Thursday, March 31, 2011

Super Fun Season Ends....

"Bama Basketball is not good right now"

Thats the text message I received from a friend while I was at work after Tony Mitchell's jumper rolled out as time expired in a 50-49 loss to St. Peter's on an early November afternoon.

My thoughts on Alabama Basketball ran rampant. Maybe they aren't that good, maybe we don't have the right coach, maybe he can't recruit, maybe St. Peter's is better than advertised, etc., etc.

But at that point, it looked as if my basketball season tickets were going to be worthless again, just keeping my good seats in hope of seeing better days way in the future, rooting for a couple of home upsets to make the trips to T-Town worthwhile as my kids anticapte each night's Taco/Hot Sauce race.

But then things turned around as the calander flipped to 2011 and JaMychal Green returned from suspension, a freshman point guard became the mistro of the fast break, coupled with a return to tenacious defense, Alabama immediately transformed itself into the most enjoyable Crimson Tide Hoops squad I've ever had the pleasure to watch in the last 25 years.

The team played hard every night, to the best of its abilities, maximized its talent despite being undersized and undermanned. A funny thing happened along the way. The fans came out in droves to support this team, to watch them because they gave it their all and by doing so found ways to win games they had no business being in. All of this at a "Football School."

Alabama has a very underrated fan base in basketball. They will sell out Coleman if you give them a reason to come out, they will get large crowds for even meaningless non conference games if their is hope for greater prizes down the road. Even the bitter Mark Gottfried's team, when they had high expectations, drew well for non league games between 2003-2007. The thing is you can't fool the hard core Tide hoops fan. We know good basketball/effort/coaching when we see it and we also know when its bad. The support will be there when the effort is there and thats what happened in 2010-11.

Coleman Coliseum has suddenly become as house of horrors for opponents, as Alabama reeled of a 19-0 home record, in front of 6 sell outs and the loudest crowd (Arkansas) since the 2006 season. Too top this off, the loudest crowd I've heard since the 2002 SEC Title game vs Florida came to Coleman to watch 'Bama dismantle a very athletic Miami team to clinch a trip to NYC.

With a highly touted incoming recruiting class that will bring some much needed outside shooting, the return of Mitchell, Green and Trevor Releford, an energized fan base, a great coach, the stage is set for even better things for Alabama Hoops. The senior class of Junkyard Dog Chris Hines, Senario Hillman and Charvez Davis will be missed but not forgotten. Undoubtedly Coach Grant is going to win championships and they're going to built off the back of the memorable team and season.

As my 6 year old son said after a Tony Mitchell dunk tonight, "thats what I'm talking about!" Pretty soon, the rest of the basketball world will be talking about Alabama Basketball too...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tide advnces in NYC

Despite the fact that its best player was on the bench for most of the 2nd half due to foul issues, Alabama found a way to grind out a win over Colorado in the NIT Semi-Finals. Trevor Relford's 13 point, 6 assist, 4 steal night was capped with his game winning lay up with 12 seconds remaining in a 62-61 thriller at Madison Square Garden.

Now the Tide faces an impressive Wichita State team in the FInals, with a chance for this program to win a basketball championship. Granted, its not the NCAA as many pundits will point out, but it could be a stepping stone to bigger and better things.

Before UConn became a basketball power house in the last 20 years, Jim Calhoun had to work his program through the NIT in the late '80's before becoming a perennial regular in the NCAA Tournament. Even then, that program suffered numerous disappointments before finally reaching a Final 4 in 1999 and then winning two national titles in a 5 year span.

I'm not saying Alabama is going to accomplish that type of success, but in order to achieve bigger and better things, a foundation has to be laid somewhere and it looks like its been paved on the way to New York and being firmly cemented in the World's Most Famous Arena.

