Well this past weekend was just full of utter disappointment. We all know what happened Saturday night in Auburn, but the Crimson Tide basketball team suffered a heartbreaking loss Friday night as well. I really don't feel like talking about either one of those games, honestly. Just know that the Alabama basketball team had multiple opportunities to pull off a nice win on a neutral court, but will instead return to Coleman Wednesday night sitting at 3-3, and still in need of a good win.
With that being said, Anthony Grant's squad has shown a lot of promise so far, and it's still very early in the year. The calendar just flipped to December, and Alabama still has games against USF, Xavier, Wichita State, and UCLA before conference play begins. But before the Tide can get ready for those matchups, Alabama has business to take care of against UNF. The Ospreys are 5-4 on the year, and for the most part, have looked totally mediocre across the board. There really is no reason for Alabama to lose this game, though UNF did give Florida a bit of a fight in their season opener.
The Ospreys distribute playing time pretty liberally, as 10 players average at least 14 minutes per game. In the backcourt, UNF is led by a trio of underclassmen guards. Freshmen Dallas Moore (11.3 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 2.8 APG) and Sean Brennan (8.5 PPG, 3 APG) have added some quality value to the Ospreys this season. Brennan has only played in two games, but he has made an immediate impact. 6'8 Sophomore Beau Beech (10.9 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.9 SPG, 0.5 BPG) does a little bit of everything and leads the team in minutes this season. Junior Guards Jalen Nesbitt (7 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 2.6 APG) and Devin Wilson (3.4 PPG, 1.4 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.3 SPG) add experience and depth off of the bench.
In the frontcourt, the Ospreys main scoring comes from 6'6 Senior F Travis Wallace (12.5 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 0.8 BPG) who also leads the team in rebounds, and is the main force on an otherwise average frontcourt. Another 6'6 Senior F Charles McRoy (7.4 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 2.3 APG) plays a big chunk of time in the frontcourt, and is a solid role player for the Ospreys. 6'7 Freshman F Chris Davenport (6.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.5 APG) is the future for UNF down in the post, and he already plays pretty solid defense. UNF has a 6'11 C that reminds me a lot of Carl Engstrom, in Romelo Banks (6.5 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1 BPG). Banks averages only 2.1 RPG on 14.4 MPG, despite being the tallest guy on the court most of the time, and has yet to record an assist all season. He is clearly a work in progress, but his size always gives coaches something to think about. Finally, 6'7 Sophomore F BaeBae Daniels (5.6 PPG, 3.6 RPG) is another candidate for best name in college basketball, and provides relief off of the bench.
What To Watch For
1. How Alabama Responds. Thanksgiving Week was not kind to Alabama sports. The basketball team needs to bounce back from the losses to Duke and Drexel, both games where the Tide had ample opportunities to come away with a victory. It will be very interesting to see how the team rallies in this game against an inferior team.
2. Balance. In the first six games of the season, Alabama has played pretty evenly in both offensive and defensive efficiency. According to sports-reference.com, the Crimson Tide rank 113th in the country in Offensive Rating, and 120th in Defensive Rating. These measures are found simply by determining the amount of points per 100 possessions that Alabama has scored and given up, respectively. As you can see, Alabama finds themselves in the top 120 out of 351 total teams in both categories. It's still early in the year, but so far Alabama has shown equal competence on both sides of the ball.
Three Keys To Victory
1. Nick Jacobs. Jacobs has really started to shoulder a much bigger load offensively in the last two games, and hopefully this trend will continue. Against a group of players that are pretty mediocre-to-average defenders, Jacobs needs to continue to assert himself. Another 20 point performance from the big guy, especially at the clip that he has been converting shots, will ease any nerves towards this game.
2. Turnovers. The biggest weakness that this UNF team has its inability to take care of the basketball. The Ospreys rank 336th in the country in holding onto the basketball, and Alabama is quite good at forcing turnovers. This is an area that should lead Alabama to pulling away with an easy win, no matter how the shots are falling.
3. SOMEBODY (Metaphorically) REBOUND. As I have stated multiple times now, Alabama really needs to put their past mistakes and missed opportunities behind them. If Alabama rebounds from a pair of disappointing losses with high energy and good focus, the Tide will win this game easily. Just don't sleepwalk through this game guys.
Alabama is a much better team than North Florida, plain and simple. As long as the Crimson Tide play their game and keep their focus, this should be an easy win that helps set Alabama up for a tough road test at South Florida on Saturday. The game starts at 7:00 pm CST and will be televised by CSS, and possibly some other smaller networks (check your local listings).