Thursday, January 31, 2013

Arkansas preview

Two teams fighting to stay in the top half of the SEC standings. I feel good about this one since Arkansas has yet to win a road game this season and are coming off being OWNED by South Carolina in Columbia.

Stats

I've watched them play a couple times this year against Syracuse and Michigan. I thought those games would get them ready for conference play... I was wrong.

BJ Young and Marshawn Powell (he's been there since the Clinton administration) lead the team in scoring at 16.4 and 15.7. Powell is also their best 3 point shooter and leading rebounder. Mardracus Wade leads in steals. From what I saw of Arkansas they are a curious team... I know Mike Anderson wants them to push the ball, but they don't as much as I thought. Is it personnel or scheme? Sure, they average 78 PPG overall, but in SEC play it's down to 68 PPG.

More #s:
- .453 FG
- .306 3pt FG
- .689 FT
- 18.2 forced turnovers

Game is on ESPN2 at 9PM EST.


Monday, January 28, 2013

No more Big East-SEC Challenge

Link to al.com

I hate to see this go, but with the Big East losing a number of its teams it is probably best for everyone.  I hope we are able to replace those games with quality opponents in the non-conference schedule.  Maybe we can play some more Big 10 teams.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Vols get the calls, Beat Bama 54-53.


On the bright side, for once we got off to a good start.  We played great defense in the first half and took a 25-19 lead into the half.  Moussa Gueye even scored 6 points, amazingly making one of his baskets after dribbling 6 or 7 times.   I don't want him to make a habit of that, but it was good to see him contributing at both ends of the floor in the first half.

Unfortunately, all the progress we seemingly made with our post play in the Kentucky game was gone.  Jarnell Stokes made Nick Jacobs his bitch.  Jacobs had only two rebounds, 4 points (less than Gueye) and did very little slow down the UT big men.  If this team is going anywhere, we need the Nick Jacobs from the Kentucky game, not this version.  He was a major liability on both ends of the floor.

In the second half, Gueye seemed uncertain as to when he should go for a block and when he should focus on getting a rebound.  In fairness, there were many times when he went after the block, altered the shot, and UT got the board because one or more of his teammates failed to box out.  Tennessee out worked us on the boards and for loose balls all day.

Despite being owned in the paint, we played well enough defensively and made enough outside shots to have a chance to win.  We led most of the second half, always answering the Vols runs.  They would cut it to 1 or 2 and we would get it back to 5 or 6.  I felt like if we could have pushed it up to 10 or so we would be in good shape the way we were playing defense.  I also knew we would be in trouble if the Vols ever got the lead, which they eventually did.

The Call

There are going to be a number of questionable calls in every basketball game, it's just the nature of the sport.  It is a very difficult game to officiate, and the next official to call a perfect game will be the first.  It is unfortunate when one of those inevitable missed calls occurs on the final play of a one point game.

The rule of verticality says that a defender is entitled to go straight up once he has established position.  A lot of officials wrongly call fouls when a defender jumps straight up and the offensive player jumps into him.  In this case, however, Stokes did not go straight up.  He jumped toward Lacey when Lacey got him with the head fake.  As he jumped, he did maintain his arms straight up over his head, so perhaps that is what the official was looking at when he mistakenly made the no call.  I think a lot of officials have a tendency to go into a "it has to be obvious" mindset before calling a foul in that situation because they don't want to "determine the outcome of the game."  I would argue that by not applying the rules as they would in any other situation, they ARE determining the outcome.  It was fairly obvious that it was a foul, Stokes' body language seemed to indicate that he was expecting a whistle.  Lacey stood there in disbelief.  The officials looked at each other for a couple of seconds after the horn, before the PA announcer emphatically announced, "NO FOUL!  TENNESSEE WINS!"  When you have to announce the absence of a foul...it was a foul, it just wasn't called.

Another play that has not gotten as much attention occurred on a UT in bounds in their back court in the final minute.  I have not seen the replay, but at the time I thought their guard clearly pushed off of Releford to get open and get the ball in bounds.  This led to UT stretching the lead to 4.

All of that being said the officiating did not cost us the game.  First of all, we were 5 of 11 from the free throw line.  There is no guarantee that Lacey would have even made one of the free throws to force overtime, much less two to win the game.  If we get a few more rebounds, or make a few more free throws (Cooper missing the front end of a one and one late really hurt), then we aren't in that situation at the end of the game.

