On slow starts in recent games: "We’ve got to do a better job." On stiffer competition that the Tide has faced lately: "The challenging nonconference schedule that we’re playing gives us a chance to figure out some areas that we need to get better and maybe some things that we need to do differently." On his main message to his players: "We’ve got to get better as a basketball team. I say this to the guys a lot: Basketball is a game of habits. When we won six in a row, there some things that winning brings in terms of a confidence level. But there are also some things that get put under the shadows a little bit that you need to get better at … or it’s going to be exposed. We lose three in a row and all of a sudden those things get heightened and maybe some other things that you weren’t away of. The thing I try to tell or guys is that it’s all about getting better. We’re nine games into the season. We’ve got a lot of basketball left to play. We’ve got to get better as a team in lots of different ways."
The Alabama men's basketball team will look to snap a three-game losing streak when it travels to Lubbock, Texas, to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Wednesday at 7 p.m. CT. It will be the final non-conference road game of the season for the Crimson Tide. The contest will be televised on ESPN3 and can also be heard on the Crimson Tide Sports Network, with Chris Stewart and Bryan Passink on the call. "Texas Tech plays similar to VCU from a defensive standpoint," Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said. "They are going to press a lot. I think they are forcing 19 turnovers a game. They play very fast offensively, meaning after a missed shot or made basket, they are going to get the ball down the court fast. We have to be able to be able to take care of the basketball and execute offensively. We also have to get back defensively to prevent them from scoring in transition. It's a similar prep to what we just faced."
Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron will come back next season for his senior year, and Nick Saban said that’s a good decision, even if he had gone high in the NFL draft. "I think AJ’s decision was based on the fact that, with the quarterbacks, if you’re not going to be one of the very, very top picks, one of the first few guys picked in the draft, where they’re going to make an investment of you being the guy, where you’ll develop as the guy, just like a couple of the guys have this year, it’s very difficult to develop because you don’t get to play very much," Saban said. "If you play in college you can certainly have a better chance of improving and enhancing your draft status in the future in how you’re evaluated."
McCarron is hardly Alabama’s only junior to think about leaving early for the NFL. Right tackle D.J. Fluker, inside linebacker C.J. Mosley, cornerback Dee Milliner and even running back Eddie Lacy will have a chance to explore their options before making a decision. "We always have that issue here with several guys," Saban said. "We don’t press guys to make the decision. Some guys are more driven to do it than others. I think everybody’s got their priorities of what’s important. "I think philosophically, we think if a guy’s going to be a first-round draft pick, from a business standpoint, he’s certainly got a decision to make about what he does with his future. But it’s in each and every guy’s heart as to what he would do."
"We're really, really pleased and happy to be here," he said. "We've been able to accomplish a lot. But like I've talked about before, this is a work in progress all the time. You've got to stay focused on the process to try to continue to make the next game the most important game, the next season the most important season, developing the team every year. "We certainly look forward to those challenges." Saban said he's not sure anybody believes what he says, "because I say it all the time." So he said it again: "This is what we're happy doing," Saban said. "This is what we like to do. But nobody really believes that. So, you know, maybe it doesn't matter. "I don't know what I have to say or do, but it's kind of funny to me. "Plus y'all asked the wrong person. Miss Terry makes all the decisions about all this stuff anyway.
When asked about the foot, Jones recited the answer as if he had been asked 1,000 times: "Sprained foot. Going to be fine. Can’t wait to play. How’s that?" In other injury news, nose guard Jesse Williams (knee), receiver Kenny Bell (broken leg) and running back Jalston Fowler (knee) rode exercise bikes during Tuesday’s practice. Running back Dee Hart (knee) and receiver DeAndrew White (knee) did light running. Williams was held out as a precaution, like Jones. Fowler, Hart and White are not available to play against Notre Dame. All three had knee surgeries this season. Bell, however, is a possibility to play, even through he had surgery to repair his broken leg just three weeks ago. "How he does, how he manages, what his tolerance is to activity will be determined as we go," Saban said. "I can’t make a call as to whether he’ll play in the game or not at this juncture."
"My foot is sprained. I'll be playing in the game. I'll be fine," he said. "I'll have this cast on I don't know how much longer, but not much longer. I'll be alright." Jones earned the Rimington Trophy as the nation's top center this season, and was named to several postseason All-America teams since spraining his foot in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game on Dec. 1. His two-week break from practice included a heavy travel schedule due to various awards he was in contention for, but Jones said he was able to maintain his recovery. TIDESPORTS.COM VIDEO "It was challenging. But I did a good job icing it and staying off it and resting it when I wasn't on TV," he added. He is a four-year starter at three different line positions for the Crimson Tide. He was unable to walk across the UA graduation stage Monday upon earning his Master's degree. "It's probably in the mail, I guess," he said. UA coach Nick Saban indicated Jones' recovery would be reassessed following the team's three-day break for the Christmas holiday. "We'll reevaluate what we do with him. Everything we're doing with him right now is kind of precautionary," Saban said. "He's able to do some conditioning drills and things like that. It's day-to-day. We just decided that we're not going to do anything with him until after Christmas, which will give him a little bit more time to sort of recover."
On the process of stressing fundamentals early in postseason preparation: "When we've had a couple of weeks off, you really want to go back and almost reinstall the basics of things we need to do. The things in games like this that are important is tackling, block protection, doing a good job of blocking, being physical, getting your conditioning level back to where it needs to be so that you can sustain. Ball security is always something that we want to have a lot of focus on. This is a really important time, these five practices before Christmas, I think, to get those basic fundamentals down pat."
They’re discounting Orange Bowl tickets by 50 percent at Florida State and giving them away at Northern Illinois. The University of Florida, for all of the professed excitement of its fan base for an unexpected 11-1 season, is lagging far behind Louisville in ticket sales for their Sugar Bowl matchup. Meanwhile, at the Taxslayer.com Gator Bowl, a game between Northwestern and Mississippi State seems to be quickening pulses only in Evanston, Ill., and Starkville, Miss. In Orlando, Georgia fans are bouncing back from the shock and disappointment of losing the SEC championship game and are close to selling out the school’s 12,500-ticket allotment. The Bulldogs’ opponent … not so much. Nebraska is reporting ticket sales of only about 4,000 for its second trip in a row to Orlando. It’s not just the economy or high ticket prices. At issue is the current bowl system, which is leading to tepid matchups in BCS bowls because of the requirement to give non-automatic qualifying conferences access and more questionable games in non-BCS bowls because of the desire of conferences to "protect" their championship game losers. There is still more than two weeks before New Year’s Day, time for schools and bowls to continue with marketing efforts to fans. But there’s no sugar-coating the current reality:
Settled in a nondescript, windowless building on 14th Street, kegs have begun filling up at Tuscaloosa's first production brewery, only to be quickly emptied at several bars around the city. Owned and operated by Bo Hicks and Elliott Roberts, Druid City Brewing Company came to market on Dec. 5 with a pale ale, a wheat beer, and three specialty brews to kick off the fledgling craft brewery with launch parties at four local bars — Egans, Wilhagans, Alcove and Downtown Pub. "The support all around has been surprising," Roberts said. "If you had told me we'd sell a keg out in eight minutes at the Alcove, I would have told you you were crazy."