Sunday, September 9, 2012

Saturday in Reverse....Week 2

Where we're putting the L in John L. Smith...

Hands down, the ULM Warhawks have the upset of the year to this point, with their overtime victory over Arkansas in Little Rock. The Warhawks defeated a 6-6 Alabama team in Nick Saban's first season, but this time it defeated a team considered to be a threat to win the SEC West.

How bad do Hog fans miss Bobby Petrino now with a showdown with #1 Alabama looming? Will this be like 1999 when Mike Dubose's Tide team lost to La. Tech in Birmingham then turned around and beat # 1 Florida in The Swamp? Probably not.

Speaking of missing, has anyone seen Big 10 commissioner Jim Delany? Here is a conference with 2 teams on probation and what is considered to be its other two best teams, Wisconsin and Michigan, have both loss in stunning fashion away from home to Oregon State and Alabama. Add in Penn State's field goal debacle, Nebraska falling to UCLA, Iowa losing to Iowa State, Illinios getting run out of the desert by Arizona State, Purdue losing late to Notre Dame, it was a lost weekend. Also, how does Michigan State and Indiana play road games at Central Michigan and UMass? But everybody still has that sacred cow of a Rose Bowl berth to fight for.

As for Penn State, while everything was centered around the transfer of Silas Redd to USC, the bigger loss was of its kicker transferring to Texas. The Lions outplayed Virginia, but its lack of quality special teams play killed them. Now that losing streak has reached 113.

On to the SEC, which Florida and Georgia won road games in hostile environments to newcomers Texas A & M and Mizzou. Both teams took a step forward towards chasing an eastern division title, which sets up an interesting week 3 match up between the Vols and Gators. As for A & M, looked alot like its 2nd half metldowns from 2011. As for Mizzou, welcome to Big Boy Football my friends.

In the about time department, Mississippi State beat a team not named Ole Miss from the SEC West for the first time in the Dan Mullen era. The Dawgs whipped Auburn in Starkville 28-10 and dropped Gene Chizik's record without Cam Newton to 21-31 and 16-12 at Auburn. The Tigers look bad and the lack of discipline in the program is rearing its ugly head on the field.

Finally, scary situations in the Tulane and Arkansas games yesterday with CPR being administered and players being carted off with head to head contact injuries. Football was almost shut down as a sport many many years ago due to injuries and deaths. With the pending concussion issues in the NFL, a dwindling youth football particpation from concerned parents and incidents like yesterday, the roots of the end of this sport as we know may have already been sowed.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Saturday in Reverse.... Week 1

Week 1 is finished and so are Denard Robinson's Heisman Trophy chances. So let's recap the weekend that was.

First and foremost, the first major blow of the year was administered by the same team the fired the final major blow of the 2011 season, the Alabama Crimson Tide. Recruit, Reload, Dominate your opponent. A recipe for success and once again, the game's best coach made another team quit on national tv, this time, in the first quarter. Things were so bad that when CJ Mosely returned a pick 6 to make it 31-0 in the 2nd quarter, the Tide fans already started the "SEC, SEC, SEC" chant.

Meeechigan was no match for the Tide as Denard Robinson and company had that deer in the headlight look all night. On the anniversary of the Maize & Blues season opening loss to Appalachain State, I don't know which defeat was more embarrassing. Atleast at home, you had a short drive to sulk about this, but this time you have an all day flight or drive back north. Alabama physically whipped the best the Big 10 has to offer and causing Jim Delany more heart ache.

And their is no truth to the rumor that the Legends and Leaders divisions have been renamed Irrelavant and Overrated. It was not a banner weekend for the BIG to say the least, with Ohio coming back to beat Penn State (more on that later), and Michigan State, Wisconsin and Iowa barely escaping defeat against Boise State, Northern Iowa and Northern Illinois.

Of course, the BIG could be the ACC or the Big East. Yes, their was Clemson's win over Auburn in Atlanta, which led to Dabo Swinney and staff screaming through the Georgia Dome tunnel "How about that ACC." I'm sure he was referencing the Tigers beating the Tigers, but then again, a #14 Clemson should beat an unranked Auburn. I also assume he was not referencing Maryalnd's stellar 7-6 comeback win over William and Mary or Pittsburgh's loss to Youngstown State. And who claims Pitt's collapse, the Big East or do they pass it on to the ACC along with Syracuse's secondary???

Another big winner was Notre Dame. No, the Irish are not back by beating Navy, but physically they looked better then they have in years. Now will that translate into wins over a USC, Oklahoma or Michigan State remains to be seen. But other games that might have been more difficult, such as Michigan, look much more winnable that before.

Winners of the I don't want to hear about schedule strength in December because a 1 loss SEC team is ahead of an undefeated team awards go to Oklahoma State and Florida State. Really, Savannah State??? It could have been worse than the 84-0 score and OSU covered the 67.5 point spread. And FSU pounding Murray State??? Same goes for you too when you run through the ACC and beat a mediocre Florida team.

Speaking of Florida and the SEC East, who is the front runner based on Week 1? Yes I know Kentucky hasn't played yet, but they're horrible. S.Carolina barely beat Vandy and in typical Vandy fashion, they snatched defeat from the jaws of victory at home vs a ranked opponent. Missouri won against a nobody, UGa struggled with Buffalo, and know it wasn't the Bills but instead a MAC school, as did Florida against Bowling Green. Hands down, the Tennessee Vols, yes those Vols, had the most impressive performance of the weekend.

And finally Penn State, they lost to Frank Solich and the Tyler Tettleton (who must of ate Fruit Loops for pregame meal) Ohio Bobcats and had over 10,000 empty seats. That number of empty seats will grow, especially if they should fall to Virginia this week. The Lions, although they are better coached then they were the last few years, have no playmakers on offense and can't over power anyone. The lack of depth showed up in the 4th quarter as Ohio, not Ohio State, marched over 90 yards to put the game away. Trust me, as an Alabama fan, we witnessed these things from 1997-2007 with bad home losses and what is sure to be blowout losses on the road. And this is just the start from the football standpoint. My prediction is that when this probation runs its course, Penn State will never recover as a football power. The Keystone State has the 2nd oldest population in the US behind Florida and doesn't have the jobs or industry to attract younger people into the state. Therefore the gene pool of D-1 football players, that was plentiful in the state from the 1950's-1990's is drying up and will hinder the program from this point forward.

Until next week.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Creighton elbows Tide out of Tournament

Alabama fell in a hard fought contest to Creighton in a typical 8/9 match up Friday in Greensboro. With the loss, the 2011-12 campaign came to an end for Alabama.

Because of the contrasting styles played by each team, Alabama defense vs Creighton's high scoring offense, the team that could enforce its style on the other would have a better chance of winning this contest.

For Alabama, they pretty much achieved the game speed, style and play they were looking for but still came up short vs the Blue Jays. Biggest difference in the game was turnovers, as Alabama only forced 7 the entire game. As a result, it led to very few transition baskets for the Tide.

Remarkably, Alabama built its lead behind timely 3 point shooting from Releford, Lacey and Randolph and briefly held a double-digit lead early in the 2nd half. Unfortunately, they could never extend it past 11 and were clinging to to 4-6 point margin most of the 2nd half.

Leading 50-46 with under 8 minutes to play, 'Bama had an extended drought that saw Creighton push to a 57-50 lead. The Tide would answer behind an Andrew Steele 3 pointer and Green put back. Trailing 58-55, 'Bama go another lay up from Steele setting up the final sequence of events that did not go 'Bama's way.

