The basketball season is (kind of) officially underway for the Crimson Tide starting tonight, as Alabama hosts West Georgia in their only exhibition of the year before the regular season kicks off on Friday. The Wolves of West Georgia are a member of the Gulf South Conference in Division II, and are coming off a year that saw them go 9-18 (6-12 in GSC play). The Wolves have already played an exhibition game, having lost to Jacksonville State 65-52 last Thursday. As you can tell, this team is clearly one which we would consider a cupcake, and the game tonight will obviously be much more about Alabama than it is West Georgia.
Anthony Grant's squad is looking to return to the NCAA Tournament after missing out on that last year, but for tonight the focus will be on getting the new guys more acquainted with the system, as well as working on getting better as a team. Levi Randolph has been officially ruled out for tonight's scrimmage, which comes as no surprise considering the context of the game being played. So look for Retin Obasohan and JUCO transfer Algie Key to see bigger minutes in Randolph's absence.
What to Watch For:
1. The new guys. Key combines with freshmen big men PF Shannon Hale and PF Jimmie Taylor to make a new trio of players for the Tide. Obviously, this will be the trio's first game playing with the Tide (not including offseason exhibitions overseas, etc.). Alabama really needs all three of these guys to make a significant contribution to the team this year, as the Tide is down to only 10 scholarship players. The game plan tonight should be very vanilla, but we should still learn a decent amount about how well these guys have learned Grant's system, as well as their overall level of talent.
2. Who steps in for Randolph? The news on Randolph is still murky at best, but we should get an answer tonight regarding who takes over the minutes that Randolph would usually occupy. My guess would be that Obasohan and Key get a chance to shine, but there is an outside shot that Dakota Slaughter, who was given a scholarship this offseason, might also make use of those minutes. Should be interesting to see. With Andrew Steele graduating and Trevor Lacey transferring, we need one of these guys to really breakout.
3. Do they even lift? There has been a lot of noise made around the program over the effects new strength and conditioning coach Lou DeNeen has made on the team. Trevor Releford has lost 10 pounds and Nick Jacobs has lost between 20-25 pounds, and both have seen a lot of praise thrown their way this offseason due to their slimmer bodies. A slimmer Jacobs has me especially excited, as Grant has gone as far as to say that Jacobs has completely transformed physically because of it. Keep your eyes on this as we move forward.
The Crimson Tide will tip off at 7:00 pm tonight, and I don't believe it will be televised anywhere. But if you are in town definitely try to drop by and support the team. Alabama opens the regular season Friday at 4:00 pm against Oklahoma in Dallas.