Also, I've read some criticism of Coach Grant on some other sites regarding the last play.  I thought it was a good play.  Lacey has some experience making game winning shots and has the confidence to be comfortable in those situations.  I don't agree with having Releford drive the lane looking to get bailed out, because as we saw, it's difficult to get foul calls in those situations.  We got the ball to Lacey in a one on one situation with some room to work with, that is not a bad situation, sometimes it just does not work out.

Tennessee had a pretty good crowd there despite their lackluster season thus far.  From where I was sitting, I could not see the upper level behind me, but based on what I could see I would say there was probably 13,000 or so there.  There was probably close to 500 or so Bama fans scattered throughout, you could see a bit of crimson in every section, and there was a good sized group sitting in the section right next to us.  The orange clad fans did not product much of an atmosphere, as the gym was mostly quiet until the last minute of the game when they finally started making some noise.  The UT fans we encountered were all very respectful and nice.   Also, it was great to see our fearless leader, Bobbyjack and his son, for a few beverages before the game.

Up next, the underachieving Arkansas Razorbacks come to Tuscaloosa for a 8pm tipoff Thursday night.  We have a history over the last couple of years of allowing close, disappointing losses to linger and turn into losing streaks.  We can't afford to let that happen here.

Friday, January 25, 2013

@ Tennessee quick preview

If we can win this one, we could possibly go on a 12 game winning streak (look at the schedule). I'm not putting the cart before the horse though.

Up to date stats.

Not much has changed since the 1st preview besides UT losing 2 of their last 3 so here's a link to it.

Should be a close game. We need 2 solid halves from Lacey. He seems to disappear in one or the other. It would also be nice to see the Nick Jacobs of the last 2 games.

Game is 2PM EST Saturday.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Crimson Cuts Cats, 59-55



Going into this game, I thought the key would be our press.  I figured we would get killed with second chance points in the post, and would need to create a lot of turnovers to overcome that.  The game started almost exactly how I envisioned.  Bama not able to get rebounds and Kentucky playing sloppy and turning the ball over.  The Cats figured out our press and used their quickness and athleticism to break it with ease.  At one point, they scored 15 points in 4 minutes and were able to build an 11 point lead.  Nerlens Noel was swatting everything in sight, and Nick Jacobs appeared frustrated.  Our guards were not making any outside shots, and we appeared to be over matched.  The Cats went into the half with a 33-24 advantage. 

Once again, the Tide turned in the second half.  We made some adjustments and played more half court defense, even matching up man to man.  Kentucky went over 7 minutes without a field goal while we chipped away and got back into the game.  Down the stretch, we made the plays on offense when we had to, but more importantly got the key stops on defense everytime the Cats got to within a basket. 

The key to the win was Moussa Gueye.  Last game, I criticized Coach Grant for starting him and playing him nearly as much as Nick Jacobs.  This is why Coach Grant is earning $2 Million per year coaching basketball and I am volunteering to write on an obscure blog.  Moussa's defense was incredible.  He was credited with 5 blocked shots, but he prevented or altered many more.  He was a presence in the post that allowed his teammates to be more effective in other areas.  While we were still outrebounded, he held his own and at least kept it respectable against Noel.  He seemed to play faster and more aggressive than he has in the past.  With about 30 seconds left we had a 3 point lead, and I knew UK was going to drive to the basket hoping for a quick 2 or a foul.  As he did most of the night, Archie Goodwin came in out of control and was denied by Moussa.  That stop, combined with some made free throws at the other end put it away.    If we can get that kind of effort out of him every night, we will be difficult to beat. 
 
 
Nick Jacobs was no slouch either.  He seemed frustrated for a bit in the first half, but then he decided to be aggressive and post up the Kentucky bigs.  He would not be intimidated by Noel, despite having one of his early shot attempts blocked.  He kept going to his strong moves and even crashing the board for a huge put back late in the game.  We all know he doesn't have the best vertical, but he did a great job of boxing out most of the night to get as many rebounds as possible.  Jacobs ended up being our leading scorer with 14 points. 

I would have never imagined we could beat a much more talented group of players relying heavily on our bigs at both ends of the floor while shooting only 2 of 13 from 3 point range, but that is exactly what happened. 