Now much has been made of the final 8.7 seconds. Alabama rebounded a missed free throw and Trevor Releford was fouled with 4.7 seconds remaining. At that point, 'Bama was going to play for the win and Anthony Grant chose to forgo a the time out. Unfortunately, Creighton switched to a zone and Grant burned a TO with 2.4 seconds left. After another Creighton TO, 'Bama was forced to go from option one which would have been Green and instead to Trevor Releford shooting the three ball to win.

Without question, Releford was hit on the arm and that caused the shot too fall well short of the rim. No foul was called and that was that.

As for the officiating, I felt it was one of the most consistent and well officiated games Alabama played in all year. Their was no ticky tack calls in the post or 30 feet from the basket. Both teams were allowed to play and things were consistent. To that point in the game, the only call that Alabama really had to feel bad about was what looked like a phantom call on Green 80 feet from the basket at the end of the 1st half. But in the final seconds, the refs swallowed their whistles. This did not lose the game for Alabama, but prevented them from having an opportunity to win it.

As for the season, getting bounced in the 1st round is disappointing coming off the 2011 campaign (12-4 in SEC & NIT Finals). Most felt with what was returning for the Tide, anything less then a Sweet 16 spot would be a disappointment. So from that standpoint, this season will be viewed as a disappointment.

But with what transpired in February with the suspensions and such, it looked that halfway through SEC play, their was no shot at an NCAA berth. Anyone who walked out of Coleman Coliseum on Valentine's Night after Florida dismantled the Tide in the 2nd half, had to feel a berth had slipped away. But because the Tide could rebound from that stretch and go dancing for the first time since 2006, you have to consider the season a success.

Reality is Alabama was probably a little over hyped before the season, rising as high as # 12 before falling at the buzzer to Georgetown in December. Typically after that point, Alabama struggled to win against NCAA caliber teams, usually falling just short. A lot of times seasons tend to go that way, you lose a close one early and those close games seem to snowball during the year. Or you find a way to win some close ones early and it breeds confidence in pressure situations for the remainder of the year.

Also when you consider that 4 freshman started most of the season and saw significant minutes, the future is bright for Alabama Basketball. Randolph, Lacey, Cooper and Jacobs all showed signs of brilliance during the season, they also struggled at times like most freshman outside of Lexington do. Releford and Steele return as do the ever developing Carl Engtram and Mousse Gueye in the post. It will be critical for Grant and staff to add some inside players in recruiting to continue to build. Tony Mitchell's status is up in the air for 2013, but this program can't expect him back at this point, although stranger things have happened in the past.

So next year returns all but Jaymichael Green and alot of promise. 'Bama probably will be unranked, which may not be a bad thing. But they will return a better nucleus then they did this season and could be poised for the break out year everyone was expecting in 2012.

Monday, March 12, 2012

'Bama goes dancing for first time since 2006

Even though its a very difficult draw, Alabama will be headed to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006, when they were a Ronald Steele missed 3 pointer away from defeating UCLA and going to the Sweet 16.

Before the 2011-12 campaign, it seemed a given that Alabama would be headed back to the dance, but as things developed during the season, it looked as if what once considered a lock on a berth was going to evaporate into thin air.

But despite the shortcomings, suspensions, etc., Anthony Grant was able to keep this Crimson Ship from sailing off the edge and fight their way into the Field. As a result, Grant has established a new standard for having discipline and still achieving success on the court.

It bolds well for the future of his program, as the Tide only has one senior on the team and unlike Kentucky, they aren't renting players but instead are developing them.

As for the games, the Tide has a tough draw against Creighton, a team that has been ranked in the top 15 for much of the season. They have one of the better scoring offenses in the country, but one of the worst defenses. Alabama, by contrast, is just the opposite. A win on Friday would pit the Tide against North Carolina on Sunday.

So their is nothing easy about this trek, but considering its been 6 years since its last appearance, the Tide will take whatever seed/opponent that are given to them. Besides, the last time 'Bama was in a 8/9 games, Antoine Pettway his a game winning shot, the Tide upset #1 Stanford in Round 2, defeated defending national champ Syracuse in the Sweet 16 advancing to the Elite 8. Se we shall see what happens this time.

Friday, March 9, 2012

'Bama falls short vs Gators

For much of the afternoon Friday, Florida seemed to control Alabama and keep them at distance by hitting timely threes and forcing turnovers. At one point, it looked like we were headed for a repeat of the past two 'Bama-UF games that saw the teams even at the half only to watch the Gators romp to victory in the 2nd half.

Today was a little bit different, which is encouraging for Tide fans. Florida turned a 26-24 halftime lead into a 12 point advantage early in the 2nd half, only to watch Alabama battle back and tie the game at 51-51 and fight the Gators down to the final shot.

Alabama would eventually find themselves down 64-57 with 2:00 remaining, only to scrap back behind free throws from Green and a corner 3 from Trevor Lacey to make it a 2 point game. And when 'Bama forced a turnover in the final minute, the Tide had the ball and a 2 chances to tie in the final seconds, but could not convert on a free throw to tie with 20 seconds remaining or on a 3 by Lacey at the buzzer.

Granted, we're not in to moral victories around here, but Alabama did show resolve that was missing the past two seasons vs the Gators. That is progress for this program, probably not as fast as some would like, but sometimes you have to take a step back to move forward and thats exactly what Anthony Grant has accomplished in the past month at Alabama.

Now the Tide sits and waits for its name to be called on Sunday, and it will. Probably they are looking at a 9-10 seed, which means Round 1 is winnable and Round 2 comes down to match ups. Not many people thought after a Saturday night defeat in Baton Rouge that Alabama would be in a position to make the NCAA Tournament, but they are. Thats a testament to its tough defense and a coaching staff forcing their players to buy in to its style. Because of these things, 'Bama will be able to compete with any team that shows up across from them on the bracket next week.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Balanced Tide Attack Survives and Advances

Led by 15 points from Trevor Lacey, 12 from Jaymichele Green, 10 from Nick Jacobs and 9 each from Trevor Releford and Levi Randolph, Alabama was able to withstand some timely three point shooting from South Carolina to advance in the SEC Tournament.

Clinging to a 2 point lead with under 3 minutes left, the freshman, Mr. Basketball, Trevor Lacey sliced through an overplay on a ball screen for a basket, then provided 'Bama's only made 3 pointer of the game with a top of the key jumper as time was winding down on the shot clock and and moments later added two free throws to cap his own 7 point outburst to provide the difference in the game.

With the win, the Tide avenges its worst loss of the year in Columbia and now gets an opportunity to avenge the St. Valentine's Day Massacre that took place in Coleman Coliseum by playing Florida tomorrow afternoon.

March Basketball is all about survive and advance and thats exactly what Alabama accomplished today. No style points needed, just wins. Another win tomorrow and 'Bama may see its seeding continue to rise.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Tide sleep walks to loss in Oxford

For years Alabama has struggled to win basketball games against Ole Miss in Oxford. Whatever the reason, not ready to play, worst arena in the SEC, 3 hour bus trips, half full arena or in the rare circumstance, a good Ole Miss team, 'Bama rarely wins there.

How bad was it? The football team scored 52 points there compared to the 51 by 'Bama Hoops including a colossal 17 first half points.

But despite how poorly 'Bama played, they were still right in the game and had opportunities to make it a 1 possession game several times up to the last 2 minutes, only to proceed to turn the ball right over. No one play demonstrated this more then Rodney Cooper's steal in the final minutes but over threw a wide open Ben Eblen that would have made it a 55-52 game with under 2:00 left.

The simple truth about Alabama is that they did not play well. They shot poorly, missed front ends of 1 and 1's, only forced 7 turnovers and were severely hurt on offensive rebounds by an athletic Ole Miss team. Having watched the Rebels beat Arkansas on Tuesday and win on Saturday, you have to wonder why they are not better then 18-12.

