Sunday, January 30, 2011
Amazingly we are sitting here at the end of January, 1/3 of the way through the SEC Basketball season, and the team with the best record in league play is (drumroll please)..... The Alabama Crimson Tide.
Yes, that same Crimson Tide team that went 0-3 in the Paradise Jam that included dismal performances against Iowa and St. Peter's, and saw the Tide's premier player, Jaymichael Green suspended indefinently for basically not buying into Anthony Grant's system.
What a difference 2 months makes, because the Tide is currently riding a 11-0 record inside the friendly confines of Coleman Coliseum, playing in front of sell out crowds, on the way to a 5-1 mark in SEC play. Green is back on board and playing unselfish ball and despite being offensively challenged, the Tide is destroying teams on the defensive end of the floor.
Most Tide hoop observers, including this one, planned for a potentially worse season then 17-15 in Anthony Grants first campaign as coach, simply because of a lack of depth and that Alabama was moving from a senior point gurad from Mikhail Torrence to an unproven freshman in Trevor Releford. Alabama showed signs of improvement in 2010, but lost several close games at home to Purdue, Florida and Tennessee coupled with a second half collapse at Ole Miss that kept them out of post season play.
But here we are in year 2 of the Grant regime, and 'Bama has put themselves in position to atleast compete for the West and the overall SEC Title, something Alabama hasn't done since 2005. Its not been easy, but tenacious effort on the defensive end has overcome all the short comings and a lack of a bench for Grant.
'Bama's starting 5 is excellent, with a formidable frontline of Tony Mitchell, Chris Hines and Green. Releford is running the point with great efficiency and sharpshooter Charvez Davis is the only legit threat from downtown. But the bench is another story. Senario Hillman and Andrew Steele bascially are two players without a defined position, not good enough ball handlers to be a point guard, not good enough shooters to be at shooting guard and way to small for small forward. But they seem to be fitting into the idea of playing within themsleves, thus working within the team concept. The biggest surprise has been the much maligned Ben Eblen (I called him a turnover machine) whose defense and efficiency at running the offense the last few weeks has been huge for the Tide. His steal to seal the win vs Kentucky has been the play of the year to this point.
Realisitcally, their seems to be no conceivable way Alabama can keep their winning ways going. But because Anthony Grant has instilled some much needed toughness into the program that was lacking at the end of the Mark Gottfired era. I'm not going to doubt them, espcially playing in front packed houses in T-Town. There is some positive momentum in the program for the first since 2006. With Alabama's ability to play defense and control the glass, the Tide can be in a position to win every game from here on out. The question is can they score enough and get quality play from and outmanned bench to continue winning conference games...