First of all, Congratulations to Coach Nick Saban and the football staff for signing yet another top ranked class on National Signing Day Wednesday. That being said, I really hope that was not the reason for the lack of SEC games Wednesday night. For those of us who believe Alabama can be as much of a basketball school as it is football, and fans of other SEC basketball teams for that matter, it hurts the perception of these basketball programs when they are essentially told to take a back seat to a bunch of 17 year old football players.
On to more substantive matters. We are nearly halfway through the SEC season with a record of 3-4, with 9 games remaining. We were clearly overrated to start the season. The biggest concern coming into the season was our perimeter shooting. I stated then, that we did not have that one consistent guy, but was hoping because we have multiple guys who, in theory, can make a jump shot, we would be okay. Unfortunately, it has not worked out that way.
On the positive side, we had a great non-conference schedule. Depending on what source you use, we have played one of the top 20 toughest schedules in the nation. Our RPI is in the top 50, and all of the prominent bracketologist have us projected as easily in the tournament with an 8 or 9 seed. After a 6 year absence and the issues facing this team, I think we can all agree that making the tournament would be a welcome accomplishment. If we could catch a favorable draw and make a run, even better.
So, where do we go from here? Releford has been awesome at times but inconsistent. We need the good Releford that can drive to the basket and take care of the basketball to show up for the 2nd half of the season. We are young, but guys like Levi, Lacey, and Nick Jacobs have really helped us out and will only continue to improve. Getting Andrew Steele back was a very pleasant surprise, and he has been able to provide some leadership that was sorely lacking. Green must be the MVP we know he is capable of being.
The key may be Tony Mitchell. He had some great games early in the season, but has regressed and been a bit of a head case in SEC play. He appears disinterested and lazy at times, and has shown no maturity in adverse situations. There are rumors circulating that he is being suspended indefinitely. I have no idea if those rumors are true or not, but I trust Coach Grant to handle things the right way regardless. I've said in the past you have to take the good with the bad when it comes to Tony Mitchell. For the past two weeks or so, the bad has outweighed the good. He is a hell of a basketball player and a great athlete. I don't know him, but I still believe him to be a good person too. He's just too hot headed and immature at times. It's Coach Grant's job to correct that, as best he can. I do believe we can win games without Tony Mitchell. We could possibly even still make the tournament, but we will be one and done at best. If this team is going to reach its full potential, Coach Grant must get Tony to buy in.
Switching gears, let's take a look at the 9 remaining games. Games we SHOULD win include Ole Miss, auburn, and Tennessee at home. Games we will likely be underdogs in are @ Arkansas and Florida at home. I'm still not overly impressed with Florida and think we could upset them in Tuscaloosa, but they do present some matchup problems for us and they are a top 15 team, so logic dictates that is a game you can't count on. So, if we win the 3 we "should" win at home, that gives us 6 wins with 50/50 games remaining @LSU, @auburn, v. $tate, and @Ole Miss. If we 2 of those 4, that would put us at 8-8 and with one win in the SEC tournament I believe we would be in good shape for an NCAA bid. As you can see, this puts a premium on beating less than stellar teams on the road. We can't have another South Carolina debacle. We always struggle at the tad pad, so you've got to hope for at least a split at LSU and auburn next week, then protect the home court against $tate.
First things first. Of the "should" win games, Ole Miss is certainly the toughest. They have a strong front court and Andy Kennedy has them in position to make a run at an NCAA bid themselves. Let's pack the house Saturday night and get back .500 going into the second half of SEC play.