Simple truth about Alabama is that if their not forcing turnovers and getting out in transition, they still have a hard time scoring. The Auburn game the other night was the same way as yesterday's game. Seven Rebel turnovers and 0 points off of them for the Tide.

Of course, the officiating led by head referee Doug Shows did not help matters as their was no consistency on either end. Guys were getting pounded on the floor in some instances while moments later the most questionable of touch fouls were being called. Ole Miss paraded to the foul line 34 times as this was a replay of the Kentucky game which was officiated by Doug Shows again, as was last Saturday's Miss State game. No coincidence that every 50/50 call in those games went against 'Bama, I guess.

Now its on to NOLA for the SEC Tournament and 'Bama is now a 5 seed and will try to avenge its worst loss of the year vs South Carolina. This is a must win game, as 'Bama can't afford to have 2 losses to the worst team in the SEC on its resume. A win will now have them face Florida, Vandy or UT before a semi final showdown with Big Blue. Could be a short stay in the French quarter, but let's hope not.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

'Bama has a beautiful ugly win vs Little Brother

Let's get defensive people.

Once again, Anthony Grant's defensive minded team held an opponent under 50 points and in the process pulled out its 5th win in a row over Auburn. Its wasn't a pretty win but it was beautiful in the fact that the Tide will now go dancing this March. It was one of Alabama's worst shooting performances of the year, but because 'Bama gets after it on the other end of the floor, they were in a position to secure the win, which is exactly what they did when given the opportunity.

With its win over Auburn, Alabama has secured its first NCAA tournament berth since 2006. Now we're just playing for seeding and depending how this weekend and next plays out, 'Bama could rise to a 7 or 6 seed. Its RPI and strength of schedule numbers are great and its playing its best basketball of the year, winning 7 of their last 9 games.

Wednesday's heroes included....

Andrew Steele, who was struggling from the floor. Had not scored the entire game and then in a span of a few possessions, scored 4 of the games most critical points, helping propel 'Bama to a slim lead. Steele has a high basketball IQ, something that is undervalued in today's game. Because of this he is always making the right play, decision or having a positive affect on the game.

Ben Eblen, who hardly ever plays extended minutes, played what amounted to the last 13 minutes of the game. Eblen's defense changed the flow of the game and even though he wouldn't shoot, he did run the offense and allowed 'Bama to continue to feed the ball inside to Jaymichael Green.

Jaymicahel Green, the much maligned senior in the past few weeks has rebounded and came back strong in the last two wins. His final home game in Coleman delivered a double double and a tip in putback in the final seconds that ended up being the decisive basket.

Now with 'Bama Basketball entering March with a purpose, this could be a very dangerous team in the NCAA Tournament. A win in Oxford vs Ole Miss, a place Alabama has traditionally struggled, could push this team towards a 7 seed. They could go even higher with a semi-final run in the SEC Tournament. Alabama will be in any game they play against any opponent, because they play sound defense. If they are hitting shots like they did vs Miss St, then they can take down any team. If not, the game becomes a low scoring slugfest and they will still be a tough team to beat the next two weekends.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Disciplined Tide Destroys Stansbury's Underachievers

Ladies and Gentleman of the jury, Saturday night proved once and for all that you can do things the right way to be successful.

As evidence, we present to you the 2012 Alabama Crimson Tide Basketball team. Through hardwork, discipline and unselfish play, the Crimson Tide ran its biggest rival in basketball off the hardwood last night in Mississippi State.

In accomplishing this, Alabama all but clinched an NCAA Tournament berth for the first time since 2006 and in the process, may have taught the Bulldogs how to behave all the way to the NIT.

All of the high school basketball coaches in the state of Alabama owe Anthony Grant a big thank you for his blueprint to a successful team. You can force your players to buy in to your program, by doing things the right way, putting the team ahead of me attitude and throwing it in the trash, while in the process still having success and fun.

No one play exhibited the drive, desire and determination in the Alabama Basketball program then when Mississippi State threw another lazy pass into the backcourt. The ball was rolling harmlessly in what would be Alabama's possession as soon as the talented, but lazy Dee Bost touched the ball. Instead of waiting for that to happen, Levi Randolph chased it down, dove on the floor, retrieved the ball, flipped it to Trevor Releford who then passed it ahead leading to another easy Alabama basket and in the process, finishing off the Bulldogs.

There is no denying this is a different Alabama team, one that for the first time in my life, actually has a bench and can play 10 players, something that never happened when Mark Gottfried was coach (how is that working out NC State???). They can play the uptempo pressure defense, creating havoc and when its good shooters are hitting shots, they will be a tough team to beat in the next few weeks, much like the 2004 edition of the Tide that beat #1 Stanford and defending national champ Syracuse on the way to the Elite 8.

As for Miss. State, Rich Stansbury has always had a bunch of thugs playing in Starkvegas and that undsiciplined bunch has become unraveled in the past weeks. The three most talented players on the floor last night were probably Dee Bost, Renaldo Sydney and Arnett Moutltrie, but they were also the three most uncoachable players too. At least the MSU squad didn't get in any fights last night. Maybe they'll save that for an NIT game against NC State. The only reason the game was as close as 17 points was thanks to Doug Shows and Ted Valentine coming up with every concievable questionalble call to stop momentum and trying to keep MSU in the game. Also thought it was coaching genius by Stansbury not to use any of his time outs in the 2nd half while Alabama was putting on 14-1 and 10-1 runs to break the gmae open. Hope he takes those time outs with him all they way to the NIT.

As for 'Bama, the sky is the limit at this point. They are playing their best ball of the season and jelling at the right time. The team is having fun, the freshman four of Levi Randolph, Nick Jacobs, Rodney Cooper and Trevor Lacey have grown up before our eyes. Trevor Releford is unstoppable in the open court. Andrew Steele always plays a smart, under control game. Jamychal Green is back on board and looked great last night. The two seven footers in Gueye and Engstrom are playing sound, defense, knowing their role and providing critical minutes. This is a poised team that is peaking which should make the next few weeks should be a fun ride.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Crimson Rasputins Fight On!

You can't kill Alabama Basketball.

Suspensions... Forget It.

Injuries....You better come stronger then that.

Faced with one adverse situation after another, Alabama has overcome and positioned themselves to secure its first NCAA Tournament Bid since 2006.

Much like Rasputin, who among other things was poisoned and shot, but was found still trying to crawl out of a frozen river even in his last moments, Alabama Basketball finds itself in that Rasputin mode.

Take away its most talented player, big deal. Lose your leading scorer, whatever. Have your prized recruit hurt on the road trailing by double figures in the 1st half, shoulder shrug. Just reinvent your offense, play 4 guards and run Tennessee and Arkansas off the floor. Unreal.

Now the Tide must win its next two home games, vs Mississippi State and Auburn, and they will secure that elusive bid. In the process, hated rival Rick Stansbury and Miss. State could be sent to the NIT with another loss on Saturday to the Tide. How sweet would it be to see Alabama's biggest rival in basketball, Miss State, be sent packing out of the NCAA seed line and into the NIT on Saturday night. At this point, its a very real possibility.

'Bama's pluck and grit vs Arkansas was unreal, trailing 33-21 late in the 1st half, the Tide proceeded to put a run on, jump started by a Rodney Cooper trey that did not end until the 16 minute mark of the 2nd half. A 33-8 run led to a 54-41 lead and allowing 'Bama to seize control of the contest. The Hogs made one run late, cutting things down to 5 in the final 3 minutes, but free throws and solid defense by another freshman, Nick Jacobs sealed the deal in Fayetteville.