A basketball championship, even the NIT, would be no small step for this program. It would be a great accomplishment for this band of overachivers. If VCU's run to the Final 4 is a possible sign of things to come (the top 5 players on that team were recruited by Grant), then bright days could be ahead for Alabama basketball and SEC Basketball in general. With stongholds Kentucky and Florida, a rising UGA and 'Bama programs, coupled with now competent coaches at Auburn and Arkansas in the mix, the SEC could very easily become one of the the top 2-3 conferences on the hardwood in the near future.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Tide rolls into Madison Square Garden and the Big Apple

Tuesday night's NIT Semi-Finals get under way with Washington State and Wichita State meeting in the opener followed by Alabama vs Colorado. I'm not going to pretend to know a whole lot about these possible opponents for the Tide other then a few glimpses of action I watched during the post season.

I did watch the majority of the Wichita State-Nebraska game the other week and was thoroughly impressed with the play of the Shockers. They effectively locked down the Huskers, mandhandled them on the defensive end of the floor and much like Alabama, really seemed to feed off the home crowd. It was one of the better defensive performances I watched all year.

As for Washington State, have not really seen them play other then a few seconds vs Northwestern. Colorado does have strong guard play and should present problems for Alabama. I expect a very close game and if Alabama stays out of foul trouble, they will have a good chance to win. The Buffs did lose to UGA in Athens, but that was the first game of the year. Expect CU Alum Chauncey Billups to be there in attendance to watch the Buffs.

Another unique perspective of this NIT Final 4 is that no one will have a decided home court advantage. This isn't like a Big East team or a Penn State making a short drive like they did a few years ago to take over the Garden. If anything, I expect Alabama to have a fairly good presence of fans in NYC as its not often that UA Basketball makes a trip up north.

As far as Alabama is concerned, it will be interesting to see how they play on a nuetral floor as they are 1-5 in such circumstances. Alabama has been 2-2 in its last 4 trips to MSG, beating Detroit in the 2001 semi finals before falling to Tulsa in the championship, beating Oklahoma to start the 2002-03 season, losing to Pittsburgh in 2003-04 opener.

This is a huge stage for Alabama, as it is a chance to play for a basketball championship, granted its not the biggest stage, but it is an opportunity that presents itself. Recruits will be watching and its the only college game on tv Tuesday and Thursday. I'm sure Alabama will be all business on this trip and have a great chance to win this entire tournament, which hopefully will be a springboard to bigger and better things next year, much like UNC, UConn and St. John's did after last year's NIT.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Empire State of Mind... 'Bama dismantles Miami

Making the most out of a bad situation. Its a life lesson that most of us could learn to use. Its a point that Anthony Grant has obviously gotten across to his Alabama Basketball team after a disheartening Selction Sunday less then two weeks ago.

It would have been easy for the Tide to pout and sulk about being snubbed by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee and watching the likes of UAB, USC and UGA embarrass themselves last week. They could have complained about being 12-4 (13-5) in the SEC and being left out, or its two wins over torunament bound Georgia in 6 days.

But Grant and company did none of this. Instead they manned up, said this is the hand we've been dealt, let's play it to the best of our abilities. And that Alabama has done with 3 convincing wins in front of national tv audiences on the worldwide leader, high profile recuits and raucus crowds.

Last night's game was simply a great experience in the friendly confines of Coleman Colesium. Spurred on by an extremely boisterous crowd announced at 8,612 (as a frequent vistor of Coleman, I think their were atleast 11,000 their last night, maybe not all paid due to the free student tickets, but their were then 8600 at that game), 'Bama came out with some intense full court pressure defense that punched Miami into an early hole, building a 24-10 lead 9 minutes into the contest.

Thanks to general admission, first come, first serve seating, a loud/younger crowd accounted for the seats near to the court resulting in waves and waves of noise raining down to the court. Despite a nice run by the 'Canes to start the 2nd half and make ita 42-41 game, Alabama never blinked. Poised and patient, the Tide worked the lead back to 15+ in the clsoing moments behind some great defense, steals that led to transition situations where Trevor Releford ochastrated a master piece resulting in lay up/dunk after lay up/dunk.

Also a special mention for Senario Hillman's effort, by far his best offensive game in 2 years for the Senior from Georgia. The all time steals leader in Alabama Basketball History ran the point for crucial moments in the 1st half and had several key baskets when Miami was making their run at the Tide.