Releford had a good game with 13 points, made a big 3 during our comeback run, and found a way to get to the basket in some key possessions late.  Levi kept us in the game by making some mid range jumpers.  Cooper had an off night shooting, but his defense was a huge part of why we were able to win the game.  He shut down Wiltjer after he got off to a quick start.  Andrew Steele does not light up the stat book, but he clearly provides some leadership that the team needs.  It's hard to quantify what he brings to this team, but you can't question our record with him versus without him.

Kentucky is a great program.  They bring out the best in all of their opponents, and we were no exception.  They had more talented individual players at nearly every position on the floor last night, but we were the better TEAM.  A big part of that is maturity and chemistry.  Talented as they are, true freshmen will make freshmen mistakes from time to time, and Coach Cal knows he will have to overcome that.  It's no coincidence that while they are having somewhat of a down year, the conference is also in very bad shape.  Like them or not, the SEC needs a strong Kentucky.  We will need them to play up to their ability and make this win more impressive by selection Sunday as well.

Kentucky finds themselves in a very similiar situation to us.  We have identical records and RPIs in the 50s.  Our strenght of schedule ranking is actually slightly higher than theirs (33 v. 42) which is hard for me to believe considering they have played Maryland, Duke, Notre Dame, Baylor, and Louisville.  That just shows the importance of scheduling decent mid-major teams, and it's not always easy to figure out which of those teams will rise to the top.  The problem is, there are not many opportunities for quality wins remaining on the schedule for either of us.  If UK doesn't have any more bad losses, I believe they will get the benefit of the doubt due to being defending champions, and the name "Kentucky" on their jerseys will bring ticket sales and TV ratings. 

It was a packed house of 15,000+ and was as good of an atmosphere as we have ever had in Coleman Coliseum.  Kentucky brought a solid crowd as usual, especially for a mid week game with about 1,000 or so in blue scattered throughout.    The crowd was loud and into the game, and I think our players fed off of that in the second half.  The noise seemed to disrupt Kentucky's young offense at times as well.  As much as I complain about the marketing of the program, a win like that on national TV is the best marketing we can ask for.  I can't imagine anyone going to that game and not wanting to come back for more. 


Up next, we go to Knoxville for a rematch with the Tennessee Vols Saturday at 2 pm EST.  We beat them in a close game a couple of weeks ago, and they will be out for revenge, so it's going to take another good effort.  The game will be televised on ESPN2 for those of you cannot make it to Thompson Boling arena. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Champs are Here! Kentucky preview

Obviously this isn't the same team that cut down the nets last year, but they seem to be improving. They did gut the Barn in front of a sellout crowd 75-53 (that emptied early in the 2nd half) at Barn Arena (I'm not gonna bother looking up the real name). Title link gets you more on this match-up.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tide Tackles Texas Aggies, 50-49.

Trevor Releford returned from his injury and played 31 minutes off the bench to lead all scorers with 15 points.  If he was healthy enough to do that, I question why he was not starting.  I have theorized that the plethora of starting lineup combinations that we have used may be a contributing factor to our slow starts this season.  I don't know if there is anything to it or not, but once again we used an odd lineup of Lacey, Steele, Randolph, Cooper, and Gueye.  If Releford was healthy enough play, as he obviously was, he should have been starting at PG, and I also believe Nick Jacobs earned a starting spot with his career high double-double against State ahead of Moussa Gueye.

Lacey started the game by knocking down a 3, but 10 minutes would pass before we scored again.  At that point, we were on pace to score 12 points for the game.  Thankfully we played good enough defense to keep it to a manageable 15-3 margin.  There are a couple of ways of looking at this:  On the one hand, it's fairly remarkable to be able to overcome a scoring drought that lasts a quarter of the game and still win.  On the other hand, only bad teams go 10 minutes without scoring a single point.  It's great that we can keep fighting and overcome adversity, but it's also concerning that we can't play a 40 minute game.   As with most things, I suspect the truth is somewhere in the middle.

We were very tentative on offense in the first half.  The mid-range game that sparked us in the last couple of wins was non-existent, and we were back to shooting exclusively from 3 point range or from the low post.  Our missed shots were preventing us from setting up the press, so the defense was not able to force any turnovers to create any offense either.  We went into the half down 26-15.

