Thursday, April 28, 2011

Tornadoes demolish parts of Tuscaloosa

When I find legitimate sites to donate to I'll post them here. Keep those in the path of the tornadoes in your thoughts as from Tuscaloosa to Ringgold, GA (and further) people are in a bad way.

Mid Alabama Red Cross

This is a shot of the big one running through Tuscaloosa. For those that know the area well (like me) know that 15th street and McFarland took a direct hit. Many of the stores are gone (Taco Casa, Krispy Kreme, Taco Bell, etc). A very sad day.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Post-season grades- Forwards and Centers

Actually had most of this typed up 2 weeks ago, but never got around to finishing... until now.

Jason Carter gets a D. This has no reflection on him transferring as it's probably in his best interest, but from the couple of times I saw him on the court. For a big guy, shooting 25% on the season (albeit 6/24) is not what you want. It's obvious he's got some work to do in the offseason. Good luck to him wherever he ends up.

Tomy Mitchell gets a B+. He missed out on an A for his chronic pouting when he wasn't scoring. When he was interested he was dominant... throwing down dunks like I did at the 8 foot elementary school rims. His 3 point shooting improved during the season and I look for that to be even more consistent next season.

Carl Engstrom gets a C-. He's obviously raw... looked confused out there early in the season (Paradise Jam), but toward the end when he logged some minutes proved to be decent defensive presence. His offense has a long ways to go, but I think there is hope for him.

JaMychal Green gets an A-. While he struggled early the truth is without him we don't sniff .500 in the SEC. He stepped up as a team leader, was clearly our main inside threat, and played pretty good defense. My gripe... him taking the ball to the baseline. He had quite a few calls go against him, stepped out of bounds, or turned the ball over on the double team.

Chris Hines gets an B+. He maxed out every night... did the dirty work on the boards, played stellar D, and was a vocal team leader. His offensive skills got better during the year.

Charles Hankerson gets a C. Most of this is not his fault as IMO he should've seen more PT. He seems to have a semi decent jump shot, plays hard defensively, and most importantly seems to be a team player. He was often one of the first guys to high five his teammates during an opposing team's time out to stop a run.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

As we expected, Kendall Durant and Jason Carter not returning to Alabama

No shock at this. I wish them well wherever they end up. I know we only saw a glimpse of Durant, but I kinda wish he was around next year. He seems to have a decent outside jumper... something we sorely lack. I don't have a feeling about Carter one way or another.

That puts us right now with 7 scholarship players... and I think another one of those ends up moving on.

Link

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Post-season grades- the guards

- Trevor Releford: A-. Releford made great strides from November to April. He seemed to regain confidence in his outside shot around February and IMO that carried us to the run we went on in the SEC. His court vision is something I have not seen from a PG in recent memory (no offense Steele, Pettway, Mo) and my only gripe with his is he leaves his feet too much to pass when penetrating. That caused a lot of turnovers.

- Senario Hillman: C. The one consistent thing about Hillman was his defense. Fought through picks, played good man to man, not a whole lot of silly defensive fouls. Offensively he could've been a mason at times. Lots of airballs, plain bad shots, and never developed a midrange jumper.

- Ben Eblen: D. When the best thing you can say is he gave Releford a break... that's not good. He was scared to shoot the ball. I mean... he took less than 10 total shots from February 1st to the end of the year. It was like we were playing 4 on 5 when he was on the court.

- Andrew Steele: C. His return to our lineup really started our run through the SEC. Played good D, scored early on, and gave us somewhat of perimeter threat for a bit. Last part of the season he kind of disappeared and the concussion did him in.

- Charvez Davis: B-. Our only decent 3 point threat... good at home... horrific on the road. Again, he also played steady D, and did take the ball to the rim and converted more often than not. He gets a B- for being really bad on the road... if he shot just 33% on the road we might've won 2 more road games and been in the NCAAT.

- Kendall Durant: D. I can say I actually saw him play. Chances are we won't next season. I'm not sure what happened to him (after injury), but we sure could've used his outside shot. He gets a D since he didn't see the court after the Purdue game.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Mark Gottfried to NC State official

Saw a few rumors on the net (ACC blogs, TI, google searches) about this. Man... NC State again has gone to their 8th choice. My feelings about xCMG are known on here so I'll leave it at that.

EDIT- link

I caught some of the press conference cause I like to watch train wrecks.... and it was as NC State's AD Yow took some swipes at her former employee Gary Williams (Maryland HC) saying he sabotaged the search. I'm sure Mark loved that... he was hired 'cause Gary Williams sabotaged the coaching searchand Gottfried was the best NC State could get due to this.

I have a feeling the NC State/Maryland game is going to be fun to watch next season.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Wrapping up another season.

Sadly, it's hibernation time again for Bama hoops fans, as we now begin the long 8 month wait till next year. That means it's also time for my War and Peace like season ending novel. I thought I would make one last rambling post on the season and a few other things now that I'm back home in the 'ham. This will be like 4 or 5 posts all combined into one, and I don't really expect anybody to read the whole thing, so if I start boring you, just scroll down to the next bold headline. Also, please forgive any typos or grammar errors. There is no way in hell I'm taking the time to proofread this.