Now its on to New York where fellow NCAA snubb Colorado is waiting in what should be a very competitive, down to the wire game. An impressive Wichita State team is on the other side facing Washington State. At this point, whether Alabama wins or loses, they carved out their own unique place in Alabama Basketball History, as an undermanned, hard working but greatly appreciated bunch by the knowledgeable home fans who have come out in force this year to support Alabama Basketball. Thats all the hard core fans want, is a team that gets after it on defense, plays hard, is well coached and reaches its potential which is what this team has done. Do those things and you will be showered with support. Its something that some might argue has been missing in Coleman for nearly 20 years, but now its back.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What kind of team will show up?

Less then 48 hours from the disappointment that was Selection Sunday, Anthony Grant's Alabama Basketball team will play host to the Coastal Carolina Catamounts, a team that won their conference but only has 8 players due to NCAA issues. I'm shocked that a Cliff Ellis run program would ever find itself in trouble with the NCAA.

The big question is what kind of Alabama team is going to show up? A bitterly disappointed, uninspired bunch that can be beaten or will it be the tough hard nosed team thats held opponents to under 60 points a game and finished 16-0 at Coleman Coliseum?

(Just for the record, I did not have a probelm with Alabama missing the tournament, that was until Georgia popped up on the screen as a 10 seed. Basically the last 6 days of the season and head to head competition did not matter this year. The NCAA is saying that UGA must of been a 6/7 seed until they coughed up two games to the Tide in 6 days? As for U Ain't Bama, VCU, USC and Clempson, combined they have the same amount of top 50 wins as the Tide, which is 4!)

One thing that Anthony Grant's team has shown is that they're a resilent bunch, fighting back from a bad trip in November, to finding ways to gut out comeback wins vs Auburn and recovering from a bad 15 minutes of baskeball vs Florida and coming back to beat UGA. So expect Alabama to come out and win this game tonight, but it may not be easy and the Tide can certainly be beaten.

But life isn't about how many times you get knocked down, its about how many times you can knocked and and get back up to fight again. Thats what is facing Alabama tonight.

As for me, I will be unable to attend tonight's contest due to a prior work commitment, the first home game I've missed in 6 weeks. It will be interesting to see what kind of crowd is there because students are away on Spring Break and its an early tip-off at 6 PM local time.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Alabama snubbed, headed to the NIT

Unable to watch the Alabama-Kentucky game on Saturday of the SEC Tournmanet was grinding me to a slow death. Prior commitments prevented me from viewing or listening to the game. But after that performance, coupled with Va. Tech, Penn State and Richmonds wins, I had resigned myself to the fact that Alabama probably wasn't getting "in" the field of 68.

I was fine with Alabama going to the NIT. They've overachieved and were 15 minutes of bad basketball away from winning an SEC Crown. Never in my wildest dreams did I see the Tide going to the dance or even the NIT before the season began.

But all this was before Gene Smith messed up for the second time this week, leaving the likes of Alabama, Va. Tech and Colorado out of the NCAA Tournament in place of UAB, Clemson, USC or VCU. Its really inexplicable to comprehend how this came about. I don't even think UAB or VCU were having viewing parties of the tournament. Even IVY League co-champ Harvard should be in before that group. It makes no sense.

Alabama is what it is. A team that struggled in non-conference, as was anticipated by acute Tide hoops observers. but they went 16-6 in their last 22 games, 4-4 vs the Top 50, finished 12-4 in conference, 2nd in the SEC. Compare that to UAB and Clemson, who did not beat a top 50 team. Their numbers were inflated because UAB played at Duke just to increase its RPI and Clemson played Duke atleast twice, maybe 3 times, nevermind the fact that none of the games were even close. VCU finished 4th in the Cololinal, including 3-5 in their Final 8 games, but winning doesn't count for anything.

As for Georgia, I felt they were a NCAA team, but not ahead of Alabama, after losing to the Tide twice in 6 days, wilting under UA's pressure in a Geogia Dome meltdown. The selection committee basically said winning doesn't matter.

