot like Lexington this week. We go down to the Cats on Saturday and end up watching the selection show squarely on the bubble.

$tate gives Florida a very good game, but the Gators pull it out. Florida is clearly playing the best basketball right now, but my gut tells me Kentucky beats them in the finals.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Predicting the power conferences (+ A10, CUSA, and MWC) tournament winners

ACC- It's the Duke invitational and they know it'll solidify a #1 seed. As great as UNC is playing right now I can see them being upset in the semis.

Atlantic 10- Temple. As long as them or Xavier win it it's okay. Richmond is a bubble team and I'd like to see them exit early stage right.

Big 10- Illinois. Ohio State could lose in the 2nd round and still be a #1 seed so I think they take it easy and lose in the semis. The Illini have underachieved all year... they have the talent and I figure they can pull it together for 4 games.

Big 12- Texas. I don't know why, but Kansas has not impressed me this season. I suspect that'll be the championship game.

Big East- Since this is my prediction I'm going sentimental with St John's. If they do I fully expect them to vault up to a 3 seed. If you are a passive Alabama basketball fan I HIGHLY SUGGEST you watch this tournament... or at least a few games starting Wednesday. They are the SEC of football.

CUSA- UTEP. I'm a sucker for a cheaters redemption and Tim Floyd fits the bill. Besides that would put UAB in the NIT. That would make me smile.

MWC- UNLV. It's in Las Vegas, BYU is hurting thanks to their starting forward being kicked off the team for closing the deal with his girlfriend and SDSU has to lose to someone besides BYU. DOesn't hurt us as all 3 are in the tourney anyways.

PAC-10- Washington State. No real reason outside of a gut feeling. This one affects us if it comes true at it takes an at-large bid away (UCLA and Arizona are in already).

SEC- for another post...

Bama Teaches Bulldogs to Behave, 65-57.

Alabama finishes the regular season undefeated at home with a 65-57 win over UGA on Senior Day. Coach Grant started the seniors, going with Hillman over Tony Mitchell. I normally like the idea of starting the seniors in the last home game of the season, but with Georgia's size and the magnitude of this game with both teams still fighting for a possible NCAA tournament bid, I probably would have started Mitchell.


Senario and his daughter, Senario.


Thank You, Seniors.

UGA hurt us in the post early in the game, and we had a few unforced errors that allowed the Bulldogs to take an early lead. JaMychal Green stepped up in the post in the first half to help us re take the lead.


Another solid game from JaMychal Green.

Like most of our opponents lately, Georgia mostly ran a zone defense. Thankfully, Charvez Davis found his stroke from the outside which allowed us to maintain the lead throughout the game, and open up some opportunities for our post players. A great way to go out at home for Charvez. Now would be a good time for him to figure out how to do the same thing away from Coleman Coliseum.


Charvez Davis made the most of senior night.

Defensively, we got back to playing Alabama basketball. We denied their passing lanes making it difficult for them to get the ball into the post. Communication was great as they tried to run Ware through screens to get him open shots. Senario, Steele, and Davis all did a great of staying with him the whole game. He was unable to get a shot off until desperation time in the final couple of minutes.

Perhaps even more impressive was the play of our bigs. Given Georgia's size advantage, and the problems we had on the boards in Gainesville, I was worried about getting out rebounded. Green, Mitchell, Hines, and even the guards, particularly Steele when he was in the game, did a great job of boxing out all night.

Hines did not have one of his better days, but it was great to see him get the standing ovation when he fouled out with 8 minutes left. He has meant a lot to this program and will certainly be missed. His 5th foul put us in a very precarious situation though, as Green was already playing with 4. It was a dumb foul, diving for a ball in the back court that he had very little chance of actually coming up with without significant contact. That's not a play you can try to make with 4 fouls and 8 minutes left.


Chris Hines, before his last game (hopefully) in Coleman Coliseum.

Conversely, Green played very smart and managed to finish the game without fouling out, and was surprisingly effective in doing so. I was shocked that UGA did not pound the ball into the post every possession until he fouled out. In fairness, Coach Grant anticipated that strategy and countered by having Tony Mitchell front their high post player, making entry passes difficult. I also thought Coach Grant did a great job of managing the tempo, it would have been tempting to take the air out of the ball earlier given our foul trouble, but we were more effective running. He didn't start slowing it down until the 4 minute mark or so, which I thought was the right call.


Great job by Coach Grant.

The crowd was somewhat disappointing. Despite it being a sellout, there were several empty seats among the season ticket holders and a lot of empty seats in the upper corner of the student section. Nevertheless, Coach Grant spoke to the crowd after the game and thanked the fans for their support. He said with the vision of what he wants to build at Alabama, it starts with the fan support. Going undefeated at home is a great way to start.


This is our house.


Coach Grant addresses the crowd after the win.


