State of Alabama basketball: Tide trending up. Auburn, others, not so much

hunter fordAlabama’s basketball team is trending upward as SEC play begins.

Meanwhile, Auburn’s hardwood team is mirroring the mediocrity of its football program.  The other familiar basketball teams from Alabama are not faring too well either.

As of this writing, the Crimson Tide is 11-3 after a 10-3 non-conference effort and a convincing win against Texas A&M to open SEC play.

The Tide can go a long way toward justifying athletic director Bill Battle’s decision to keep head coach Anthony Grant, if it can defeat Tennessee on the road this Saturday.  After that, the Tide plays South Carolina, again on the road, before a date with top-ranked Kentucky in Tuscaloosa.

The game with the Wildcats is an early sell-out.  Fans of the Tide have been sporting “We want Kentucky” signs.  Is there reason for hope?

Alabama went 1-3 against non-conference opponents with name recognition.  It lost 84-74 to Iowa State, 97-84 to Xavier, and 53-52 to Wichita State.  The Tide won a sloppy 56-50 contest with UCLA in Tuscaloosa in late December.

The Tide’s best assets this season may be the senior leadership of guard Levi Randolph and the addition of two transfers who have been very productive so far.

Randolph has been praised by Grant for stepping up his game.

“He’s been our leader and deserves all the success that he has had,” Grant said after the UCLA game.  “It’s always going to be a team game, and a lot of things we are trying to do are team oriented.  But, he’s the first guy to tell you it’s about getting a win.  That’s where he has really stepped up, in his willingness to be vocal and compete on a nightly basis.”

Alabama’s transfers are former Birmingham News 2011 All Metro Player of the Year, Ricky Tarrant, a Pleasant Grove native who transferred from Tulane, and Michael Kessons, a product of Switzerland’s Longwood University.

Tarrant, a 6-2 guard, garnered SEC Player of the Week honors after the UCLA game.  Kessons, a 6-9 forward has added rebounding skills and outside shooting ability.  Guard Retin Obasohan has proved to be a valuable player coming off the bench.

The Tide’s current RPI rating is 34th in the nation according to ESPN.  To make the Big Dance this year, Alabama will have to do something that it has struggled to do in Grant’s tenure… win SEC games on the road.  If the Tide can get to 20-plus wins and avoid a poor showing in the SEC Tournament, an NCAA bid is possible if not probable.

AUBURN

New head coach Bruce Pearl has energized the barnyard with his colorful personality.  However, his clowning hasn’t helped on the court.  The Tigers are off to an 8-6 start with a loss to Vanderbilt to begin conference play.

Auburn did beat Xavier 89-88 in double overtime.  But Pearl’s squad also has a 58-54 loss to Coastal Carolina, and a 53-35 loss to Tulsa on its resume’.

The Tigers should be happy if they squeak out an NIT bid.

UAB

The Blazers hoopsters are making a case that the wrong UAB athletic program was given the pink slip.  UAB is 5-9.   It would have 10 losses, but an exhibition loss to UNC-Pembroke doesn’t count.

The good news for UAB is that it won its first conference game, on the road against Middle Tennessee.

The bad news is it won its first conference game against Middle Tennessee.  Conference USA no longer boasts programs like Cincinnati, Louisville, Memphis, or Marquette.   Besides the MTSU Blue Raiders, UAB will be competing against Florida Atlantic, Florida International, North Texas and other no-names.  Old Dominion has some basketball tradition, but C-USA is a shell of its former self.

With the loss of football, UAB is probably getting blackballed from the watered-down C-USA anyway.

The Blazers need to consider joining an Upwards league next year, everybody wins!Can Alabama win championships at this game again?

OTHER STATE TEAMS

Troy has a nice new arena.  It hosted Ole Miss.  It lost.  The Trojans are 6-6 and look to continue that trend.

South Alabama was once a relevant basketball program, now sitting at 3-10.  The Jaguars football team made a bowl game this year though.

Birmingham Southern, a former NAIA national championship program that made an attempt at NCAA, D-I competition, is currently 7-4 in Division III play.

Samford is 7-10 overall and 0-4 in conference play.

Besides the Crimson Tide, the state of Alabama’s best bet to have a team in the NCAA Tournament may lie with the Alabama State Hornets.  The Hornets have made the Dance before by winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference.  ASU is currently 6-5 overall and 2-0 in SWAC play.