Kudos to Jay Bilas and company for slamming the selection committee. The selection committee is way worst then the BCS fiasco. I guess its all about computers, specifically the RPI. I'm certain this has been the worst week of Gene Smith's professional life, hopefully he doesn't have any trees in his yard.

As for Alabama, its onto the NIT to face the Catamounts of Coastal Carolina and the corrupt Cliff Ellis comes to Tuscaloosa for another beat down. 'Bama has a great chance to get to New York, considering they don't have to leave Coleman Coliseum. I'm sure Anthony Grant will get this team off the deck and come out fighting. Since all seats at Coleman are general admission for the NIT and the students are away at Spring Break, it will be interesting to see what kind of crowds they can generate.

As for the NCAA Tournament, I will be basketball free except for the Temple games, Go Owls!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Alabama the NCAA Test Case..... Again

Alabama Basketball 2011, Please meet the 2001, 2003 and 2006 Crimson Tide hoops teams. Besides wearing the crimson and white, each of these teams will have the distinct opportunity of being a poster child for or against what a team needs to accomplish in order to be a member of March Madness.

In each of the previous 3 situtations, Alabama was one of the last teams in or out of the tournament in the respective years. The 2011 edition of the Tide will find themselves in this same situation again. In each of the previous situtations, unique circumstances surrounding wins, losses and when they happened affected the Tide's tournament future. 2011 will be no different.

2001- In Mark Gottfried's 3rd season, Alabama started 4 sophomores in Erwin Dudley, Terrence Meade, Rod Grizzard and Kenny Walker that would become the foundation of Gottfried's success at The Capstone. The Tide had a relatively light non conference schedule, that saw them race through the non conference season 12-1. The only loss was to Bob Huggin's Cincinnati team, but also included wins over Louisville 100-71, Washington 69-60 and Ohio State 85-67.

But Alabama limped through SEC play, going 8-8 and finished the season 20-9. Included in that .500 campaign was horrendous 4 game losing streak. Alabama split the SEC Tournament, beating Vanderbilt in Nashville and losing to defending national runner up Florida to finish 21-10.

When selection Sunday rolled around, Alabama was no where to be found. The head of the NCAA Selection Committee cited big conference, power six schools for hiding behind a strong conference and building up wins against cupcakes in non-conference play. Alabama was called out by name on CBS on that Sunday evening, becoming the poster child to play tougher non-conference teams. Lesson learned as we shall see.

2003- The Defending SEC Champion opened the year in New York's Madison Square Garden and thrashed Oklahoma 68-62 which sprung the Tide to a 9-0 start and a # 1 ranking. 'Bama finished the non-league schedule at 10-1, which included wins over Ohio State, Xaiver, Providence, St. Bonaventure and a loss to Utah in Salt Lake City.

In SEC play, the Tide limped to a 7-9 league record, only winning 1 road game at Tennessee. Alabama was embarrassed by Vanderbilt at the SEC Tournament and seemed like it had no shot at the NCAA tournament, finishing with a 17-10 record. But Alabama found itself "in" the tournament come selection sunday, and was cited for its tough non-conference schedule.

The line had been drawn in the sand, if you're in a BCS Conference, and you do well against tough competition in non-conference play while making it too .500 in league play, you will make it into the NCAA tournament. Alabama learned a lesson in 2001 and was rewarded in 2003.

2006- 'Bama limped into SEC play, literally, with a 7-5 record, falling to the likes of Memphis, Oklahoma, NC State, Temple and Notre Dame. In its first SEC game, Senior star forward Chuck Davis suffered a season ending injury to fall to 7-6.

But an undermanned team, led by the heroics of Ronald Steele, rallied for wins at Kentucky and against Tennessee and eventual national champion Florida at home to roll to a 10-6 conference record. No SEC team had ever been left out of the Field of 64 when they won 10 SEC games and this edition of the Tide would be no different, earning a 10 seed, beating Marquette before losing to UCLA in a memorable 2nd round game.