Now through all the suspensions, questions and uncertainty, Anthony Grant has come out a winner by standing by his principles and as a result, his program is on the verge of finishing the season on a high note and is positioned for great success in the coming years.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

'Bama squeezes Big Orange

Behind a four guard line up and a suffocating, trapping full court pressure defense, Alabama protected home court and defeated Tennessee on Saturday. Anthony Grant's full court pressure produced 17 turnovers, 15 of which came off steals, leading to transition baskets and fast break opportunities in desperate need of easy baskets.

In the process, 'Bama has given itself another week of meaningful basketball and probably will secure an NCAA berth if they can just win their last two home games vs floundering Mississippi State and Auburn. Throw in a win at Arkansas or Ole Miss, then the Tide will be unquestionably be dancing come March.

Saturday saw the reemergence of Trevor Lacey, the Mr. Basketball phenom who has struggled much of the season, came out attacking the basket, getting to the free throw line and providing an offensive spark.

As for Alabama's MIA stars in Tony Mitchell and Jaymicahel Green, Coach Grant will be meeting with them this week to discuss their futures. 'Bama suddenly is tied for 4th in the SEC, which could give them a first round bye in the SEC Tournament. This ship could still get righted for a long run in March. It could still limp into New Orleans in three weeks and not even make March Madness. The truth is it will probably land somewhere in between, but the possibility of the extreme good or bad is still alive here in late February.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Gators rip 'Bama to shreds in 2nd half

After working to a 26-26 tie at the half, Alabama proceeded to allow to Florida to hit their first 3 shots en route to a 16-0 run that put the Tide away on Tuesday night and in the process, possibly ended any chance for a 2012 NCAA Tournament bid.

The Tide went without a field goal for the first 8+ minutes of the 2nd half while the Gators exploited the inside of the Tide defense, constantly running high ball screens and getting open drives or dishes to the basket.

Now Alabama limps into the last 5 games (literally, Trevor Releford supposedly was using walking canes today), losers of two straight, not sure what the future holds for this current edition of Tide roundball.

Andrew Steele and Trevor Releford returned from suspension, but it wasn't enough to stop the Gators. Jaymicahel Green and Tony Mitchell are still absent and one has to wonder if they are permanently gone. Amazingly Anthony Grant's suspensions have drawn so much national attention and praise that it was a feature story on ESPN's Outside the Lines on Tuesday. Now I'm a huge supporter, fan, of Alabama Basketball and love to talk up the good stuff, but is the rest of the country really intrigued to get such a feature story?? I say probably not, this was probably designed to draw more ratings for a Tuesday Night, Valentine's Game.

So at 5-6 in the SEC and 16-9 overall, Alabama's firm lock on an NCAA Bid has slipped away. A team that seemed destined for atleast a Sweet 16 appearance now is headed towards a bad NIT bid. Amazingly, because UA's strength of schedule and RPI numbers have been strong, they could still probably get in the tournament with just an 8-8 SEC record. On the other hand, do we really need to visit Dayton and lose in a 12/13 game or whatever takes place up there on a Tuesday night???

As for Anthony Grant, he received a standing ovation when he entered Coleman on Tuesday night. The fans support him, he is well liked, he's brought some exciting basketball back to Tuscaloosa and the fans believe he can achieve great things. But alot of questions are swirling as to why in year 3 is Alabama still having these problems with discipline (3 of the 4 are holdovers from the Gottfried regime).

I feel the support for Coach Grant is there, but if this team nosedives down the stretch and they don't make the dance, all the goodwill and energy built off last year's 12-4 SEC record will start to disappear. The fans want to win and they want to win the right way, but are they willing to suffer through losses in what is the third year of Coach Grant's tenure?

Failure to secure an NCAA bid will ramp up the pressure to achieve one in year four in 2013. Failure to go dancing, not even getting into the whole how far can we advance, etc., would probably bring some major pressure from a fan base that is hungry for success.

Of course, the Tide could rebound and make all this speculation a mute point, but time will let the scenarios play out over the coming weeks and year as to where this program is at. Right now, their are alot of questions and very few answers for the current team that is seeing its potential dream season continue to drift away.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Great Expectations turns too Major Disappointment

Its happened again.

It can be used to A). describe the second spree of suspensions for the Alabama Basketball team in less then a week for Trevor Releford, JayMichael Green and Andrew Steele. Of course, Tony Mitchell was suspended prior to the shellacking of Auburn.

B) another suspension of Jaymicahel Green, who was missing for the early part of last season and then returned to finish the last 25+ games of the year

C) typical Alabama Basketball failing to live up to the preseason hype, just like in 1991, 2003, 2007 and we can now add 2012 unless something drastically changes ASAP.

D) All of the above.

Of course, the correct answer is D. I feel bad for Anthony Grant. What could have transpired to force him to suspend his 3 best, remaining players prior to a winnable road game at LSU? Whatever was the problem, you could hear the disappointment in his statements and his voice in the post game interview Saturday night in Baton Rouge.

His team leaders, the upper class man, have let him, his team, his program and its supporters down for whatever transgressions took place. Coach Grant I'm sure is doing what he has to do for the best interest of the program. While he may suffer short term, which ultimately might cost his team a 2012 NCAA Tournament Berth, it may be more beneficial in the long run for the program. Time will bear that out.

Of course, for Green, this is a replay of 2010-11 when he was suspended after the Tide's disastrous trip to the Paradise Jam Tournament. That resulted in 'Bama dropping several early season games, including a blowout loss at Purdue which hindered Alabama come selection Sunday. Now we're seeing a replay of the same situation, only this time its coming in the heart of SEC play and again is hindering 'Bama's chances for an NCAA Tournament berth.

As for 'Bama's great expectations, this is just a constant scenario for Alabama Basketball in underachieving in the last 20 years. 1991 saw Alabama return the likes of Robert Horry with the additions of James Robinson and Latrell Sprewell and watched the Tide rise to a pre season top 10 ranking, only to struggle out of the gate before ultimately being disposed of by Arkansas in the Sweet 16. The 2003 edition sprinted out to a # 1 ranking, only dropping 1 game pre SEC, but then falter to a 7-9 record in SEC play, somehow sneaking into the NCAA's only to get bounced by a bad Indiana team in the 1st round. 2007 watched Alabama rise to # 4 in the country only to suffer injuries to Ronald Steele and fall all the way down to the NIT in a colossal disaster. It was so bad that Kentucky and Alabama played a Thursday, noon tip off game in the SEC Torunament.

So now one has to wonder will any of these four be dressed for Tuesday's ESPN game against Florida? How will the crowd react if any of them show back up or will fan apathy be bad for this team? Its already a Valentine's Night tip off and its early at 6 pm local time, so with the 'Bama Basketball boat taking on water, how is everyone going to react?

Time will again tell the answer to this story and unfortunately at this point, its hard to see this ship getting righted for the remainder of the 2012 season.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

'Bama dismantes Little Brother on the Plains

Despite the absence of its most talented player, Alabama went on the road to Auburn and methodically took apart the Tigers behind an entire team effort.

All signs pointed towards an Alabama loss on this evening. An upstart, much improved Auburn team that had only lost at home to Kentucky, a frenzied crowd desperate for some sort of success against its arch rival in any sport. A Tide team that despite winning two close games at home vs Arkansas and Ole Miss, seemed out of sync for large portions of those games and fell in its previous two road games at Kentucky and South Carolina. Throw in the indefinite suspension of the talented Tony Mitchell, everything pointed to an Auburn win and possibly a blow out.

