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.