Another precedent had been set, if you struggle in non conference play, but play an extremely tough schedule, and then go on to have success in league play, you're going see your name selected on Sunday. The same thing happened to Kentucky in 2008.

2011- That brings us to this season, where Alabama did not have the best non league schedule like they have in the past. Seton Hall, Providence, Iowa and Oklahoma State did not turn out to have good seasons. Couple this in with a loss to St. Peter's (which is in the field) and Purdue, 'Bama is now sweating out Selection Sunday despite going 12-4 in SEC play, including 5-3 vs the SEC East. Alabama is also 4-4 against the Top 50, which is better then most teams that are on the "bubble." No SEC team has ever been left out with such a dominating record. The Tide also played several games without the injured Andrew Steele and the suspended Jaymicahel Green, and finished 16-6 in its last 22 games.

So Alabama is now a test case again. Can a team that struggled in non-conference play, against a relatively weaker schedule, but then dominated in a BCS Conference (SEC, ACC, Pac 10, Big 10, Big 12, Big East) make the Field of 68? Will another precendent be set?? We will find out in the next 24 hours.

But no matter what happens, this has been a fun ride for Anthony Grant's team and the 'Bama fan base, one that won't be forgotten for a long time.

Friday, March 11, 2011

They were dead,,,,,

It was over. 11:53, 7 minutes till midnight, the Crimson Tide Basketball team was in the electric chair, wired up, already given its last meal at the hands of the Georgia Bulldogs. Last rights were administered, Joe Lunardi, Jerry Palm and all the other Bracket Geeks were sitting there as witnesses, waiting for NCAA Chairmen Gene Smith to flip the switch to on when the clock would strike zero, frying Alabama's NCAA Tournament Bubble. The only thing that could save the Tide was a last second call from the governor.

But then it happened, the phone rang, it wasn't the governor, but instead it was Anthony Grant calling a time out as UGA just went up by 14, 48-34 with 7 minutes left. He got in the face of Tony Mitchell and told him to cut off the head of the montsor (UGA's Leslie). The ball went into the post to Jaymichael Green who scored several points at the foul line to work the Tide back into the game. Junkyard Dog Chris Hine's defense helped force turnovers and stops, culminating with Hine's tip in during the final minute to make it a 53-51 game. When Trevor Releford's slashing lay up fell through the nylon with 4 seconds left, Alabama had forced overtime thanks to Mark Fox's last second time out negating a potential winning basket by the Dawgs.

In overtime, it was all Alabama as UGA missed its final 7 shots after Tony Mitchell's 3 pointer broke a 59-59 tie with 2 minutes remaining. Now the Tide, a gassed and tired team, gets to play another road game at the Georgia Dome against Kentucky as its reward.

But the bigger prize is that Anthony Grant has engineered his team to an unprobable NCAA Berth, basically telling all the so called experts to shove it as Alabama marches on in Atlanta and to the national stage next week.

And right now, with the way Alabama plays defense and considering tournmanet games are grind it out affairs that favor this type of team, nobody wants to see this team on the line across from them come Selection Sunday!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

SEC Tournament Predictions

Who will cut down the nets in Atlanta as the SEC Basketball Tournament heads to the Georgia Dome this weekend???

Prediction time, as these picks will not come close to being right!

Game 1- Georgia vs Auburn- The Tigers had UGA on the ropes in Athens before falling in extra time. Expect a low scoring, drag out fight, but the Dawgs will prevail in a close game.

Game 2- Ole Miss vs South Carolina- The other USC is a mess and Ole Miss has decent players, just underachieved in conference play (don't they always). But I like the Rebs to win this game going away

Game 3- Tennessee vs Arkansas- To me, the Vols are a train wreck, they've had no identity the entire year. Arkansas may be in circle the wagons mode as some question whther John Pelphrey's job is on the line. Vols in a close one.

Game 4- Vandy vs LSU- Why play this game, 'Dores in a cakewalk.