Our substitution patterns did not make much sense to me this game.  Nick Jacobs scored to break the long drought and he was promptly taken out at the next dead ball.  Lacey was also taken out at one point when he had the hot hand.  Nick Jacobs played 23 minutes to Moussa's 17.  I would like to see this split move more in the direction of 28/12 for Jacobs.  I know Jacobs is a liability on defense, but he seems to be improving in that area.  Gueye brings absolutely nothing to the table on offense.   I think this is a perfect example of Coach Grant putting a little too much emphasis on defense at the expense of offensive production.

Coach Grant must have delivered the best halftime speech of all time, because we looked like a completely different team to start the second half.  We had a focus, intensity, and mental sharpness that simply wasn't there in the first half.  Again, Lacey got us started with a 3, and then the defense turned up the press, forced some turnovers, and we aggressively attacked the basket on offense.  By the first media timeout, the Aggie lead was gone and the gym was rocking.  The Aggies answered  with a run of their own to take a 5 point lead, but Coach Grant called a timeout and we were able to answer.

I think we did an excellent job of clock management at the end of the game.  It was a back and forth game, and Coach Grant used his timeouts at the right time and made solid offense/defense substitutions down the stretch.  We trailed by 1 with 19 seconds left, and Coach Grant called timeout and drew up a play that gave Lacey a good matchup.  Trevor created his own shot and made it with 8 seconds remaining, then Releford was able to come up with a loose ball as we forced a turnover in the back court to put the game away.

I think the announced attendance of 13,000+ was pretty accurate.  It was a good crowd, but with the number of people in town for the BCS celebration it should have been a sell out.  I spoke to a number of people earlier at the parade and they had no idea there was a basketball game even being played.  It would have been very easy for Eli Gold to make a brief mention of the basketball game during the BCS Championship celebration.  Our marketing of this basketball program is beyond pathetic.

Up next, the defending National Champion Kentucky Wildcats come in for an 8pm tipoff Tuesday night at Coleman Coliseum.  This is an opportunity for another solid RPI win at home.  If you can't make it to Ttown, the game will be televised on ESPN.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Texas A&M preview

They've had an interesting last 2 games... won at Kentucky and got throttled at home against Florida (the class of this really bad conference). Looking at who they've played so far, the only impressive win was in Lexington... but this ain't the Kentucky we are used to. They have lost @ Oklahoma, @ St Louis, and to Southern at home.
(Click title link to read more)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bama shoots lights out, Beats Bulldogs 75-43


The game started five minutes late due to a power outage at the arena.  In fairness, electricity is still a fairly new concept in that part of the world.  I didn't mind the delay, as it gave us a few extra minutes to make the long hike from our parking place to the arena in time for tip off.

Early in the game we looked like a team that was missing our starting point guard.  We were indecisive on offense, again passing up open shots only to force something at the end of the shot clock on several occasions.  We had a number of miscommunications that led to turnovers.  We only had 2 points in the first five minutes, but thankfully we played good defense and only trailed 5-2.  It looked like State would be the hot team early in the game with 2 quick 3 pointers to take a 10-6 lead.  It was an ugly game that went back and forth for much of the first half, then we suddenly settled down, started taking care of the basketball, and making open shots.  Rodney Cooper stepped up again and his mid range game is really helping us.  We went on a run at the end of the half to take a 30-22 lead into the locker room.

Without Releford, I think Lacey was not looking to score enough in the first half and there were some chemistry issues, as the team adjusted to having someone else run the point.  At halftime, you had to feel pretty good to be up 8 despite not playing very sound and Lacey not scoring.  We were dominating in the paint, which was an encouraging sign that continued all night.

The second half was probably the most fun I have had watching Alabama basketball in a long time.  We started out with 5 straight 3's and at one point were on a 27-3 run.  State used 2 timeouts during the stretch but could do nothing to stop our momentum.  This team won't shoot like this every night, obviously, but I think many of us probably questioned over the last couple of years if we were even CAPABLE of shooting 61% from downtown in a game, even if left largely unguarded.  It's good to know they have it in them.

It's rare that we win the battle in the post these days.  Last night, Nick Jacobs was everything we hoped he could be, and more.  He had a career high, double-double with 16 points and 11 rebounds.  We outscored them in the paint, 38-18.  Second chance points favored Bama 13-2.  We out rebounded them 35-23, 13-8 on the offensive end.  This opened things up for Lacey, Levi, and Coop to knock down the aforementioned 3's.