Shocked in the Finals

I was really pulling for Wichita St against Washington State, just because I wanted an excuse to post this pic.


I'm not going to say a whole lot about this game. MSmilie did a great job of covering it below. Basically, they were just a bad matchup for us. They had the size to defend us down low, and they killed us on the boards. Their depth was a big factor as our defensive pressure was not able to wear them down late in the game like we commonly do to other opponents. Green's 4th foul really hurt us, because it gave us no choice but to double team in the post, and they made us pay by making seemingly every jumpshot they took.


The rebounding stats tell it all.

Our crowd was much better than expected. I thought it would be more like a road game, but we had a respectable 40-45% of the crowd. A lot of UA fans from farther out in the Northeast could not make it to both games so they waited to come to the championship game.

Also, major props to the NY Chapter of the alumni organization for getting tickets for their members and organizing the whole thing. They sold out their block of tickets and encouraged many others to come out. I went to their pregame parties both days, and had a great time and met a lot of cool people.

I have a beef with whomever from our University ticket office was responsible for distributing the tickets. We were told they would be allocated based on Tide Totals Priority. As most of you know, I had awesome seats for the Colorado game. I was sitting 24 rows higher for the championship game, and at least 3 people that I know who have LESS THAN HALF of the number of my Tide Pride Points were sitting anywhere from 4 to 15 rows in front of me. I think they actually allocated the tickets to the Colorado game based on priority, but just threw them all together for the championship game. Why they would do that, I have no idea.


My view for the championship game. Not bad, but it should have been better.

Season Recap and State of the Program

We were horrible early in the year, bounced back to win the SEC West, got screwed by the NCAA selection committee, and then made a run to the Championship game of the NIT. For a team with some glaring weaknesses, this was a successful season by any measure.

In year one, Coach Grant took us from a team that would often get blown out and give up to a team that would play hard and close with everyone. This season, in year two, he took us from being a team that couldn't win the close ones to a team that could find a way down the stretch, and he won an SEC West Division Title in the Process. With our two best players returning with a ton of experience, and a highly ranked recruiting class coming in, expectations will be sky high next year. The next step for this program is being able to handle those expectations, easily make the NCAA tournament, and play well while being the hunted rather than the hunter. Based on what I've seen so far, I have no reason to think that will be a problem. Obviously, signing and developing a couple of shooters will greatly help in that endeavor.

Perhaps this team's biggest accomplishment was bringing the fans back. Whether we like it or not, most Alabama fans won't support a losing bball program. I like Mal Moore, but it's no secret his loyalties are with football, and understandably so. The only way the athletic department is going to give basketball the support it needs to become what we all want it to be, is if they realize it will be profitable.

The way it becomes profitable, is butts in the seats. We went to the Paradise Jam, and we had less than 10 fans there who weren't on staff or family members of someone connected to the program. Contrast that with New York, where we had over 100 people from Alabama travel to watch basketball. After the Kentucky win, we had several sold out games down the stretch of SEC play. It's not just as simple as the team winning, it's the way this team played the game. Win or lose, we knew they would give everything they had every night. That's what I will always remember about the 2010-11 team, and why they are one of my all time favorite Bama basketball teams.

We need to keep this momentum going. If Coach Grant does as well as I think he will, he's going to have a lot of schools interested in stealing him away. If we give Mal Moore and the athletic Dept. reason to believe it's worth while to keep him around, then I don't think we will have anything to worry about it.

What's next?

We should know later this month where Trevor Lacey is going. Supposedly, he has told some that he's already made up his mind. If that's the case, I like our chances. You don't drive from Huntsville to Tuscaloosa on a Tuesday night for an NIT game if you've decided to play for Kentucky. With basketball recruiting, things can always change. If I hear anything about him or any other news on the recruiting front, I'll be sure to let you guys know.

Other than that, things will be slow until we start piecing together the schedule. I heard we have agreed to play Georgia Tech in Phillips arena next year, and of course we already have the Puerto Rico tournament lined up.

Otherwise, I will pass the time watching bad MLB baseball and NBA basketball. Speaking of which, if you don't follow or like the NBA but want to get your basketball fix over the next few months, give the Chicago Bulls a chance. In the spirit of full disclosure, I'll preface this by saying I am a lifelong Bulls fan, but hear me out.

They recently hired a new coach who puts an emphasis on defense (sound familiar?). They missed out on the Lebron sweepstakes (Thank God!), but instead put together a deep, talented team lacking the "superstars." They were predicted to finish 4th or 5th preseason by the experts, but find themselves in first place in the conference (sound familiar?). Their only truly elite player is a young PG who is getting MVP consideration despite not getting the superstar treatment yet from NBA refs. Our old nemesis Joakim Noah, believe it or not, has FINALLY grown up and is a great player and teammate. If you like the college game, you should appreciate that the Bulls are largely built around players from highly successful college programs. Rose is from Memphis, Noah from Florida, a couple of guys from Duke, Kentucky, Arkansas, Creighton, etc. Opposing coaches have been quoted as saying the Bulls are "night in and night out, the hardest working team in the league." (again, sound familiar?). They are the NBA version of Alabama, except they can shoot and have a deep bench. They even have the token annoying white guy that seems to never miss when you forget about him. Watch a game or two if you get a chance, what do you have to lose?


