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.