As good as the offense was, the defense was even better.  We pressed most of the game, which concerned me given our lack of depth at the moment.  It was just too effective to go away from it, as State had no answers.  They turned it over 21 times leading to 25 Tide points.  We dominated every facet of the game.  Major kudos to Coach Grant and team for overcoming adversity and getting the job done in convincing fashion.

This was a special win for me, as I have a long history of bad experiences and bad luck in Starkville.  It was great to finally get a win.  Even though we were clearly the better team, I did not feel too comfortable until we pushed the lead to 30.    I decided to look up the scores to other games I have attended there, and you will see why:

2000:  L 70-92. (This was my first trip to the dump.  I was amazed at how obnoxious their fans were.  They taunted our section of Bama fans the entire game.  One of my friends sitting a few rows in front of me threw a cup, and the guy sitting next to him got arrested.)

2001: L  70-84
2002: L 62-76
2003: L 55-59 (I sat on the floor for this game, Some 60ish year old woman got into my gf's face and tried to start a fight)

(Note:  At the last minute I decided to forego the 2004 game, and instead watched it a bar on Bourbon Street during Mardi gras, of course we pulled the upset).

2007:  L 67-91 (This is one of only 2 games I have ever left early)
2008:  L 66-73
2010:  L 66-74
2012:  L 52-56

With Releford out and a long drive on a cold, rainy night looming, I was sort of dreading this game all day.  Now, I'm really glad I went.  Their crowd was as subdued as I have ever seen them.  They were not loud at all and there was no electricity in the gym (literally and figuratively) even before and early in the game.  Their fans were nicer than usual, with the exception of two females (notice I did not call them Ladies or women, as that would be disrespectful to the fairer gender) sitting directly behind us.  Judging by their looks, vernacular, and grammar;  I would say they combined for approximately 540 lbs and maybe a 7th grade education level, at best.  I will give them credit for sticking around long enough to hear the five of us in my immediate area sing Rammer Jammer (which they didn't seem to appreciate), long after most had left.  There was only about 6,000 people there to begin with, and they started leaving at the first media timeout in the second half.  By the ten minute mark, that gym was a ghost town.  I was a little disappointed that we probably only had about 50 or so Alabama fans there.

Up next, we return home for a very tough but winnable game against SEC newcomers Texas A&M Saturday night at 5pm.  Yes, they do have a "Johnny basketball" his name is Elston Turner.  We need to contain him.  The football BCS parade and celebration is scheduled to start at 1:30.  If you know of anybody going, try to talk them into staying for the basketball game.  This is a huge game and we will need a packed house.  I'm a little disappointed, but not surprised, that the athletic department is not marketing this game as part of the BCS celebration.








Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Releford likely out for State game

Hurt ankle during practice.   Somebody, please, make it stop.


@ Mi$$i$$ippi $tate preview #1

I'm sorry... I can't help but use $$ when I post about M$U. $ue me.

So.. $tate is 2-0 in conference. They also have some really bad OOC losses to Bama A&M, @ Troy, @ Loyola-Chicago, and @ Providence. I have not seen them play, but by looking at their current roster the only name I know from last year is Jalen Steele. Seems like everyone else 'declared' for the NBA draft.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Tide Tops Tennessee 68-65

This was a solid conference win over a decent Tennessee team.  We struggled a bit in the first half, mainly because we could not make a layup.  In fairness, while we missed a lot of close range shots, many of those were altered and taken under pressure in traffic.  I would like to see us pull up and take a few more mid range jump shots rather than trying to force the ball down to the low block every possession.  Cooper seems to be developing a nice mid range game that should help our offensive production.

Also, Releford was a completely different player in the second half.  He seemed tentative in the first half and made little effort to penetrate.  In the second half, he took the ball to the basket and was able to finish more times than not.  Our scoring was very balanced with both Trevors scoring 15 each, Levi adding 12 and Andrew Steele coming off the bench to give us 11.

Nick Jacobs had a solid game offensively and Moussa Gueye played adequate defense for the most part, but as will be the case most games, we lost the battle in the paint.  We were badly out rebounded and outscored down low.  Despite our inability to get a rebound or make a layup, we were in position to tie the game going into the half with Trevor Lacey at the line for a one and one.  He missed the front end, then fouled the UT shooter throwing up a prayer 40 feet from the basket at the buzzer to give the Vols 3 free throws.  The Vols led 28-24 at the half.  Those are the kinds of mistakes we can't have at the end of the half.  To his credit, Lacey kept his head up and played a great second half.

