Grant returned to VCU’s court for the first time since taking the head coaching job at Alabama in 2009, and he suffered his worst loss ever there, as the Crimson Tide crumbled at the hands of the Rams’ pressure defense in a decisive 73–54 VCU victory. "It’s certainly a hostile environment," Grant said. "I think the biggest thing is they’re an awfully good team." Grant lost only five games at the Siegel Center in his three seasons as VCU’s coach, none by more than nine points. His Crimson Tide team trailed the Rams (7–3) by as many as 26 points in the second half en route to the second-worst loss of Grant’s career. Grant sat quietly on the bench as the second-half clock wound down. There wasn’t much he could do to spur on his players, who couldn’t seem to get anything going against VCU’s pressure defense. "I think with the intensity that they play on the defensive end, they’re as good as any team we’ve seen," Grant said. "It’s a hard prep because of the way they come at you defensively with the press and in the half court."
The scenery has changed since Anthony Grant last coached from the sidelines at Virginia Commonwealth University. That's where Grant spent three years as head coach of the VCU men's basketball team before accepting the job at the University of Alabama. But since then, the program has undergone a makeover. VCU's self-branded "Havoc" defense is now the style and "Havoc lives here" is the slogan, which stretches across a large banner that ripples across the student section before every game. Grant and a depleted Alabama squad quickly found that out Saturday in a 73-54 loss to VCU in front of a raucous sold-out crowd. It was the Alabama's worst loss since a 27-point beatdown at Florida in March 2011. The Tide defeated VCU last season in Tuscaloosa. Saturday, the Tide (6-3) succumbed to the Rams' defensive pressure, turning the ball over a season-high 18 times. "Everything we saw on film was about the same as it was in the game," guard Levi Randolph, who scored 10 points for Alabama, said. Alabama continued its season trend of starting slow and uncoordinated.
"I would rather find out in December what direction we need to go as a basketball team moving forward," Grant said. "When you play teams like this, it gives you a chance to find out who you are and where you have to go as a team."
In Pruitt, there is no doubt that Florida State has signed an excellent recruiter. The doubt remains, however, about his ability as a defensive coordinator, his preferred scheme, tendencies, and ability to put together a defensive coaching staff. And if Pruitt fails, so too does Fisher, and the next coaching administration will take over a loaded roster. For perhaps the only certain thing known about Pruitt is his ability to recruit.
"I just thank God for everything," he said. "It’s been a good year, but I owe everything to God and my teammates. I’m just happy right now." Cook, rated the No. 9 prospect in Alabama and the No. 15 cornerback in the nation by 247Sports, originally committed to Nebraska this summer. However, he had been hoping for an offer from Auburn or Alabama in recent weeks. The 6-foot, 183-pound senior texted Spanish Fort coach Mark Freeman after the Alabama-Mississippi All-Star Classic at Cramton Bowl with the news that he had been offered by Alabama and accepted. "I’m very proud of him," Freeman said. "I am a big fan of Johnny Cook. He’s worked hard since we’ve been here. Alabama is getting a great player and a great person. I’m going to support him whatever he does in life."
"Alabama’s a great football team, and probably more balanced than anybody we’ve seen," said Jim Brandstatter, the analyst on Michigan’s radio crew. "They’re just solid at every position. You look at them and you go, ‘That guy can play. That guy can play. That guy can play. …’" The former Michigan offensive lineman called Notre Dame "a good, solid football team." "They’re good up front; they’ve got good linebackers," Brandstatter said. "But Alabama is so solid and so balanced, they just grind and pound and grind and pound. If they don’t turn the ball over, I just think Alabama is a tough team to beat. The balance on both sides of the ball is a really tall order for anybody."
The interesting thing is Alabama was very physical on offense. Obviously with their huge line, they imposed their will on Michigan. Michigan wasn’t ready for that offensive line even as much as they heard about it. That’s something you can’t simulate, the size and the power of that offensive line. That was maybe the biggest thing Alabama had to contend with in that game. Notre Dame’s defense was good but Michigan did a lot to help them by throwing all of those interceptions and fumbling the ball as well. Michigan was in that game. They gave away five or six possessions on turnovers. They still only lost by a touchdown. They were in that game. They weren’t in the Alabama game. They were kind of shocked early on by Alabama’s physicality on offense and Alabama could have pushed it up more in the second half if they wanted to. They didn’t need to because they had such a dominant lead. The only thing about Alabama -- at least what we saw that day, and they were probably still figuring out some things, too -- was that Alabama was vulnerable to a couple of Michigan’s big plays. Michigan’s a big-play team with Denard Robinson and they’ve done that all year. I don’t know if Alabama has since gotten that under control.