Our old friend Coach Pearson visits with Pettway before the game.

So, the regular season is over. We won 20 games, went undefeated at home, won the SEC Western Division, finished 2nd overall in the SEC, and split our SEC road games going 4-4. Not too shabby for a team with no depth that can't shoot.

Up next, the SEC tournament in Atlanta. Our first game will be Friday at 1pm EST, noon Central. We will most likely either be playing Georgia again or Vandy. Most people seem to think 1 win in the SEC tournament gets us into the big dance, but I still think we need to make a run to the championship game. Let's just go win the whole damn thing so we're not sweating it out next Sunday.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

UNDEFEATED (at home). Charvez Davis finds stroke, beat Dawgs 65-57

Box score

Again we started off slow, letting UGA build a 8 point lead early. Then during the broadcast, SEC Network switches to ESPNU and lacrosse highlights. LACROSSEE HIGHLIGHTS! Then some CBB highlights. After a frantic 3 minutes they return to our game and we are now tied at 13. A blessing I guess.

Trey Thompkins played, but was clearly hobbled as he wasn't much of a force on the defensive side. He still put in 15 points, but we did a good job limiting his looks.

Charvez went 5-10 from 3 point range. You could tell by his 1st shot that he was gong to have a good day shooting. The key IMO was him stepping in and hitting a 15ft shot. It seemed to get him rolling. Green has a quiet 17 points... most in the 1st half and did a great job on the defensive side. Mitchell didn't get going until the 2nd half... ended up with 13 points.

Once we built the lead to 6 we never let UGA retake the lead (from memory). A few times they got within a bucket, but each time we responded with a basket. Our big men (Hines and Green) played pretty much 30 minutes in foul trouble with Hines fouling out with around 7 minutes to play in the 2nd half. The ovation he got was great. Hines laid it all on the line every game and easily made this team much better by his presence.

So we end the regular season 20-10 and 12-4 in the SEC. I thought we'd be 15-15 and 6-10. After St Thomas I was thinking I was optimistic. Coach Grant and his staff have done an amazing mid season turnaround. I doubt you can find a team that lacks size and shooters that can win 20 games in college basketball.

Next up... well we play Friday against the VU/UGA vs Auburn winner. Should be fun... and I plan on attending.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Know your enemy- Georgia Bulldogs

UGA (20-9) comes to town to play us (19-10) in a game that could decide the #5 SEC team in the NCAA tournament.

Stats

First off, Trey Thompkins (who torched us last year in Athens) may not play according to this. Normally I like to see a team at full strength, but we're fighting for our at-large bid lives so if he doesn't go I'll go ahead and say "YEAH BA-BEE!" Let me stress how much this hurts UGA's inside game and their defense. Chris Barnes is the likely replacement, but I suspect we'll see an assortment of Barnes, Donte' Williams, and Connor Nolte filling the gap.

If that's the case then Travis Leslie (14.2) and Gerald Robinson (12.6) will have to pick up the slack. Dustin Ware is probably their best 3 point shooter while Jeremy Price will have to help out on the boards and get some garbage points.

Keys to the game:
- Pound it to Green and Hines (especially with no Thompkins)
- Get Mitchell involved early. He seems to pout and lose focus.
- Control the boards. UGA is +5 per game on the season.
- Movement on offense. Against UF there was bad spacing and a lot of spectating.

Prediction: both teams need this badly, but we need it more than they do as all of UGA's losses have been to teams in the RPI top 50. I think we roll them without Thompkins as they'll struggle to score. We'll struggle too, but we'll get enough in the basket to win by 9.

Game time is 1:30PM EST (12:30PM CST) on the SEC Network. If you're in metro ATL it's on the radio at 750AM or 95.5 FM (UGA side). It's also on espn3.com.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Bama's Bubble Bursts. Gators 78 Bama 51

Alabama laid an egg in its biggest regular season game in 9 years. Florida was the better team, and I think we all knew that going in. Given Alabama's reputation for defensive intensity, and the fact that our worst SEC loss under Coach Grant had only been by 11 points, I think we all expected to at least be competitive. We were for one half, but mostly because it took the Gators a while to get going.

We picked up 5 fouls in the first 4 minutes of the game, including a technical foul on Chris Hines. Hines has been my favorite player all year, but that was not the kind of senior leadership we needed on the road with an SEC title on the line. The early foul trouble set the tone for the game.

Going back to the subpar performance against auburn, we have now had 3 bad games in a row. One has to wonder if we are getting tired down the stretch or peaked too early. Some people feel that auburn "exposed us" and gave other teams the blueprint for how to defend us. I agree with that to some extent, but not for the reason most are saying.