And after Auburn hits its first 5 shots to lead 10-3 five minutes into the game, it looked like Auburn would roll. But the opposite happened as 'Bama used its team oriented attack to overcome a slow start and dominate its opponent for large stretches of the night. It was the Tigers and Tony Barbee that were undisciplined, getting two technicals for hanging on the rim and a third for arguing an illegal screen call that should be used in every referees teaching clinic videos as to how to properly call an illegal screen.

Jaymichael Green and Trevor Releford did their part to silence the partisan fans, Andrew Steele had his steady, under control game. The Big Swede, Carl Engstrom entered and scored 4 points while shutting down Rob Chubb in the early going allowing Alabama to scrap back into the game. The continued improved play of Charles Hankerson and Rodney Cooper paid dividends as each calmly sank critical threes to answer Auburn baskets and keep the Tigers at distance.

Now the question becomes what about Tony Mitchell? One things for certain, you have to admire Anthony Grant for suspending a player just a day before a road game vs your arch rival and not worrying about the consequences because Grant is putting the program ahead of the player and rightfully so. It happened with Jaymicahel Green last year and he came around. There certainly was no entitled basketball being played by the Tide last night. Whatever the outcome is, it looks as if the ball is in Mitchell's court. He can get with program and possibly salvage his season and career playing with the fire he is capable of, or he can sit back and know that his teammates will scarp and put themselves in a position to play into March without him if need be.

Alabama can still have a great season and with its trademark defense, be a tough out against any big name school come March. If Mitchell can and will buy in, this team could reach the potential of its preseason hype. If not, it can still be a team that goes dancing if it wins its home games or wins some combination of four of its next seven. 'Bama's RPI and strength of schedule numbers are superb and can even get better. All 3 road games at LSU, Arkansas & Ole Miss will be tough to get as will the Florida and Miss. State home games, but 3 wins against those 5 will put 'Bama in the dance, which is all most fans want at this point.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Alabama Survives Double OT with Rebels

The unsung heroes of Alabama Basketball helped save the day for the Crimson Tide again as 'Bama survived a barrage of 3 pointers from a hot shooting Ole Miss squad.

The likes of Andrew Steele and the inspired play of Charles Hankerson, coupled with Nick Jacobs rebounding kept Alabama in a position to win despite their offensive struggles. Hankerson's 10 points in the middle of the 2nd half allowed Alabama to claw back from a 7 point deficit and the win in Coleman was sealed when Steele hit an off balance 19 foot jumper as the shot clock expired in the second overtime to seal the win. Steele also made the right, unselfish play a minute early as 'Bama, nursing a 1 point lead, came up with a Trevor Releford steal which led to a 2 on 1 situation for Steele and Tony Mitchell that produced another high flying dunk and a 3 point lead.

Although he didn't start and rumors were swirling about possible suspensions, Tony Mitchell played inspired defense coming off the bench, produced two highlight reel dunks and a big put back in OT. Couple that with the effort of Jaymichael Green and Trevor Releford, Alabama looked very similar to the team that fans came to enjoy watching last year and the one they wanted to see this year.

Disruptive, pressure defense led to several steals and easy baskets that Alabama definently needed to produce more points on offense.

Now sitting at 4-4 in the SEC, Alabama will get in the NCAA easily at 5-3 down the stretch, but another 4-4 run will lead them to sweating out selection Sunday. This week the Tide goes on the road to Auburn and LSU. Both games are winnable and both games have potential to be disasters. At worst, Alabama needs a split this week before FLorida comes to T-Town for a Valentine's Day game next week.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Alabama Steele's Win vs Arkansas

Alabama limped into its Saturday matinee game vs Arkansas with a four game losing streak, including a loss to lowly South Carolina, and were called out by Anthony Grant in his post game comments.

The result of all that transpired led to a change in the starting line up, with Senior Jaymichael Green coming off the bench and after a sluggish start, led to an inspired effort by 'Bama against an ever improving Arkansas team.

It looks that with the last 3 meetings between the Hogs and the Tide coming right down to the wire, we are finally seeing a return to the days of the 'Bama/Arky rivalry of the early and mid '90's that produced wildly amazing finishes, high quality basketball and exciting games.

The big story for Alabama in the first half was Trevor Releford's ability to split the Arky defense and push 'Bama to a 7 point lead at the half. After some struggles early in the 2nd half, the Hogs gained a 4 point lead and seemed in control. But the inspired play of Andrew Steele, who recorded career highs in four categories, helped scrape out a much needed win for Alabama.

Steele played 29 minutes, scored 11 points and grabbed 6 boards while dishing out 6 assists. Not bad for a guy who a month ago thought his career was over due to concussions. But since Steele has returned, his play has been superb, just like it was last year. He makes winning plays, always seems to be in the right position on either end of the floor and is the added hustle piece that 'Bama seemed to be missing early in the year.

Truly a great turnaround for the Birmingham kid who followed behind the his brother Ronald Steele's legend and had to go through the whole ordeal of his brother/Mark Gottfried issues the ended one of the most exciting players in Alabama Basketball history career prematurely.

Now 'Bama has a week to fix its problems and get ready for an improved Ole Miss team next Saturday night. As stated before, Alabama's schedule is much friendlier from here on out and they probably need 7 more wins to secure an NCAA berth. 8 will make it a no doubt deal, but this team still has potential to do great things. Its a matter of will they be able to put aside the little side show shenanigans and make it work.

Remember it looked really bleak last year, but Anthony Grant stuck to his principles and everybody else joined the ship for the ride. It looks like he's having to go through the same thing again in 2012. Don't count the Tide out just yet.

Another note, any time the SEC Network decides to send Dave Baker and Kara Lawson, or Dave Neal and Kyle Macy to do a game, I suggest you turn the volume to your tv down and turn up the radio broadcast to the best play by play man in the business, Chris Stewart. Much better option as everybody already knows Stewart should be the football play by play guy too.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Its only January, but 'Bama may have wrapped up NIT Bid in Columbia...

Unlike the mole that used to be on Cindy Crawford's face, Alabama's loss to winless in the SEC South Carolina cannot be removed and is gonna stick out on its resume come Selection Sunday. Of course, thats if Alabama can somehow manage to win 8-9 of their remaining 12 SEC games, which is a big if at this point, to even make Selection Sunday matter.

The other USC outworked Alabama on the glass Wednesday night, creating 2nd and 3rd chances, coupled in with tons of unforced turnovers on offense, leading to the dismal display in Columbia.

Now the Tide, after having reached as high as #12 in the rankings, is suddenly sitting on a 4 game losing streak and an unimpressive 13-7 record. Unlike last season, when 'Bama seemed to win every close game, the Tide has faltered down the stretch against Georgetown, Kansas State, Miss State and South Carolina. They were manhandled by Dayton and Vanderbilt and could not cash in on their opportunities to win at Kentucky.

The last minute of the game was a microcosm of 'Bama's problems, from not playing for a quick two for one opportunity to then not calling a time out when the offense broke down that led to a turnover and no shot at the basket. Couple with miss using the fouls they had to give, a defensive break down that looked like Moses had parted the Seas led to a 2 point USC win.

Alabama still has the ability to good things, but right now that all looks like a very long shot. Now Arkansas comes to T-Town on Saturday as two must win home games are on the docket, and its still only January.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Symbolism of Joe Pa's death

It doesn't matter who you are, people are creatures of habit. Whether you want to admit it or not, we like having something constant in our life. Certain things that you can count on a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly basis. Certain things that no matter what trials or tribulations you may face, whatever rocks are thrown on the road to detour your path, their are certain things that are consistent that you know will be there, to give you that sense of comfort. Most times, we don't recognize what these items are until they are gone.

Joe Paterno on the Penn State sidelines is one of those constant things that people always had, no matter what was happening in the world or in one's personal life. And now he is gone.