I thought Coach Grant did a great job of switching defenses and wisely choosing when to press.  We were able to force a lot of turnovers and create easy baskets at key times, which is why we were able to overcome our rebounding and post play deficiency.  Coach Grant even did a good job of managing his timeouts, never allowing UT to go on too long of a run.

The most encouraging thing about this game to me is that we showed some poise and determination down the stretch in doing the things necessary to win a close game.  We were down 3 with about 5 minutes to go, but switched to a press with a hard trap as soon as the ball came into the front court.  We forced 4 straight turnovers and went on a 10-0 run.  We did this by out hustling them for several loose balls created by the defense.  Tennessee called timeout and made a run to get back into the game, but we came up with stops when we had to, and most importantly, converted our free throws.

It was one of the most entertaining games of the season thus far, with the score being close and lead going back and forth throughout.  It was also the best crowd of the season.  I would guess over 10,000 were there, including at least 500 or so Tennessee fans scattered throughout.  The crowd was loud and very much into the game, especially the last few minutes.

Up next, we go to Starkville, MS for an 8pm tipoff against the Mississippi State Bulldogs Wednesday night.  State has losses to Alabama A&M, Providence,  Loyola-Chicago, and Troy.  However, they are currently on top of the SEC standings at 2-0 with wins over Georgia and South Carolina.  The SEC is really bad this year, folks.  The game will be televised on CSS.

SEC Power Poll and the state of SEC basketball

Linky for Power Poll.

As far as SEC basketball is concerned... let's take a look at the current standing shall we?

Ole Miss 2 - 0 1.000 13 - 2 .867 9-0 3-1 1-1 W5
Florida 2 - 0 1.000 12 - 2 .857 7-0 3-2 1-0 W4
Texas A&M 2 - 0 1.000 12 - 3 .800 9-1 2-0 1-2 W4
Auburn 2 - 0 1.000 8 - 7 .533 6-3 2-1 0-3 W3
Mississippi St. 2 - 0 1.000 7 - 7 .500 6-1 1-3 0-3 W2
Missouri 1 - 1 .500 12 - 3 .800 9-0 0-3 3-1 L1
Arkansas 1 - 1 .500 10 - 5 .667 10-1 0-2 0-2 W1
Kentucky 1 - 1 .500 10 - 5 .667 8-2 0-2 1-1 L1
Alabama 1 - 1 .500 9 - 6 .600 6-3 1-3 2-0 W1
LSU 0 - 2 .000 9 - 4 .692 8-1 1-3 0-0 L2
South Carolina 0 - 2 .000 10 - 5 .667 7-3 0-2 3-0 L2
Tennessee 0 - 2 .000 8 - 6 .571 6-2 0-3 2-1 L4
Vanderbilt 0 - 2 .000 6 - 8 .429 4-1 1-3 1-3 L2
Georgia 0 - 2 .000 6 - 9 .400 6-4 0-3 0-2 L2

 Note that Mi$$i$$ippi $tate, the Barn, and A&M are all undefeated in conference play. Those teams lost to the following out of conference:
  • Murray State
  • Boston College
  • Rhode Island
  • Dayton
  • Depaul
  • Winthrop
  • Troy
  • Providence
  • Alabama A&M
  • Southern 
A&M, Auburn, and Mi$$i$$ippi $tate all won road games yesterday (@ UK, SC Lite, and UGA). I might be wrong on Kentucky as I thought they'd get things going by now, but if you ask me I'd say only Ole Miss, Florida, and Missouri are NCAA tournament caliber teams. Which means we'll get 4 in the NCAAT as someone other than those 3 will win the SECT.

It's not just the SEC that is down this year. The ACC might be just as bad, the PAC-12 on par, and the Big 12 just slightly better. Heck, as I was talking to commenter Rocky Mountain Tide in CO the day of the BCS Championship, we agreed that the MWC is the 3rd best hoop conference behind the Big East and Big 10.

