After another heartbreak, Alabama looks to end non-conference play with a win at home against the Robert Morris Colonials (5-9). Let's call a spade a spade, Robert Morris is a bad basketball team (and they should feel bad). They shouldn't cause too many issues for the Crimson Tide. But with a string of close losses to really good teams fresh on the players' minds, this could definitely be a trap game. A lot of people remember Robert Morris upsetting Kentucky in the NIT last season. Well, Kentucky beat them by 40 this year. Their defense is truly atrocious, surrendering about 80 PPG. They currently rank outside of the top 330 in Defensive Rating. Their one redeeming quality is that they can shoot the three. Fortunately, Alabama defends the three point shot as well as anyone.
The Colonials have a lot of depth and experience in their backcourt, and it starts with their trio of seniors. Senior G Karvel Anderson (17.5 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.5 BPG) is their star. He shoots very well (49.1% FG% and 45.4% 3P FG%), plays good defense, and is the kind of player that makes everyone else on his team better. Senior G Kavon Stewart (5.7 PPG, 3.7 APG, 1.4 SPG) is quick and athletic, but isn't a very good shooter. Senior G Anthony Myers (5.2 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 4.9 APG) runs the point well, but he isn't a scoring factor whatsoever, shooting a lowly 33% from the floor. Junior G Charles Oliver (6.5 PPG, 1.2 RPG) provides a nice boost scoring off of the bench, though he doesn't do much else. Another Junior G, Desjuan Newton (3.9 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.3 APG, 0.5 SPG), is a good backup player. He is more well-rounded than many of the other guards, and he can shoot from long range as well (42.1% from three). Finally, Junior G David Appolon (2.0 PPG, 1.6 RPG) adds about 10 MPG, but he is definitely of the relief-minutes variety.
In the frontcourt, a trio of solid offensive players play the majority of available minutes. Junior F Lucky Jones (15.2 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.9 SPG) is their other main scorer. He shoots 48.4% from the field and shoots a good 43.5% from beyond the arc. He is also their best free throw shooter, knocking down 83.3% of his shots from the stripe. Freshmen F Jeremiah Worthem (8.8 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.3 APG) has really come on strong as of late. Worthem uses his length (6'6) to create most of his shots, but he can shoot the three decently well. 6'8 Senior F Mike McFadden (8.4 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 0.5 SPG, 0.5 BPG) is the Colonials' big man. He doesn't rebound well, but he does provide a nice, big presence in the post on defense, which is more than what most of their team can say about that side of the floor. McFadden does get into foul trouble a whole lot, which has been a big problem for them. A pair of Sophomore F, Aaron Tate (2.6 PPG, 2.6 RPG) and Stephan Hawkins (1.8 PPG, 2.2 RPG, 0.5 BPG), round out the rotation.
What To Watch For
1. Team Mindset. I've been a part of losing streaks before. They aren't fun, especially when they are all close losses. Alabama is a good basketball team that just doesn't have the ability right now to finish against high quality opponents. The worst thing that the team can do right now is hang their heads and come out flat. A loss in this one would, without any doubt, remove the possibility of an at-large birth. Alabama needs to keep grinding on the court, the wins will come.
2. SEC Prep. With conference play kicking up on January 7th, Alabama needs to wrap up the non-conference slate with a win. Also, since the opponent isn't exactly Goliath, Grant needs to get this team more reps on different sets. Look for this game to be a good barometer of different things that Grant may throw in for SEC play.
Three Keys to Victory
1. Defend the Three. As I said before, hitting three pointers is Robert Morris's strength. They are 37th in the country in 3P% at 39.4%, and they are in the top 10 in three point shots made. Alabama is very good at neutralizing the three point game. The Crimson Tide are 15th in the country in opponent 3P%, limiting them to just 27.6%. This key is obvious, stop the three point game, and Alabama will cruise in this one.
2. Take it to Them on Offense. The Colonials aren't just a terrible defensive team, they also foul a ton. They currently rank 8th in the country in player fouls, having committed 320 total already this season. Alabama has had foul problems this season, and the Tide has only committed 231 total. They have played two more games than us, but regardless, that is a lot of fouling. So Alabama needs to attack on offense. Drive to the lane (they are 314th in the country in blocks anyway) and at the least, draw a foul. Alabama should shoot 30 free throws in this one.
3. Let Trevor Releford Do His Thing. Trevor Releford is far and away (HT to CT4) our best player. He once again proved that against UCLA. It would be best if we gave the ball to him early and often, especially given how good of a free throw shooter he is.
This should be a piece of cake for Alabama. As long as the team doesn't come out flat, Robert Morris shouldn't be able to hang with the Tide. If they get hot from three point land, and we don't defend it well, then there could be some trouble. But this should be an easy win for Alabama to wrap up the non-conference portion of the season. Tip off is set for 4:30 pm CST Saturday, and the game will be televised by CSS.