NCAA Tournament

I did not think VCU belonged in the tournament. This doesn't happen very often but: I was wrong. A lot of fans from the major conferences hate on the mid majors and the automatic bids, but I am not one of those. This final four is half blue bloods and half mid majors, including a Butler team here for the 2nd year in a row. We just lost to a "little guy" in the NIT Championship game, and you can't argue they weren't the better team that night. One of the things I really love about the game of basketball is virtually everybody can play it regardless of income or sociological background. Basketballs are cheap, and you can find goals almost anywhere. It doesn't require a bunch of equipment and the guy with unlimited means doesn't really have a true advantage over the kid from the ghetto. The NCAA tournament is representative of that. 300+ teams all have a chance to win a championship if they get the right mix of coaching, talent, chemistry, and luck. That's why it is the greatest sporting event in the world.

All that being said, I still don't think the midmajors should get special consideration over the big boys. VCU proved they belong, but we should have been in over UAB, and Colorado should have been in over Tennessee. We need some basketball people on the selection committee who have some common sense instead of a bunch of administrative computer nerds. In other words, grow a set and use your head instead of the damned RPI.

Anyway, I'm pulling for Kentucky, but I believe the winner of Butler/VCU will actually do it. I think that will be Butler due to their experience last year, but it's hard to bet against VCU right now. This was one of my worst bracket performances ever, so you might want to take the opposite of what I'm saying here.

Also, I want to note that the officiating has been great in this tournament. The refs take a lot of heat when they blow a call, but there have been numerous close games with seemingly controversial calls in the final seconds, and the replay has almost always shown that the officials got it right. I really like that the head of officials went on CBS to give some insight into the evaluation process and discuss specific calls. As an official, one of my biggest gripes about the profession is the seemingly self imposed code of silence. I'm not saying refs should have to answer to the press after every game (but I do think they should have that option individually if they choose to do so), but I think it was a great move by the NCAA head of officials to go on national TV and give the average fan a little insight into how the 3rd team on the floor operates. A lot of very knowledgable fans have no idea what the proper positions, duties, and responsibilities are of each official. I think if more people understood what trail, center, and lead's primary and secondary coverage areas are, when and why they rotate or switch, what they are supposed to look at in a block/charge situation, fans would generally be more appreciative and understanding of the official's jobs.

Baseball


This is for Bobbyjack and the other baseball fans here. One of the items on my bucket list is to see every MLB ballpark. I hit opening day at the new Yankee Stadium Thursday. It was awesome, they kept the same dimensions and general look of the old ballpark, but it is so much nicer. The fans sitting around me way up in the cheap seats were very knowledgable and enthusiastic. I didn't join in with their cheers, but I did find myself applauding and pulling for the Yanks.

Some of the diehards were embarassed that it was not a larger crowd. They feel that the new stadium has priced a lot of the true fans out, and it's more of a corporate experience now. Another part of the problem is there is just so much to do within the park, several restaurant and club type areas that are accessible to all fans, and it was cold, so many more fans were actually there they just were not in their seats.




Opening Day from the Cheap Seats

I did not get there early enough to get into monument park, but the design is such that you can easily see it from the bleachers. The Yankees museum is awesome, featuring all their championship rings, a couple of championship trophies, and a wall of autographed baseballs from Yankee greats.


They won this one off my Cubs.


Championship Trophies.


27 World Championships. Love them, like them, or hate them, they are the most successful team in sports, and it's not even close.

As I said, I was pulling for the Yankees but was wearing an Alabama sweatshirt and a Cubs boggan. Most of their fans were cool, but I did hear "Cubs suck!" several times, but I thought it was mostly good natured. Even heard a few "Roll Tide"s, as they seemed to like the ESPN commercial. I did have one drunk douchebag curse me out for no apparent reason as I was leaving the stadium. I've been to NY a few times, and I'm convinced there is a very small but significant portion of that city's residents who's sole purpose in life is to be a miserable asshole to everyone they come into contact with.

As cool as the stadium is, that neighborhood needs some work. It's nice that it's easily accessible by subway, and it's not nearly as bad as many other stadiums I've been to (I'm looking at you, Atlanta, Oakland, and LA), but there are only about 4 sports bars in that whole area. I squeezed into one to watch the final outs, but all four of them were asses to elbows crowded, and the beer was $9 a pop just like it was in the park. And when I say they were crowded, I'm not talking about the Houndstooth in Tuscaloosa after a football game crowded. I am talking about Bourbon Street in NOLA on the final weekend of Mardi Gras crowded.

Conclusion

That's it for my manifesto. From St. Thomas to Tuscaloosa to New York and all points in between, it's been a fun season. Next year will be even better. Roll Tide!