Thursday, December 22, 2011

Alabama Basketball....Calm Down Grasshopper...

Doom and Gloom.


They'll underachieve like usual.

The Chicago Cubs of college basketball.

These have been consistent themes on Alabama Basketball over the past two weeks on sports talk radio throughout the state. What happened to cause all this rapid rampage throughout the Yellowhammer State?

For starters, the Tide rolled to an impressive 7-0 start and pushed towards a top 10 ranking, before falling to Georgetown at the buzzer, a very game Dayton team on the road and the defensive minded Kansas State team in Kansas City, sandwiched around wins over potential NCAA tournament team Detroit and Big 12 foe Oklahoma State.

So now these so called basketball experts throughout the state, started to virtually write off a team that at this same time last year was sitting at 5-6, and then proceeded to go 12-4 in SEC play before being snubbed by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee.

Unfortunately in Alabama, the fans have a football mentality in that the sky is falling, the season is done and over react to a loss on the hardwood. Of course, basketball doesn't work like football and losses here or there, even bad ones in terms of poor opponents or blow outs to good teams often can be over looked with strong, overall performances throughout the season.

And thats exactly where Alabama finds itself today, some impressive wins, one good loss to Georgetown and 2 so-so losses to Dayton & Kansas State on the road, all piling up to an 8-3 record and a #21 RPI. All good enough to get an NCAA Tournament berth.

With two non conference games remaining, Alabama will be at worst 9-4 headed into SEC play or if they get a road win in Atlanta vs Ga. Tech, they'll be 10-3 and in a position where a .500 record in SEC play will get them in the dance.

Of course, all the doom and gloomers will be out in force in the first two weeks of SEC play as 'Bama goes to Georgia, hosts LSU, at Miss St and then plays Vandy & at Kentucky in a 36 hour period. If Alabama comes out of the first 5 at 3-2, they'll be a legit player for the SEC Title again. Any loss though will basically put UA in the NIT, according to some people in this state.

So to all the grasshoppers who are doom and gloom after a loss, calm down and enjoy the season, the tenacious defense Alabama plays, the highlight reel slams of Tony Mitchell, the slashing ability of Trevor Releford, the fundamentally sound post play of JaMychael Green, and the development of Alabama's four talented freshman. And everything else will take care of itself come March.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Antonio McDyess retires....

Until this last recruiting class hauled in by Anthony Grant at Alabama, probably the most heralded recruit prior to 2011 was Antonio McDyess out of Quitman, Mississippi in 1993. The case could be made for Gerald Wallace from Childersburg in 2001 and Mo Williams from Jackson, Mississippi in 2002.

Williams left the Capstone providing an SEC Championship and the school's only #1 ranking while Wallace left UA in a spat with Mark Gottfried. But neither player landed as high of a draft pick as McDyess, who was the overall #2 pick in the 1995 draft going to the LA Clippers and subsequently traded to Denver.

But with today's announcement that Antonio Mcdyess is retiring from the NBA after a 15 year career, its time to reflect on his career. Easily the most important player of the David Hobbs era at Alabama was Antonio McDyess. He was a game changer. In the early '90's, it was unheard of for many players to leave college early for the NBA. After McDyess' first game at Alabama, an inexplicable loss to Chattanooga at home, it was clear that the freshman was a different beast, almost single handily leading Alabama back to victory, with his patented back to the basket turnaround jumper. It was unstoppable and a move that you did not see from freshman.

I remember proclaiming after 1 game, a horrible loss, that McDyess was at best a 3 year player at The Capstone and possibly only two. People laughed that prediction off at the time, a sophomore declaring for the NBA draft??? Virtually unheard of, but this character was of a different breed.

David Hobbs only made the NCAA tournament twice at Alabama, both times it was with McDyess, advancing to the second round with wins over Providence & Penn, then falling in round 2 to #1 Purdue and eventual Final 4 participant Oklahoma State.

McDyess still holds the Alabama record for most points in a single NCAA tournament game, 39 points & 19 rebounds, leading the Tide to a win in Baltimore over the Matt Maloney/Jerome Allen led Penn Quakers. he also still holds the Tide record for most rebounds in an SEC Torunament game against Arkansas in 1995. It was those two games which occurred within 6 days of each other, that propelled McDyess to his eventual Lottery Status in the draft. He single handily kept Alabama in an SEC Tournament Semi-Final game against defending national champ Arkansas with his performance and then avoided the dreaded 5/12 upset by beating Penn, again, basically by himself, in overtime.

Two days later, it was over, all the powerful in your face slams, the face guard to cover the broken noses and cheek bones he played with, fundamentally sound post moves and 3rd row rejections were gone. Its hard to describe greatness when you see it but when you do, you usually recognize it and its only there for a shorter time then expected. Thats what Alabama fans saw in Coleman COlesium for two brief years.

McDyess, to this day, is still one of the nicest, most humble athletes you could meet. Numerous championship bound teams courted his services late in his career because he provided veteran savyness, a good teammate and instant offense off the bench. Unfortunately for him, he was always a year late in signing with Detroit and San Antonio just after they won championships. He always wound up just a little short in his quest to join the likes of fellow Tide star and owner of seven rings Robert Horry, but that does not diminish the career of McDyess.

So before the Gerald Wallaces, Mo Williams and Trevor Lacey's inked their name to play basketball at Alabama, their was another much ballyhooed recruit who is kinda the grandfather of all that hoopla, and is also the most humble too.