I'm gonna be brutally honest... watching SEC basketball this year is like watching Big East football. Only a diehard can watch the SEC's interpretation of basketball.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Tennessee Vols preview- round 1

Bad vs bad in Tuscaloosa tomorrow at 1PM EST. UTK seemed to have righted the ship then came back to back home losses to Memphis and Ole Miss. Ole Miss might be good, but they were blown out which makes me feel a bit better about buying tickets for the return game in Knoxville in 2 weeks.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Mizzou Overwhelms Bama

As expected, the Missouri Tigers got off to a good start as a new member of the SEC with an 84-68 win over our beloved Crimson Tide on Tuesday night.

Only the most optimistic Tide fan could have expected victory last night based on the play of both teams entering the contest. Missouri is a legitimate top 10-15 team, while Alabama is still trying to find itself after a disastrous December that could well have ended this team's postseason hopes. With that written, I was interested to see if the team, fresh off an impressive performance against Oakland, would at least compete with the Tigers on their home floor. Alabama did just that, making Missouri work for their first conference win.

Alabama fell behind by ten points early, but was able to rally and even took a temporary lead in the first half behind a fantastic performance by Trevor Releford who scored 26 points. The defense had no answers for Mizzou's offensive firepower last night as the Tigers posted 84 points on 56% shooting (60% from 3-pt). Our guys couldn't match up inside with Mizzou's Laurence Bowers or Alex Oriakhi. The two players combined for 32 points, 15 rebounds and 4 blocks. It might have been worse if Bowers had not left the game with what appeared to be a knee injury. Auburn transfer Earnest Ross also had a nice game, scoring 19 points, including some big shots when it appeared Alabama might be gaining some measure of control of the game.

The Mizzou guards were also a terror. In my opinion, the player of the game was Jabari Brown. He scored 22 points, including five three pointers. He knocked down three straight three point shots at one point in the game that I felt turned the game in Mizzou's favor for good. Phil Pressey didn't register a big night offensively as far as points, but he did dish out 13 assists and was seemingly unstoppable when he decided to take someone off the dribble. Alabama forced him into five turnovers in the first half, but zero in the second half. Simply put, our guys didn't have the firepower to hang with Missouri for 40 minutes. Kudos to the team though for hanging in there for 30-35 minutes on the road against a top 10 team.

Other than Releford, the best performance of the night was probably Devonta Pollard who scored 10 points, and was very active on the floor most of the night. Pollard is slowly starting to put things together and I think the future is very bright for him.

In order for Alabama to have a chance, the interior guys have got to produce. Unfortunately, both Nick Jacobs and, especially, Moussa Gueye had poor performances in the game. Jacobs managed just 3 points and 3 rebounds, while Moussa was a disaster, fouling out in 15 minutes of play. If I remember correctly, three of his fouls were for moving screens, two of which came when Alabama had some momentum in the game. Moussa seemed overwhelmed by the size, strength and athleticism of the Mizzou frontline. Unfortunately, that's probably going to be the issue moving forward when Bama plays teams with athletic post players (e.g. Kentucky, Florida, Ole Miss).

Nevertheless, Alabama did show some spunk in this game, refusing to allow Mizzouo to blow them off the court, which could have happened early when Mizzou jumped out to a ten point lead. This game will not ultimately decide if Alabama is trending back up, stagnant, or will continue the trend of December. Instead, it will be the next three games that I think will be an indication of what we can expect the rest of the way. Winnable home games against Tennessee and Texas A&M along with a winnable road game at Mississippi State present Bama with a chance to be 3-1 in conference play heading into the Kentucky game. Do that and I will feel better about this team's chances to salvage something from this season. If not, then we are probably truly looking at a .500 or worse type season the rest of the way.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

Let's give a warm welcome to our new members the Mizzou Tigers

Actually, I'd rather not, but I suspect they'll beat us down and make us like it. They come in 11-2 (12 in AP) with losses to Louisville and UCLA in OT.

Mizzou game notes from their official site.

I've only watched them vs Illinois... was impressed with them especially on the defensive side. Offensively, Bowers inside (16.8) and Pressley outside (13.8) lead the team. Alex Oriakhi also puts in 10.2 and pulls down 8.8 boards. Inside, they will give us fits.

