In the doldrums that post-football season brings, Alabama basketball has turned out to be a pleasant surprise.
Let’s face it, basketball in the south (outside of the state of Kentucky) is little more than an appetizer to the main course. If this were Chili’s, basketball would be the Texas Cheese Fries; baseball would be Southwestern Egg Rolls.
But this year’s cheese fries are an impressive bunch. Smothering, relentless defense defines this team, not unlike the brand of ball once employed by Nolan Richardson’s Razorback teams.
Bama’s overall record isn’t that impressive, standing currently at 13-7. In fact, when they began league play they were only 8-6. But it’s what they’ve become in league play that makes this team’s evolution fun to watch.
I have to admit, when the Tide dropped a 50-49 contest to the Peacocks of St. Peter’s early in the season, I threw in the early towel.
But the difference in this team and…well…almost every other one since Wimp Sanderson’s scowl adorned the Bama bench, is coaching. Anthony Grant is a fantastic basketball coach, and I predict the investment in him will pay big dividends in the near future.
But like Wimp’s teams, defense is the gateway to success.
In twenty games so far this season, Tide opponents have eclipsed the 60-pt. mark only six times. Bama is 1-5 in those games, the lone win coming over Kentucky. But when the Tide prevents its foe from more than that mark, they are 12-2.
“It’s about players finding their roles, and doing them,” said Grant after the LSU game Saturday. He alluded to players earlier in the year feeling that they had to put up big points, when the secret has really been defense.
As Bama nursed a 26-point lead with under thirty seconds to play Saturday night, and yet still employed the full-court press, I couldn’t help but smile. And as the cameras hit Anthony Grant, so was he. His team is slowly becoming the nightmare he has wanted them to be.
Alabama (13-7, 5-1) now boasts the best record in the SEC, and is a game and a half ahead of Arkansas in the West.
The Tide will be back in action Wednesday with 7:00 p.m. home game against Mississippi State (11-9, 3-3).
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