If you grew up in south central Pennsylvania and were raised Catholic like I was in the 1980's, there are three of these things you could count on. One was that #8, Cal Ripken was going to play shortstop and bat third for the Baltimore Orioles. For 2632 consecutive games, from the time I was in 2nd grade until I finished grad school, he was always there. The second was John Paul II was going to be Pope. He is really the only Pope that an entire generation grew up with. And the third was that Joe Paterno was going to be on the sidelines on a crisp fall Saturday Afternoon in State College leading PSU out of the tunnel.

As most everyone knows, I've never been a PSU fan. If the term was around when I was growing up, I would have been known as a "hater." But that does not mean that one could not respect what Joe Paterno had accomplished, what he stood for or the type of people he produced at PSU.

No matter what one might have happening in their personal or professional lives, through natural disasters or even wars, Joe Paterno was going to be on that sideline on a Saturday. I've been out of high school 20 years and people were talking then about him retiring, but he even outlasted another generation of students and fans.

Now all of that is gone, a passing in time or a reminder of how old some of us are becoming. Much like Bear Bryant, Paterno goes out shortly after his coaching career ended, almost to the day. Two things I've seen in the last two days, that I tend to agree with. One is that Paterno probably died of a broken heart from all thats transpired the last 2 months. The other is that Joe Pa's legacy ultimately is not finished, for better or for worst. Will the 0.01% of his adult life doom the other 99.99% of his life where he did positive things? Time will bear that out...

Free Throw Parade ruins Alabama's upset chances

After being spanked by Vanderbilt on Thursday night, a game Alabama Basketball team limped into a morning tip off at Rupp Arena and battled #2 Kentucky to the final second.

In the end, 'Bama was unable to get a defensive stop that would have positioned them to tie or take the lead at any point in the final 7 minutes in Lexington. Of course, Kentucky did not make make a basket in that span, but instead waltzed to the free throw line to snuff out Alabama's upset chance. Thank you Doug Shows.

On the bright side, Alabama by far may have played one of their best games of the year, if this game had been on a neutral floor or in Tuscaloosa, 'Bama wins by double figures. But in the friendly confines of Rupp Arena, John Calipari does not lose and you have to be great, not good in all phases to beat the 'Cats there.

Other positives were that Trevor Relford and Jaymichael Green each had superb performances and Trevor Lacey continues to show why he was such a highly touted recruit. But Tony Mitchell is still MIA and unless ll the three members of the Crimson version of the Big 3 are clicking against top tier competition, its tough for Alabama to win against those ranked opponents.

Other positives is that Alabama's schedule now gets easier as every game is winnable from here on out, should the Tide duplicate there performance from yesterday. Seven home wins and 2-3 on the road will put an NCAA Berth on the table come March, but should they slip up against a South Carolina this week, then the NIT talk will begin to resurface.

Alabama does not have a bad loss this year, as Georgetown, Kansas State, Miss St and Kentucky are all ranked, Vandy should be ranked and Dayton is leading the Atlantic 10 and will be an NCAA tournament team. The Tide also has wins against a rising Wichita State and 2 ACC Teams, a Big 10 and Big 12 opponent. So 'Bama is still in good position do have a very good season.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Alabama embarrassed by Vandy at home

For the first time in SEC play, Vanderbilt showed why it was a pre season top 15 team by dismantling Alabama in Coleman Coliseum. Its the first time in the 3 years that Anthony Grant has been the head coach at Alabama, that I've actually seen an Alabama team out hustled during a game.

Alabama built an early lead followed, by a huge drought in scoring to end the first half to give the 'Dores a 7 point advantage the intermission. Vandy quickly extended the lead to 13+ and would eventually push the lead to 23. Again we weren't in Memorial Gym, it was Coleman Coliseum.

Alabama was inefficient in the game on the offensive end, showing no continuity. As things spiraled out of control, the team glue stick, Andrew Steele suffered another blow to the head and could have a possible concussion. Add into this mix the questionable officiating led by Tome Eades and Mike Stuart that led to a 29 to 10 free throw disparity, all the ingredients were there for the worst performance of the Anthony Grant era.

As for the officiiating, it did not cost Alabama the game, but it did contribute to the loss. The foul disparity hurt Alabama and it looked as if the officials were trying to bait Jaymicahel Green into a technical foul by getting right in his face after a couple of calls and non calls. Their was also an injury incident that was handled incorrectly on both ends of the floor that hurt Alabama twice. Anthony Grant received a tech and was lucky he was not ejected from the game, which I don't blame him one bit because it was bad. Mike Stuart was part of the same crew that screwed Alabama out of a win in Fayetteville last season.

Another note, the disappearance of Tony Mitchell. He looked injured last night, constatnly holding his left hip/hamstring area throughout the game, but their seems to be no mention of this from the Alabama camp. But right now, #5 is not the same player he was a few weeks back.

But now their is no rest for the weary as the Tide heads to Lexington for an 11 am tip off. Facing the two best teams in the SEC in 36 hours (thanks tv schedule makers) was no easy task before the season, but it looks more daunting even now.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Alabama dismantles LSU, start 2-0 in SEC Play

Using another solid defensive performance, Anthony Grant's hoop squad has gotten out of the gate at 2-0, which is is a great start for the Tide.

Now in the next seven days, Alabama travels to Starkville Saturday, host Vanderbilt and go to Lexington to face # 2 Kentucky in a 36 hour period at the end of the week. This will be Alabama's toughest stretch of the season, should the Tide win just one of the next three, they will be poised for another double figure win total in conference. Two wins will probably put them in contention for an SEC Title, escpecially if they should pull the rabbit out of the hat against Kentucky.

While 'Bama slipped off the national radar after losses to Georgetown, Kansas State and Dayton, it will be tough to find a team that has as three good losses as 'Bama at this point in the season. ESPN college basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb called Alabama the most under the radar team last Saturday. Now he Tide is finding more consistency from downtown, have overcome a shoulder injury to Jaymichael Green (who still doesn't look completely healthy), and have been holding opponents below 60 on a nightly basis.

They might be poised for a top 4 seed come March and a top 20 RPI if things continue on the current path.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Saban Cements Legacy & Alabama's National Title Window

Order Restored.


Hands down, Alabama out worked, out coached, out prepared, out played, out executed LSU on Monday night in the Superdome.

Jim McElwain and Kirby Smart called a masterful game on both sides of the ball as Nick Saban cemented his legacy as not only a great football coach (he already was), but now joins the conversation with the likes of a Bear Bryant, Knute Rockne, Bud Wilkinson, Tom Osborne, and a few others as a bona fide coaching legend, with his 3rd National Title in 9 years.

Alot was at stake in this game, as Les Miles seemed to be gaining the upper hand in the rivalry with Saban, the modern day Bo Schemblechler vs Woody Hayes 10 year war. But for now, its Game, Set and Match for Saban, defeating Miles in his own backyard by simply executing the perfect game.

LSU panicked, from its insistence to run some no huddle offense, to consistently trying with epic failure to run the option or its failure to give Jarret Lee a chance. And they had no answer for Alabama's multiple formations and overloads, which if AJ McCarron connects on a wheel route or a deep pass to two wide open receivers, we're looking at an 42-0 beatdown. It was that bad for LSU.

LSU has always hung its hat on being a power running team, followed by play action pass. But they made no attempt to establish this, thinking they could beat Alabama on an option game that by accident, worked its way into the first contest. LSU's game plan should have mirrored Alabama, pass on first followed by runs on 2nd and short. The LSU coaches failed to give their players the best opportunity to win the game, which is something the Tide did.