It was no big secret that we can't make an outside jumpshot. The "play zone and pack it in" strategy was not exactly a new or earth shattering defensive approach. Barbee exposed us with the press. We had seen it some, but since auburn, both Ole Miss and Florida put more pressure on our guards in the back court than we have seen all year. I believe the extra effort that Releford is having to expend in getting the ball up court is effecting our ability to attack the zone once we break it.

Although Releford was our leading scorer with 17 points, I did not think he had that great of a game. It was good to see his dribble drive to the basket come back, but he was not able set up scoring opportunities for his teammates like he was earlier in the year. Expecting a true freshman to continue to play at such a high level for an entire season was probably unrealistic. I can't recall which game it was earlier in the year, but I remember Coach Grant moving Senario to the point for a couple of possessions which allowed Releford to slide over the 2 and get a couple of open looks for 3. Obviously, you don't want Hillman or Steele running point for any extended period of time, but I would like to see Coach Grant try this again for a couple of possessions. It could give Releford a little bit of a break while hopefully boosting his confidence and helping the team if he could knock down a couple of 3s.

We were tied at 30, but we really didn't play much better in the 1st half than we did the 2nd. Florida could not make a free throw or a jump shot. We conceded several wide open 3's that the Gators bricked. We had 10 turnovers by halftime and were already in foul trouble. I knew Florida would not continue to stink it up at home, and I wish we would have switched back out of the zone after Florida made their first trey of the game late in the 2nd half. When they added a 2nd, I had a feeling they would at least go on a 6 to 8 point run in the second half.

Not only did they go on a run, they completely dominated us. Our point guards could not keep up with their's, and they consistently beat us off the dribble. The pass to the opposite side resulted in a wide open shooter every time, and they didn't miss. Their bigs absolutely owned Chris Hines inside. I'm not sure JaMychal Green boxed anybody out all night. Florida did not pick up their first foul of the 2nd half until the 8:30 mark. It was not poor officiating, but a lack of aggressiveness on our part. Green could not get anywhere near the low block. As usual, we could not shoot a 3. Davis had another awful game on the road, on both sides of the floor.

Where does this leave us?

We still have a lot to play for. If we beat Georgia Saturday, we will finish 12-4 in the SEC, and undefeated at home for the season. Any coach in the conference will tell you that the goal is to win at home and split on the road. We have a chance to do exactly that, and if Vandy beats Florida in Nashville, we would technically be Co-SEC Champions with a win. I'm sure we can all agree that real SEC Champions reside in Gainesville, and they proved that last night, still, it would be nice to get the title. A lot of people think we still have a shot at the tournament with a win over UGA plus a win in the SEC tournament. I think we need to beat Georgia and make it to the championship game to even have a chance, but we will see. Nevertheless, let's keep it real for a minute. We are a team with no depth that can't shoot. The fact that it took this long to be blown out be a good team, not to mention the fact that we were 20 minutes away from a league championship, is amazing.


The O'Connell is a dump. There are no concourses at all. Instead, there are 4 entrances in the corners with seperate lobbies that lead into the arena, and you have to walk a narrow pathway within the arena itself to navigate around to your poorly labelled seats. The best seats in the house, lower level along the sideline behind the team benches, do not even have individual chair backs whereas the upper levels do. It's very basic, almost like a bunch of seperate sets of temporary bleachers and seating were thrown together. The sound system consists of a bunch of horn style speakers hung over center court, which would be a great place for a scoreboard. Instead, the scoreboards are in the corners around the TV replay screens. It took a while to get used to where to look for information regarding the score, player and team fouls, etc. I do like the fact that it is located within a short walking distance of their version of the strip. Also, it was pretty cool that they leave the football stadium open.

It was a late arriving crowd, and surprisingly was not a sellout, although it did come very close to finally filling up. There were probably over 11,000 there, the place holds 12,000. I disagree with Alias below about their crowd. It was VERY quiet for most of the first half. I think it seems a lot louder on TV because they give their students great seats in the lower level along the sideline right behind the announcers. I do like that part of their set up. I was pleasantly surprised with the number of Tide fans there. We probably had at least 500 scattered throughout, you could see at least some crimson in every section. I apologize for the poor quality of the pics. My gf was wise enough to sit this one out, but I took a few:


Entrance to the O'Dome.


The Swamp.


Gator Country.


Championship Banners. Coach Grant received a nice ovation before the game for his role in bringing those to Gainesville.


The view from our seats.


Rowdy Reptiles Courtside seating.

The Gator fans were first class all the way. We were treated very well before, during, and after the game. We didn't hear a single negative comment from anybody the entire time we were down there.


I found this note on my car after the game. After watching the unmitigated catastrophe that was the 2nd half, I appreciated the chuckle.

Up next, Georgia comes to town for a 12:30 tip off Saturday afternoon. It will be televised on the SEC network. UGA is a very good team who is trying to play their way into the NCAA tournament, and it's obvious that we are wearing down a little bit. We really need a packed, loud house to give our guys a boost.