16 Comments

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  1. 1
    nope

    I’m heading to UT this weekend for the game. I’ve never been to a b-ball game at UT. I can’t wait. Roll Tide.

  2. 2
    Hunter Ford

    Nope:

    Have a safe trip and give us a report back on your observations. The season looks promising for Tide, but on the road at UT should be tough.

    • 3
      nope

      Great trip, fun crowd, but wow.

      At least half a dozen UT fans I met (sometimes they introduced themselves I think just to tell me this) wanted to make sure I knew about Butch Jones and Tennessee’s football recruiting.

      At a basketball game.

      It was weird. It had a bit of “little brother” to it, but maybe that’s just a natural side effect of the winningest opponent of Alabama’s finally starting to get good news in football. I won’t go off-topic any more than that, it just kinda struck me as odd. I didn’t tell any of them anything about Alabama’s recruiting.

      I’m not a basketball fan. I’m not a baseball fan. But for years I’ve gone to Alabama basketball and baseball games. I’d never been to a basketball game in Knoxville.

      I know I’m supposed to hate UT. I don’t know why I don’t, at least not any more than anyone else. I always have a fun time in Knoxville.

      Then again, I’ve never once left Knoxville without a win.

      Roll Tide.

  3. 6
    finebammer

    @Tenney
    @USCe
    UK
    @Arky
    Auburn
    UF
    @UK

    Hunter, i wouldnt be getting myself worked up about this team. look at the next seven games. keep in mind Grant hasnt beat anyone OOC that will get them in the tournament. of these next seven critical games Grant must win 2 of the four road games and UK or UF at home. Grant hasnt shown himself able to out-coach name coaches. this isn’t suddenly going to change.

    this team has some player upgrades. but nothing has been done to the staff. and trust me, Bill Battle could care less.

    • 8
      Hunter Ford

      Finebammer,

      I am cautiously optimistic. The next seven games are tough. I’m hoping we can win at least three of those.

      If we can beat Tenn and get some road confidence, perhaps this can be a special season. And we should beat Auburn.

      The question is, as a fan, do you hope for a season that will extend the Grant era, or hope for a fresh start next season?

      Not very sporting or loyal to not wish for success. How long will Battle stay around? Perhaps he doesn’t want the burden of making a new hire and will let his successor deal with Grant????

      Anyway, today’s basketball game is pretty important for this season. RTR

  4. 11
    finebammer

    this is setting up for another chance to perform for the home crowd Saturday. the game is a sellout.

    you can bet your ass Battle will be there for this one.

    no pressure.

    • 12
      Hunter Ford

      Tide needs to avoid laying an egg against So. Carolina.

      But today was a great win! But please score some more points in the paint! I saw one of our players grab a rebound today and dribble out of the lane without even sniffing for the goal…. basic YMCA coaching…. take it to the hoop son!

      Good win though tuff D! NICE

    • 13
      Hunter Ford

      The game tonight against So Carolina is not make or break for Alabama However, if Alabama wins and goes 3-0 in SEC it will set up a huge TV event for Tide and Wildcats RTR

  5. 14
    Jeff

    Bill Battle should have met Grant at the airport to fire him like the USC AD did to Kiffin! To take a TO w 10 seconds and draw up such a horrible inbounds play leaves me speechless! Grant should have been fired last year…he is garbage!!!

    • 15
      nope

      A one-score, last-moment loss against a relatively talented basketball team makes Coach Grant garbage?

      Basketball, like baseball, is a game of errors. Good grief.

  6. 16
    Hunter Ford

    South Carolina has good team and it’s back was against the wall with an 0-2 record in SEC play. I did not expect Alabama to win this game on the road.

    A win over Kentucky Saturday should probably not be expected. Wildcats are simply too big and they seem to have woken up a bit more since the OT scare at TAMU

    Alabama has a strong chance to make the NCAA tourney if it can win home games and road games against the teams it matches up well with.

    I would say Alabama is capable of beating most other SEC teams at home and is capable of winning at least a good portion of its remaining away games.

    It will take an inspired effort to beat Kentucky no matter where the game I played.

    This Saturday is a huge opportunity for the Tide.

    Tide’s next five games are all difficult

    Kentucky at home
    @ Arkansas
    Auburn at home
    Fla at home
    Then, a second game vs Kentucky in Lexington

    If the Tide can at least pick up wins against Auburn and Fla it will have the chance to finish the SEC season strong and make a run for the Big Dance

    We will see

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