Stats

Numbers to watch:
- 78.5 PPG
- 45% FG
- 34% 3pt FG
- Defensively 37.5% and 31.7% from 3 point range
- + 13 rebound margin

Sorry for the short review... had a short timeline between watching the Notre Dame beatdown plus work near the west coast = super short preview for a big game. I think we are in for a beatdown the likes of what we did to Notre Dame in Miami.

Tip off is 7PM EST on ESPN. Bama haters might get their 'revenge' for last night.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Bama Owns Oakland, 65-45

Oakland is probably not an NCAA tournament quality team, they have a horrible record against a brutal schedule, but I have little doubt they are better than Mercer (who just lost to 1-13 Kennesaw State, btw) so this 20 point win was quite an improvement over what we have seen the last few weeks.

The game started off slow like so many of our other games.  We never really fell behind but the offense was sluggish in the first half and we went to halftime with only a 6 point lead.  I was surprised that we played as much man to man defense as we did.  We've spent most of the season bashing Moussa Gueye and Nick Jacobs on here, but let's give them credit for a great game in this instance.  Our bigs held Oakland's starting center to just 2 points while mostly playing a man to man defense.

While I still felt like we passed up too many good, open shots offensively, we did a much better job of sharing and moving the basketball to get open shots.  It helped that we actually shot the ball at a reasonably good clip as well.  Releford and Levi both had good offensive games, picking up the slack for Trevor Lacey who had an off day.

I thought Coach Grant did an excellent job of picking his spots on where to press, and we were able to force some turnovers which created some easy offensive opportunities in the second half.  As opposed to the previous two home games, we did not let up or get complacent once we got a double digit lead.  Hopefully, that lesson has finally been learned.

In fact, I thought the effort and intensity was great all night.  I think some of the credit for that has to go to Andrew Steele coming back in his first game from injury.  While he did not have a great game statistically, and he's really not a good shooter, he leads by example diving after lose balls and keeping possessions alive. It was great to see the guys getting after the loose balls and bringing it on defense every possession.  I think we lose some of that when we are forced to play more zone.

We had one inexcusable mistake in the second half when we were called for a technical foul for having 6 players on the court.  That is the mark of an unorganized team and should never happen at the Division 1 level.  In fairness, the officials are partly to blame as well.  The official administering the throw in should never give the ball to the player until confirming with the other officials that the substituting team has completed their substitutions.  The only exception is when a team is taking exceeding long to do so or intentionally stalling.  In this instance, we were not intentionally stalling, but there was some confusion and Andrew was slower than he should have been in leaving the court.  That being said, the official who administered the throw in obviously did not realize that we had 6 players on the court, but he did not immediately call the technical. In fact, Oakland's coach had to point out to the crew that a technical foul had occurred.  It was one of many examples of lack of communication from the officiating staff in this game, that should not occur at this level.

Fortunately, it did not really hurt us, because Oakland only made one free throw and we knocked down back to back threes immediately after to put the game out of reach.  This was a solid win that will hopefully give us some confidence going into SEC play.

As a side note, many have noted that Coach Grant does not seem very emotional during games.  From my perspective sitting just behind the bench, I think that is someone of an unfair mischaracterization.  Sure, he's not a sweaty, animated clown the entire 40 minutes like Bruce Pearl, but he has his moments.  His facial expression rarely changes, and he has a deep voice that does not carry as much, so I think he comes across as more stoic than he really is.  During timeouts you can clearly here him yelling at the guys usually a couple of times per game.  This particular game is was Retin Obasohan who caught Coach's wrath after a turnover where he failed to protect the ball and did not really go after it once it was knocked away.  Most games, Moussa Gueye is on the receiving end of those rants for one thing or another, but as mentioned above Moussa played very well against Oakland, and I think the staff was pleased with his efforts Saturday.  At one point late in the game after a couple of questionable calls, Coach Brennan had to physically pull Coach Grant back into the coach's box or he would have likely picked up a technical foul.

The crowd was probably the worst of the season.  Many of the students are not back on campus and a lot of the faithful have already made the journey to Miami for the football National Championship game.  There were entire empty sections, and I would guess there was probably no more than 3,000 people or so there.  Thankfully, the team took care of business and did not need a crowd to get them motivated.  Up next, we go to Missouri to play arguably the best team in the conference, and one of the top 10 in the country on the road Tuesday night.  Tipoff is set for 6pm on ESPN.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

Oakland Grizzlies preview

2 struggling team collide, one must win... might as well be us for once right?