Game 5- Georgia vs Alabama- Both teams are playing for their NCAA Tournament lives, with 'Bama coming of a win in Coleman Colesium. This should be a UGA home game, but with Kentucky playing in the same session, 20,000 Wildcat fans will be there to negate that advantage. Tide pulls out another low scoring, drag out fight.

Game 6- Ole Miss vs Kentucky- Nothing like watching a retirement convention take place at a basketball game, but thats what happen the Cat Fans come too town. But it will be a short lived trip as Ole Miss is exploits the UK bench and gets great play from Chris Warren. Rebs, with some clutch free throw shooting in an upset.

Game 7- Tennessee vs Florida- No way Billy Donovan wants to see Bruce Pearl and the Vols this early, but it should make for a great Friday night of basketball. The Gators have been playing their best ball since 2007 and look for them to coninue doing so. Gators in a close game.

Game 8- Vandy vs Mississippi State- The dysfunctional Dogs take the floor Friday night and don't have the discipline to beat Vandy. 'Dores by double figures

Semi-Final Saturday

Ole Miss vs Alabama- A low scoring, grind it out contest is just what the doctor ordered for the Tide as Ole Miss will not get the benefit of the home cooking they received in Oxford. 'Bama wins a close, low scoring affair.

Florida vs Vanderbilt- Florida has too much size and quickness for the 'Dores, Gators by double figures.

Championship Sunday

Alabama vs Florida- The Gators dismantled the Tide in the last 15 minutes in Gainesville, turning a 39-38 lead into a 78-51 rout. Expect more of the same, but not the 27 point margin of victory. Gators win by 10 and cut down the nets!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

NIT bound????

After Alabama's season ending 65-57 win over the Georgia Bulldogs, culminating a 16-0 season in Coleman Coliseum, 2nd year Tide Coach Anthony Grant took the microphone to thank the Crimson Clad fan base for their support during the season, which included 6 sell outs in the last 7 home games.

As a result, Alabama is trying to play themselves back into the NCAA tournament after suffering road losses in Oxford and Gainesville earlier in the week. With Florida's dismantling of Vanderbilt in Nashville, the Tide finished second in the SEC despite a 12-4 record to the 13-3 Gators. Depending on who you listen too, some say the Tide is "in" while others say they have no shot or have to do some work in the SEC Tournament. The lost week in the US Virgin Islands that saw Alabama fall to Seton Hall (who beat Marquette yesterday), Iowa (who beat Purdue yesterday) and St. Peter's could ultimately damage this team, or could be chalked up to just a bad week. Of course, Alabama played without Andrew Steele, who is not a superstar by any means like his brother Ronald, but is a major fixture in this teams success. Jaymichael Green was also suspended for several games, which might of included road trips at Purdue Oklahoma State or Providence, but I can't remeber which games he exactly missed. It will be interesting to see if these items are taken into account.

Personally, I believe Alabama has to win atleast 1 if not 2 games in Atlanta to make it to the NCAA Tournament, which would have them beating either UGA, Tennessee or Auburn on Friday and then facing Kentucky on Semi Final Saturday.

But whatever happens from this point on, you have to live with it. I will take 12-4 in SEC play and an undefeated home season every year. An NIT bid will not be a bad thing because the Tide would probably be a 1 seed and get 3 straight home games if they could advance on the way to New York. Seeing more Tide hoops in person at Coleman would be a decent consolation prize.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Auburn 2011 = Alabama 2010

Ahh yes, admit it. The picture fooled ya. You though this was about football but its not. Its about Alabama and Auburn Basketball!

As the 2011 SEC Basketball season winds down this weekend, one can't help but notice the improved play of Tony Barbee's Auburn squad down the stretch. Although the Tigers have had some embarrassing losses (see: Presbyterian), Barbee's team has played extremely well of late and have become a competitive team.

In this process, the 2011 Auburn Tigers look alot like the 2010 version of Anthony Grant's first year team at The Capstone. Grant's 2010 team played extermely hard, much like Barbee's team does, and showed huge gains throughout the season. It also had some difficult, close losses at home and on the road, but the 'Bama fan base felt they had the right man for the job. I'm sure the Auburn Basketball fans (all four of them) feel the same way about Barbee.

