The walls are crumbling around us, I believe. Fresh off Alabama's worst loss of the season (as far as opponent quality is concerned), Nick Jacobs has now taken an indefinite leave from the team. This means that the Crimson Tide has now lost another player from the program, at least for the time being. I have never seen this kind of unforeseen attrition happen to a college basketball program before: Tony Mitchell, Kendall Durant, Charles Hankerson, Ben Eblen, Moussa Gueye, Trevor Lacey, Devonta Pollard, and now Jacobs too. Honestly, if the athletic department gives two feces about this program I don't see how Anthony Grant can possibly survive this.
Anyway, we turn our attention towards Thursday night and the Texas A&M Aggies (14-11, 5-7 SEC), who aren't exactly having a stellar season themselves. The Aggies actually play very good defense, but goodness gracious that offense has been atrocious. The basketball team is the total opposite of their football team. Billy Kennedy has also found himself on the hot seat, as his three years in College Station have yet to yield a single postseason appearance. Heck, they haven't even had a winning record in conference play any of the years Kennedy has been there.
A&M is led at the point by Sophomore G Alex Caruso (8.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 4.6 APG, 1.9 SPG, 1.0 BPG). Caruso is the Aggies' floor general and he plays well in nearly every facet of the game. But he's not especially good at any one thing. He shoots decently well (43.5% FG%, 32.6% 3P%, 65.8% FT%), has a good assist to turnover ratio (2.5 TOPG), and plays good defense. He's just not much of a game changer.
Junior G Jamal Jones (12.5 PPG, 4.3 RPG, 1.2 APG, 0.8 SPG) is the "scorer" of the team, though I use that term lightly. He only shoots 37.0% from the field. He really is just a high volume scorer, as he uses his good length (6'8) to try and take the ball to the basket. This, of course, also explains why he is a good rebounder. Jones does a lot of his damage after he's taken the ball to the basket and missed the shot. By that I mean that he either draws a foul and knocks down his free throws (79.5% FT%), or he fights for the second chance basket. Either way, Alabama will want to deny him the ability to make a move off the dribble.
Junior G Jordan Green (6.7 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.8 SPG) is the most efficient shooter on the team, though he doesn't assert himself much offensively. Green shoots 49.6% from the floor, 32.4% from three, and 61.1% from the free throw line. Other than that, he's just a solid player.
Senior G Fabyon Harris (6.1 PPG, 2.1 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.7 SPG) is pretty similar to Green, except that he's a poor three point shooter (29.3%) and a better free throw shooter (73.0%). They are almost the same person out there.
Freshman G Shawn Smith (6.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.5 SPG) is a young player that could use some development. He plays solid defense and rebounds at an above average rate, but he is pretty mediocre besides that. Much like this team in general, he is a bad shooter (32.6% FG%, 22.6% 3P%, 66.1% FT%).
In the frontcourt, the Aggies have some great defensive presence. But like the backcourt, the offense is anemic. Junior F Kourtney Roberson (9.8 PPG, 6.9 RPG, 0.7 APG, 0.7 BPG) provides most of the heavy lifting for A&M. He is the best offensive player on the team (60.5% FG%, 60.2% FT%) and his defense is very good as well (97.2 Defensive Rating). He is a solid post player for the Aggies.
Freshman F Davonte Fitzgerald (7.3 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 0.7 BPG) really kind of sums up this A&M team. Despite being a poor offensive player (38.3% FG%, 28.6% 3P%, 59.3% FT%) he is somehow fourth on the team in PPG. He is very aggressive and strong on defense, which works well on that side of the court, but he leaves the rebound open all day. 2.3 RPG is a terrible stat for a guy who gets all of his playing time at the 4 position.
Sophomore F Antwan Space (5.6 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 0.6 SPG, 0.6 BPG) is just an average post player. He is an average scorer (42.4% FG%, 55.0% FT%), an average rebounder, and an average defender.
Finally, Freshman F Tavario Miller (2.0 PPG, 2.4 RPG) rounds out the rotation. Miller is really only brought out to provide some good defensive relief, as he is actually the best defender according to Defensive Rating (93.4).
What To Watch For
1. Nick Jacob's Absence. When Jacobs decided to take his indefinite leave from the team, he took nearly all of Alabama's offensive production in the post with him. Alabama will now rely on either two bigs who have never played well on offense (Carl Engstrom and Jimmie Taylor), or two forwards who do most of their damage away from the basket (Shannon Hale and Rodney Cooper).
2. Slow, Ugly Offense. There really is no other way to put this: both of these teams stink on offense. If Trevor Releford wasn't out there playing, I don't think that I could, in good conscience, tell you guys to watch this game. On the flip side of that, both teams are very sound defensive ball clubs. Last year Alabama won by scoring 50 points. Anyone care to wager what the winning team will score this time?
Three Keys to Victory
1. Win the Three Point Battle. Alabama isn't a great three point shooting team. Releford and Hale are really the only two consistent three point shooters. However, Texas A&M is HORRIBAD from beyond the arc. Coincidentally, both teams are really good at shutting down opponents from the three point line. If one of these two teams is able to get hot from long range, that team will more than likely come away with the victory here.
2. Pick Up the Tempo. With Jacobs gone Alabama has no one who they can even try to get offensive production from the low post. Combine that with A&M's stifling defense, and you have yourself an offensive issue. Despite being a pretty slow team ourselves, Alabama will be in awe when they see how slow A&M is. I think it would be a good idea to let some of our athletes get out and running against this team in order to play away from their strengths and make up for our complete lack of a post game.
3. Just Get Out of T Relly's Way. Alabama's best offense is when everyone just tries to free up Trevor. And honestly, does anyone really want to see anything other than this? This season is a
dumpster fire lost cause already. I really just want to see our team give Releford the ball and let him try and put the team on his back. Hell, that strategy won them a game last Tuesday and almost won another one on Saturday.
This game could not be any more different than the football game that was played last September. The basketball teams may not even put up that many points in this one. Anthony Grant and Billy Kennedy are both hanging on by a thread at their current positions. The game tips off at 6:00 pm CST and will be televised by ESPN2.
Tune in to watch Releford play at least.