Any impartial observer who saw the first meeting in Tuscaloosa on November 5th knew that Alabama controlled the game, moved the football and the LSU could not drive the ball on the Tide. Only Alabama's failure in the kicking game made that game close. This time, it was an NCer, NO CONTEST!

So now Alabama has won a second title in three years, and are really just a Tim Tebow 4th quarter rally, a few missed kicks and 3 busted pass coverages from having played for four National Titles in 4 years or even being 54-0 over that time.

If you look over the course of college football in the past 40 years, its littered with great teams that had 5-10 year runs where they had opportunity to win multiple championships and in some cases had success and in others failed.

The 1970's saw Alabama win three national Titles and also saw them drop one title to Notre Dame. That decade helped make Paul Bryant the legend and great coach he was. 1979-1986 saw Penn State play for 4 national titles and win two, helping shape Joe Paterno's identity. 1983-1992 saw Miami rise from nothing to win 4 national titles and and be just a few plays here or there from possibly winning 6-7 in a decade. Florida State had titles in 1993 and 1999, but also lost 3 titles games to Florida in 1996, Tennessee in 1998 and Oklahoma in 2000. Nebraska cashed in on 3 titles in 4 years from 1994-1997, making Tom Osborne the coach he was. USC had a great run in the early part of the decade and now LSU and Alabama are both still seemingly in that window, which changes legacies and cements legends. Alabama and LSU both fall into that window where for the foreseeable future, both may have opportunities to win another title in the next 2-3 years.

On the other hand, teams that have been in position to win multiple titles but failed, like Pittsburgh from 1977-1982, Bob Stoops and Oklahoma 2000-04, Lou Holtz and Notre Dame 1998-1993, Tennessee and Phil Fulmer from 1998-2001, Jim Tressel and Ohio State from 2002-2007, have seemingly left some hardware on the table and are programs that have struggled or can't regain their footing in the national title perspective.

Thats why last night's game was so important to Alabama and LSU. A loss changes the perceptions of the coaches and program, atleast in the short term. Saban may never win another title, but he has 3 in 9 years while Miles is stuck at one. How different would people view these two men and programs if Saban and Miles were tied 2-2 for BCS Titles or LSU had a 3-1 advantage on the Tide the last 9 years instead of 'Bama having two in three years???

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Why the national championship is more important for Alabama

Alabama must win this rematch vs LSU. Plain and simple, if not the reprecussions could be numerous.

Granted, there will be 2 billion people in India and China who don't care who wins the SEC's Super Bowl, but in America, especially the Deep South, it matters.

Alabama and LSU both struggled for consistency in the 1980's and 1990's (lone exception being Gene Stallings tenure at Alabama). LSU has always been one of the most talent rich states in the country for football players, but it wasn't until Nick Saban arrived in Baton Rouge that did LSU start to emerge as a consistent national power.

Nick Saban built the monstor that is LSU football today, winning a BCS Title in 2003. Conventional wisdom seemed to be that once Saban's player left LSU, current LSU coach Les Miles would struggle to maitin that success, whether its was through poor recruiting or bad in game decisions. When Saban returned to the SEC in 2007 at Alabama, this was expected to be magnified.

But a strange thing has happened as Alabama ascended to the top of the football world in 2009, LSU didn't go away. Les Miles sustained Saban's success at LSU. In fact, they won another title in 2007, barely escaping an undermanned Saban team in Tuscaloosa that year. But in 2008 and 2009, Alabama squaked out wins of LSU. 2010 saw the Tide posied to get back into the BCS Title pictue with a win over LSU, but Miles' gambles and decisons paid off as the Tigers pulled out a win.

This led to Novemeber's footballapalooza in Tuscaloosa in a game which Alabama seemed to control but LSU won in overtime 9-6. So if you're scoring at home, Miles now leads Saban 3-2 in the past 5 years. An LSU win Monday in New Orleans (site of LSU's two other titles in 2003 & 2007) will give Miles a 4-2 edge, his second national title and LSU's thrid in 9 years, meaning the Baton Rouge is the center of the college football universe. It also means Alabama will be staring down the barrel of 4 losses in a row to LSU by having to play in tiger Stadium in 2012.

So the balance of power in the SEC and in college football is at stake, more then just a national title game. Saban and Miles both have great legacies as coaches, but to the winner of this game goes the upper hand and it could go a long way to determining who continues to be the dominant force in the SEC.

As for predictions, I find it hard for Alabama to win this game. LSU is tough to beat in the Superdome and I picked LSU in the first game by 3 and sadly I'm leaning towards LSU in this one. But I do really like the focus that the 'Bama players seem to have this week in the Crescent City. But its hard for me to pick Alabama when they lose so much field position in the kicking game. Which means they will have to rely even more on their defense and have AJ McCarron make some plays like he did in the Florida and Auburn games on the road. 'Bama should be better prepared for Jordan Jefferson's option attack this time around and the wildcard in all of this is Jim McElwian who is headed to Colorado State. UA's offense reached new heights under him and I get the feeling he's going to come out aggressive and firing early on, much like the 2009 SEC Ttle Game.

Alabama 24 LSU 20

Also, if you have no rooting interest in this game, don't hate on Alabama for being in this game but instead you should be hoping they win. Because of what happened in Tuscaloosa on April 27th, the city doesn't even look anything close to what it did after that date. It still provides an eery feeling driving through there even now. If anything, the run by Alabama has brought some much needed diversion over the course of the year to the city and an national championship would also go towards helping the mental and economic psyche of the Tuscaloosa. Roll Tide!

Workmanlike Alabama dismantles Ga. Tech & UGa on te road.

(this will be a game by game or weekly update on Alabama basketball throughout the rest of the year)

Georgia State Champs!!!

Alabama took apart Ga. Tech and Georgia this week in Atlanta and Athens repectively. Niether game was never really in doubt, as Alabama established that they were the better team early on and took care of business.

Tuesday, Tony Mitchell showed why he will be a first round pick giving Atlanta Tide Fans their own version of the Highlight Factory at Phillips Arena. The Swainsboro Ga. native is shooting the rock better from 3 point land and has been the team's most consistent player through the first 15 games (going 12-3).

The return of Jaymicahel Green from shoulder injury helped this week and his injury might have been a blessing in disguise as it forced the group of Rodney Cooper, Trevor Lacey, Nick Jacobs an Levi Randolph to play more minutes and as a whole, Alabama is shooting the ball much better from distance.

The biggest addition in the last week has been Andrew Steele. His play has been superb since coming back from a concussion suffered last season. Steele always makes the right cut, pass, hustle play that seemed be lacking early in the year. When UGa made a run in the 2nd half to cut Alabama's lead to 4, it was Steele who was on the floor, making the correct decisions, getting putbacks and connecting on free throws. He is a more then welcomed addition back on the team.

So now with 'Bama being on the verge of going back into the top 25, they get an ever improving LSU team at home on Wednesday and travel to #15 Miss. State on Saturday. It doesn't get any easier though as 'Bama hosts Vanderbilt and Kentucky next week. If they get out of this sequence at 3-2, you could be looking at another 12 win season in SEC play because as of right now, the second half of the SEC Schedule gets easier.

What can Penn State expect in the post Joe Pa era

As an Alabama fan who has really lived through the entire highs and lows of the post Bear Bryant era (the only games I even remember watching of the Bryant era are the 1982 Penn State and Liberty Bowl games), this is provided as a public service announcement since you have to replace a legendary coach, while dealing with scandal, a divided athletic department and a fragile psyche.

You see, Alabama has had to deal with Bryant's shadow for over a quarter century. I think part of the problems during that time is the Bryant passed away less then a month after coaching his last game and thus there was never a transition period or hearing his opinion on issues over the years, that in some ways may have led to an even greater growing of his legacy.

