11 November 2009
I could go into a deep analysis of the game in an attempt to explain why Alabama didn't look particularly good against Augusta State on Tuesday night. But really, it's easier to just let Coach Grant sum it up...
We've got a ways to go. We've got a team right now that really doesn't understand. They really don't, and we've got to figure some things out. To be honest, I feel like there's too many issues right now to say we can deal with them in the short term. We've got a lot of things we need to address that we've got to change as a basketball team.
Honestly, though, that sounds a lot like some of things that Nick Saban said about the football team during and after his 6-6 first season. The bottom line is that it takes time to rebuild a program. Coach Saban was able to do it in just two seasons. It's likely Coach Grant will take a little longer, simply because it's a hard thing to do.
Tuesday's lackluster win doesn't mean much, to be honest. Teams sometimes play like crap in exhibition games. Syracuse lost to a Division II opponent last week. But the problems with this Alabama basketball team are plenty, and this game showed some of them.
Augusta State forced Alabama to play a half-court game, and Bama simply doesn't have the people to do it. The roster wasn't loaded with inside talent past JaMychal Green, but the loss of Demetrius Jemison to injury, Yamene Coleman to transfer, and Shawn Kemp, Jr. to academics has left Alabama incredibly thin on the inside. The fact that Alabama also lacks a dynamic point guard means that when the Tide is forced into the half court, the Tide will struggle to score.
JaMychal Green has all of the talent in the world, but he simply must learn to avoid silly fouls - even if that means giving up a basket or two on defense. He played just three minutes in the first half, and Bama managed just 27 points. Those two things are directly related.
It didn't help matters that Senario Hillman also committed two silly fouls and played just seven minutes in the first half. These are Bama's only two returning consistent threats, and if they can't stay on the floor, Bama is really going to struggle.
I know this sounds like I'm ready to jump off of the catwalk at Coleman Coliseum, but that's really not the case. There were a few postives in tonight's game - namely that Bama was able to find a way in the second half to do the things neccesdary to win the game. There's not a great deal of solace in being able to do that against a Division II school, but for a team that is still trying to discover its identity... well, that's something.
Coach Grant also had this to say after the game:
Our basketball team is a team that's undersized and under-skilled. The way we're going to win games is to play hard, to play together, to play with a purpose and play with passion, and right now, we really don't understand that as a team. Maybe this is a wake-up call for guys to understand that, at the end of the day, we have a very slim margin of error for us to be successful.
That also sounds a lot like Coach Saban. It also perfectly summed up a game in which Bama was routinely out-hustled, especially in the rebounding game. A look at the box score will tell you that Bama out-rebounded ASU 36-28. But that came mostly on the strength of a solid second half. As late as 12 minutes remaining in the game ASU was leading on the boards. That can't happen against a team that Alabama out-talents.
Augusta State is not a normal Division II school. They played for the national title at that level, and returned all five starters from that squad - all seniors in 2009-10. They run a really disciplined system, and they have guys that are very fluent in that system. That doesn't excuse the closeness of the score, but it does explain why a Bama team still installing its offense and defense might struggle against them.
They dribble the air out of the ball, typically waiting to shoot until the shot clock is under ten seconds. On defense they play a zone defense to save the legs of their seven man rotation. They basically do everything they can to slow the game down and force you to play ugly - they force you to try to force the ball, and then they capitalize on your mistakes. And they'll win a lot of games in their division because of it.
There were times where the Tide looked really good. The first ten minutes of the second half saw Bama extend their one point lead out to 12. Bolstered by a 12-0 run Bama started the second half 10 of 15 from the field. Unfortunately a rash of turnovers combined with a 3 of 15 finish from the field to see the score close to within one possession with a minute to play.
More good news is that Bama was clutch from the free throw line - shooting 10 of 11. I think judging a team's free throw shooting ability based on one game is a bad idea, but it is nicer to see 90.9% over something poor that could have cost the Tide the game. JaMychal Green seems to have improved his free throw shooting a good bit.