Grant's first team lost 1 point home games to the likes of Florida and Vanderbilt, much like Auburn has dropped close games to Florida and Arkansas at home. 'Bama had a huge non conference win vs Baylor much like Auburn had over Florida State. Grant also saw a huge lead dwindle away on the road at Ole Miss like Auburn did this year in Tuscaloosa. Alabama also fought its way back from huge defecits to beat South Carolina twice late in the 2010 season like Barbee's teams have done against Mississippi State and Ole Miss.

Now that Barbee has a couple of transfers coming in next year (see former Jeff Davis and Texas player Veraz Ward at point guard), the return of a healthy Frankie Sullivan and the addition of a good recruiting class, the Tigers may be poised for a break through season in 2012 like Alabama has had in 2011.

Being the hard core Alabama hoops fan that I am, one may think I would want to see Auburn struggle at basketball, but truth be told its just the opposite. Its good for the sport in a football crazed state when both programs hoops teams are having success. Unfortuantely outside of 2003, when Auburn went to the Sweet 16 before falling to Carmello Anthony's Syracuse squad in Albany, NY and Alabama raced to its only #1 ranking in basketball, neither team has been able to sustain success together at the same time since the 1980's.

As a result, one progam seems to have more success then the other, continuing to render second class status to hoops. When Auburn's been good (1998-2000), Alabama's been terrible. When the Tide's been high (1989-1995, 2001-2006), Auburn's been terrible. Of course, they've both been horrendous together too. But this could all change to a degree. Basketball will never overtake football in the Yellowhammer State, but if Alabama and Auburn could compete for an extended time at a high level on the hardwood, battling for SEC championships and NCAA success at the same time, then basketball would quickly become more relevent.

Its not a guarantee, but for the first time since Wimp Sanderson was in Tuscaloosa and Sonny Smith was on The Plains, its seems like both programs are on the upswing together. Alabama has sold out 6 home games in Coleman Colesium and Auburn invested $90 million in its new arena. All of these factors could lead to extended success under Grant and Barbee, and a renewed interest in basketball in Alabama, which would be a great thing for long time hoops fans in a football crazed state.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Disappointment in Gaiveville....

Alabama's biggest regular season game in 9 years ended with Florida breaking open a 39-38 game with 15 minutes left, and turning it into a 27 point rout. Florida out scored the Tide 39-13 during that torrid stretch, in sealing atleast a tie for the regular season SEC Title.

Alabama could still share a championship by beating Georiga and watching Florida lose to Vandy, but niethr of those are certain to happen. Besides, could anybody rightfully not crown the Gators King of the SEC Hardwood after last night's dismantling?

Anthony Grant's overachieving squad suffered what was undoubtly the largest margin of defeat in an SEC game during the coach's short tenure in Tuscaloosa. Alabama had a deer in the headlights look all night. Despite being tied at 30-30 at the half, it felt like Florida was up 10 or so. One would have thought Alabama could not play any worst in the 2nd half then it did in the first, but it did.

But give credit to Billy Donovan as his team did the same exact turnaround to Georgia one week earlier. The Gators outworked and outplayed the Tide last night.

Now for Alabama, the Tide's bubble probably bursted at the O-Dome, but thats alright too. As stated in this column earlier in the year, this is a flawed team that has no outside shooting (outscored 24-3 beyond the arc last night), essentially a starting 5 and three ofensively challenged players coming off the bench. Despite those limitations, the Tide has overachieved and can finish with an impressive 12-4 record in the SEC play. But it won't be easy as Mark Fox brings in a talented UGA team on Saturday.

Time to see if the Tide can rebound and persevere this week after 3 bad games. Many doubted this bunch before the season, then before SEC play and I'm sure many more are doubting them about coming back and winning this weekend. Should be another sell out in Coleman and its senior day, so we'll see how Grant's bunch responds. I wouldn't bet against them just yet....