Sunday, February 27, 2011

Opportunity still knocks....

If you would have been in Coleman Coliseum in December and told me on March 1st Alabama would be playing Florida for the SEC Basketball Championship, I would have did you a favor and drove you to Bryce Mental Hospital for talking such nonsense.

But as the calander turns to March, thats exactly where Alabama finds itself, an opportunity to control its own destiny and win an outright SEC Title despite yesterday's controversial defeat in Oxford (more on that in a minute).

Of course, Alabama and Florida both lost close games on the road yesterday, adding more pressure too Tuesday's contest. Florida lost to Kentucky at Rupp Arena in a hard fought contest. Alabama struggled early against the Ole Miss Admiral Ackbars, but raced to an 11 point lead with 13 1/2 minutes remaining, only to see whistles come out on one end of the floor and watch them be swallowed on the other end. It got so bad late in the game that down 59-58, Trevor Releford was whacked on a drive to the basket only to get a no call that led to the mild mannered Anthony Grant drawing a technical foul.

Alabama only shot 3 free throws the last 13 minutes of the game, 2 front ends of 1 and 1's, that were both missed, and a Jaymichael Green free throw in the final seconds. The problem is that Doug Shows (he worked the UA/AU game wednesday, didn't know SEC refs could work 2 games in a row for the same team, are you listening SEC head of officials Gerald Beaudroux???) took the game over and called every touch foul on the Rebels end of the floor, but yet Mitchell, Green and Releford were getting knocked to floor and not getting one call. 17 of the Rebls final 28 points came at the charity stripe as Ole Miss shot 21 free throws down the stretch to 3 for the Tide. If Alabama was standing around shooting jumpers, I could understand the disparity, but 'Bama was pounding it inside in their hi-low game and could not get a break. Even on the last play, when Alabama was going for a quick 2, Releford was knocked down twice with no call. Alabama is just seconds, points, and a couple fo bad calls away by Mike Stewart/Arkansas, Tim Higgins/Vanderbilt and Doug Shows/Ole Miss from being 14-0 instead of 11-3.

Despite this setback, 'Bama is gunning for an SEC Championship for the first time since 2002. Its the exact same situation as 9 years ago, same opponent in Florida, same coach in Billy Donovan, just a different venue as the Tide goes to the O-Dome in Gainesville instead of Coleman Coliseum. Antoine Pettway's lay up at the buzzer beat the Gators on that February afternoon 65-64 setting off a wild frenzy in Tuscaloosa.

Now the same opportunity presents itself on Tuesday, with Dick Vitale and ESPN U televising the contest. Alabama will be a decided underdog in this game. There is no way they can compete with the mighty Gators and win in another House of Horrors for the last decade, the O'Conner Center. Of course, there was no way they could compete for an SEC Title and NCAA Berth this year either? But here they are with an opportunity to accomplish both feats in one evening. Let's roll the dice and see what happens....and who wants to bet TV Ted Valentine will officiate the game????

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