The biggest thing that jumps off of the page in looking at the box score is that Bama was very balanced. Of the ten guys that played, only Ben Eblen failed to score, and all recorded a rebound. All but JaMycahel Green also had either an assist, a block, or a steal.
Going down the roster again:
#1 Anthony Brock - 7 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 block, and only 1 turnover in 26 minutes. He's still struggling to find his outside shot, which would have helped against a team that runs a zone defense 99% of the time. He's doing a good job of handling the ball, but needs to become a more consistent scorer.
#2 Mikhail Torrence - 6 points, 7 assists, three rebounds, 1 steal in 25 minutes. Remember what I said about ASU forcing you to force things? Mikhail had seven assists, but balanced that with four turnovers. He also shot just 2 of 8 from the floor. He was a streaky player last year, and Bama really needs him to find some consistency. When he's on, he's very good. He has the ability to get to the basket, to knock down open jump shots, to find open team mates, and to hit foul shots. If Bama is going to win, he's going to have to combine those things on most nights.
#5 Tony Mitchell - 6 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal in 10 minutes. He looked a little better than last week. He showed some of the athleticism that made him a solid high school player, but he still looks like he's trying desperately to figure things out. You can tell that he's still thinking about the game, rather than just playing it. He needs to be better than 2 of 7 from the field. Sadly he spent a good deal of time tonight playing at power forward, which is not where he needs to be. But roster size and foul trouble will make him play there a lot this season. He gets lost a little on defense at times, and I think that's why his minutes were limited.
#10 Ben Eblen - 2 rebounds, 1 assist in 12 minutes. If this team ran a different style of play and had a full 13-man scholarship roster, I think Ben would probably redshirt. He plays good defense, and he really does a nice job of handling the ball. But right now he has no offensive game, and that will be identified quickly by opponents. That means that open shots will be tough to come by for the other four guys on the floor. He's got an assistant coach that had no offensive game as a freshman, either... so hopefully Antoine Pettway can help get him where he needs to go.
#20 - Greg Cage - did not play. I thought we might see him for five minutes or so a game... and we might against teams that are willing to run with Bama. But when a team slows the game down, there aren't going to be minutes for Greg.
#21 Senario Hillman - 7 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 blocks in 19 minutes. He's got to play more minutes. And he's got to play with more energy. The zone defense from ASU looked to completey bumfuzzle Senario, and he spent a great deal of time standing around. He's at his best when he's moving, using his athleticism to get seperation from defenders. That didn't happen much against ASU. For Alabama to win he has to take more than 6 shots. Period. Being on the floor more than 19 minutes will help, but he's got to avoid getting two quick fouls.
#24 Charvez Davis - 8 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block in 21 minutes. He's provided a nice spark off of the bench for two games in a row. He also struggled to hold onto the ball, with three turnovers. He didn't have a great shooting night (3-9), but he also didn't take a bunch of wild shots. He looks like he's a player content to play within the offense and take what's given to him. He'll be a major key to Bama's success, as I expect most teams to go zone against the Tide.
#25 Andrew Steele - 5 points, 1 rebound, 1 assist, 3 blocks in 22 minutes. Andrew is a smart player, and a hustle player, so this should have been a good night for him. But he looks like he's struggling to adjust to the system. He also had three turnovers, which just isn't acceptable for a guy who is not explosive on the offensive end, but in the game to play defense and help run the offense. He did make a big 3-point shot late in the game that gave Bama a little cushion. He showed flashes last year of being aggressive and taking the ball to the basket. I'd like to see that again.
#32 - JaMychal Green - 12 points, 5 rebounds in 19 minutes. Much as was the case with Hillman, he simply has to play more minutes. In his defense, he seemed to get that in the second half, and he played 16 minutes without committing a foul. Zone defenses are going to make it tough for him to get his shots, so he has to maxmize those attempt. He was 5-7, which is a good percentage. But he needs to get more than 7 shots. That's partly on him for being out of the game, and partly on the point guards who need to do a better job of getting him the ball. He had stretches where he lost his aggressiveness on the boards, though some of that could have been an attempt to avoid fouls. He needs to find the happy medium there.
