Releford, Steele "likely" to play against Florida

Anthony Grant announced this afternoon that suspended players Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele are "likely" to play against Florida in Tuesday night's nationally televised showdown on ESPN. Per Don Kausler, Jr., of the Birmingham News:

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Meanwhile, Grant said that star forwards JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell remain "suspended indefinitely".

We know that Tony Mitchell is suspended due to "conduct detrimental to the team"--likely attitude-related based on his on-court demeanor in recent weeks. So his suspension is simply a continuation of the suspension that was already in place before the separate suspension came down for the other three players. This part is pretty cut-and-dry.

We also know that Green was suspended along with Releford and Steele for a single incident that was unrelated to Mitchell's situation. This is going to raise questions about why Releford and Steele are returning while Green remains suspended.

This is where the speculation begins on my part, but speculate I will. The decision to keep Green suspended for a longer time likely has to do with one of the following two reasons. One, it is possible that Releford and Steele have simply done whatever it takes to earn their way back into Grant's good graces more quickly than Green. Two, it is possible that the decision to keep Green suspended longer is simply a matter of "repeat offender status". Remember, Green has been suspended twice during his career (that we know about), while Releford and Steele have never been in any sort of trouble (again, that we know about) and both are generally considered to be leaders on the team and "good kids" by those close to the team.

We can speculate about the reasons, but the fact remains that the Tide will be without its two most talented players on Tuesday night against the SEC's #2 team, and one of the top 15 teams nationally. This means Bama will once again be forced to play, as they were on Saturday at LSU, with only three players over 6'6": true freshman Nick Jacobs, who has scoring ability but is a bit of a liability in rebounding and defense; and 7-foot sophomores Carl Engstrom and Moussa Gueye, neither of whom has even played in most SEC games.

Beating the #12 Gators would have been difficult in the best of circumstances, but beating them with a frontline that thin and that inexperienced will be an immense challenge. This Florida game will have huge implications, too. It's Bama's last chance to get a win over a top-15-caliber team, and it comes at a point in the season where the Tide is still in position for an NCAA bid (#9 seed in ESPN's update today) but where a string of late losses could still slide Bama out of the field. Hopefully Green and Mitchell can return with focus soon, because the Tide simply can't hang with most teams in the post with both of them missing.

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