There were family hires in Ray Perkins, Gene Stallings, Mike Dubose and Mike Shula. There were completely out of the box hirings of Bill Curry and Mike Price. There were hirings of the hot name coach in Dennis Franchione. Then we finally went to find the best coach money can buy mode and hired Nick Saban, who is 47-6 in the last 4 years with his second national title game appearance coming on Monday.

So what can you expect Penn State fans and how long will your struggles last? In no particular order, these are some of the feelings you may have in the next decade or longer an may have already experienced some of them.

1. Disappointment. This comes in many forms, from losing games to inferior competition, to having your university's name involved in scandal to wondering why you can't hire a big time coach.

There already seems to be major disappointment in some camps about the current coaching search and hire. Bottom line is with everything thats happened at PSU and the unknown thats still out there, you stood virtually no chance of getting a proven, established coach. But on the next hire (and yes, there will be a next hire) you will have a better chance of landing a hire profile, established coach.

2. Division. Its already happened with the lettermen, Lavar Arrington and many others who have been outspoken about the hiring process and who has been hired. There is also division within the athletic department and administration that even a blind referee could see.

I'm sure there will be a sense of some unity as next year nears, but that division will seep back in among the fan base at different levels with each bad loss or blown game. Some will stick behind the team and coach, others will desert knowing that the writing is on the wall and you can't win in the current situtation.

3. Stop dragging our name in the mud mode. There will be numerous times your school will be criticized by people who never came within a stone's throw of State College. They will bad mouth you time and again, you will want it to stop but it won't. This is a tough pill to swallow because you love your university and outsiders are criticizing it, but it will hang out there like the elephant in the back of the room.

And with almost certainty, when there is turmoil, the national media will always turn to one person who has experience at PSU to discuss the issues at hand, like it or not he will usually speak poorly even if all of the facts aren't there (I think for PSU it will be Matt Millen). For Alabama, Bill Curry always popped up on the radar with every coaching change, speaking about the Alabama Mafia and a brick through the window incident at every turn. It becomes a broken record, like always counting on seeing a local news story at the post office on April 15th when tax returns are due.

4. Thinking your a national power when your not mode. This one's tough, because you have tradition, but the PA announcer does not say before the game, "Due to Tradition, Penn State will start with a 17-0 lead over Northwestern" before you even kick off. But some fans and others will be in denial of how bad things are, knowing that you are closer to being an also ran program like Ole Miss or Illinois then you are of being elite like an Alabama or LSU right now. So when inexplicable losses happen or over a 5 year period you go 2-3 vs Minnesota, those things are tough to swallow.

5. Poor Recruiting days. If I could offer any advice to Coach O'Brien, forget 2012, start on 2013. This year is lost, it can't be saved. Go focus on 2013 and even 2014. Get out, make yourself seen and known throughout the entire keystone state and the northeast. You must build relationships quickly and focus down the road. Its what Saban did when he came in and Gene Chizik did the same thing. You will force the other schools to keep up or their lazy recruiting will be sniffed out and eventually you will dominate them on the field (see Phill Fulmer and Mark Richt). I bets its been light years since a PSU coach has stepped foot in over 90% of the high schools in Pennsylvania. Make it a point to have a coach visit each one, it will help you out in the long run even though we all know most of those schools will never produce a D-1 product, but you will begin the healing process for your university in doing so.

6. Inconsistency mode. For a decade, Alabama would have a losing season, then go to a bowl and year 3 win 10 games and go to a big New Year's Day game. Shula, Franchonie and Dubose all won 10 games in a season, but even an incompetent coach will eventually win 10 games because their is so much support in place that its hard not to half way win at a tradition rich school. Penn State falls into this category, so expect a 10 win season, just don't fall for the foolish contract extensions, make them prove it more then a flash in the pan win over one or two good teams at home.

7. Destruction of property mode. Could be trees, remote controls, furniture, letting out frustrating yells, cursing, slamming of hands against couch, walls or bleachers, kicking items, screaming at family members for no apparent reason, wanting to punch your rival friends out, dreading going to work on Monday. All of these can occur at the unlikeliset moment.

I hope all this helps. Your talking to an individual who sat through losses to La. Monroe, La. Tech, Central Florida, Northern Illinois, Southern Miss and has witnessed giving up first downs on 4th and 19, losing in 5 overtimes, getting ripped apart in SEC road games, losing Orange Bowls on missed extra points, getting beat by your rivals 6 and 7 times in a row.

But I also been there for the SEC titles, the rebirth and hopefully a third national title this week. So its been worth it keeping the season tickets even in the darkest of mements over the past 15 years.

So good luck PSU fans, these dark days will pass Penn State, it might just take several years or a couple of decades, but you'll get through them and come back out on top one day.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

New Year's Day....Please Give it Back to me!!!!

Where did you go New Year's Day??? Why have you left me after all these years???

Please tell me this is just a Mayan made up scheme since its 2012, but where is my Rose Bowl Parade on 3 channels??? Where is the Mummer's Parade walking through the city of Brotherly Love?? Where is Keith Jackson, Brent Mussberger and Vern Lundquist at???

Instead I'm subjected to Dan Dierdorf and Greg Gumbel at a half empty Jets/Dolphins game or Joe Buck and Troy Aikman having a man crush on Cam Newton! This is not the New Year's Day we all know and love.

I understand the BCS caused alot of this, moving games to different nights and so on, but at least I had that afternoon of 3-4 dueling games prior to the Rose Bowl, flipping back and forth eating pork and sauerkraut with hot dogs, but now all I get is NFL and an emptiness wanting my youth back???

This is not the New Year's Day I've lived with for 38 years. I want the Fiesta Bowl noon kick off on NBC, the Citrus Bowl on ABC and the Cotton Bowl, bad weather and all, on CBS. Give the afternoon slot as the sun sets to the Rose Bowl and cap it off with dueling contests between the Sugar and Orange Bowls and force all men to watch one halftime show a year because the wives, girlfriends, grandmothers just loved the Orange Bowl halftime show. Where did you go, why did you disappear???

I want to see Ohio State lose to another SEC team, Dan Marino to lead Pitt to Sugar, Cotton and Fiesta Bowl games and for Joe Paterno to shut down Heisman winner Herschal Walker.

I want to see Boomer Schooner get a 15 yard penalty and cost Oklahoma a game vs Washington, Jamelle Holloway to run the wishbone, the Hurricanes to show up in Fatigues.

I want to see Deaion Sanders stuff out an Auburn rally, Pat Dye to kick a field goal and go for the tie vs Syracuse and for Bo Schemblechler to slam down his headphones.

I want to see Miami get 200 yards in penalties vs Texas in the Cotton Bowl, shoot guns off after they score a touchdown and for George Teague to strip Lamar Thomas on a play that didn't even count.

I want to see Corey Schlesinger stumble through the Orange Bowl turf to paydirt, Tommie Frazier to run through every Gator on the field and for Tom Osborne to go for two.

I want to see Northwestern to make it to Pasadena, Florida State to make their field goal vs Nebraska and Sherman Williams to dance through the Ohio State secondary.

I want to see Jamie Christenson kick the worst looking game winning field goal ever, Iowa to complete a Hail Mary and for drunk LSU fans to terrorize Notre Dame & Illinois fans in New Orleans.

I want to see Georgia comeback against Purdue, for Steve Spurrier to dominate rematches and Ron Dayne run through a Pac 10 defense.

I want those good times and memories back and new ones to be created to take their place, on New Year's Day. Where did you New Year's Day, I want you to comeback, be important again, not just any other Sunday or day on the calender. Please!!!