#40 Justin Knox - 6 points, 4 rebounds, 4 blocks in 28 minutes. He played a game high in minutes for Bama, mostly due to foul trouble for Green. And he shot 3-4 from the field. But he was the biggest guy on the floor, every second that he was on the floor, and he managed just four rebounds. ASU did a good job to swatting and slapping at balls to keep them alive, but Justin has to do a better job of boxing out and using his length to keep opponents from getting a hand on the ball. He did show a few back to the basket moves that I haven't seen before. That's the biggest hole in his game, and if he can develop that, he can be a guy who gets more than four good shots in a game.
#44 - Chris Hines - 4 points, 5 rebounds, 1 steal in 18 minutes. A much better game for Chris than he had last week. He still had four turnovers, which gives him nine in two games. But he looked much more assertive and aggressive on the court. He's a bit under-sized for what he'll have to face come SEC time, but h does have good athleticism. He needs to make more use of that and get more than two shots. He made both of the ones that he took, which tells me that he needs to take more.
It's early in the season, and everything is new for these guys. So it's really not much of a shock that they would still have a lot of things to improve on. I think the reason that you can probably sense some frustration from both Coach Grant and yours truly is that Bama got out-hustled tonight. It really shouldn't have come as a huge shock - a team returning five senior starters playing a huge showcase game against a group of guys still trying to figure out a new system while looking ahead to the start of the season.
But from what I can tell, the identity of an Anthony Grant coached team is always going to be that they work hard. This team isn't talented enough, or suited enough to the system, to get by on half-effort. And I'm guessing that's the message they got after the game, and the message they will get at practice on Wednesday.
It is nice to see Coach Grant on the sidelines, though. He's very active on the sidelines, and does a lot of teaching during the course of the game - rather than just yelling at guys who do something wrong. That's not a jab at Mark Gottfried, either, because most coaches spend more time yelling than coaching when the ball is live.
He also showed a bit of moxie with the way he dealt with one of the night's officials, Ted Valentine. Ted's a bit of a showboat, and Coach Grant called him on it after Ted made three straight controversial calls - a phantom hack, a charge, and a carry. Coach Grant didn't throw things, or go nuts with vulgarity. He made a simple remark in Valentine's way, and he got a solid call from Ted on the ensuing possession.
Chances are that Valentine was testing the new coach in an exhibition game, and Coach Grant responded to it well.
The assistants on the bench do a good bit of coaching during the game, as well. John Brannen and Antoine Pettway are very vocal during live game action, and Dan Hipsher does most of his work with guys who are on the bench and during timeouts. The staff seems to have developed a good dynamic very quickly, and that should help this team as they go along.
The biggest thing that this team needs to do right now is buy in to what the coaches are teaching. That's going to be especially tough when the losses start happening - and unfortunately there will probably be more this season than we'd all like. But I think there is enough talent on the team to win enough games to be respectable. Especially if the guys will continue to work at it.
There's an awful lot of improvement that needs to be made. And it's not going to happen between now and Saturday's game. It's going to be a "process". Thankfully there is a man at the helm that seems to be more and more similar to another coach on campus the more I see him work. He's not afraid to to put in the work himself, and he's not afraid to push the guys to put in the work.
It's not going to be a 20-win season. It's not likely to be an NCAA Tournament season, unless some guys buy in to things really quickly. But that doesn't mean that this season won't be important. These guys will have to lay the foundation for the building of the program. They'll probably win a game or two that they aren't supposed to win, and each time that happens, they'll buy in a little more.
If they get the support of the Alabama fan base, it'll make things that much easier for them.
|< Prev||Next >|