Alabama Basketball Breakdown: Dumpster Fire Edition

Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

Alabama hosts the suddenly surging Missouri Tigers

As I sit here typing out this preview for Alabama's upcoming game against the Missouri Tigers (19-7, 7-6 SEC), I am really starting to wonder if I have ever seen Alabama's basketball program in such a bad state before. Granted, I have only been following Alabama basketball since 2003, but I really can't think of a time where I have been so frustrated with what is going on with the team. Sure, Mark Gottfried's last few years were pretty bad both on and off the court, and he wasn't nearly the representative of this fine university that Anthony Grant has been, but I don't think it was ever this bad. I've become numb to the terrible play our team has put together in recent weeks. That second half against Texas A&M was abysmal.

For those of you who are still somehow wanting to keep Anthony Grant around after this year, I'm having a really hard time trying to understand why. Alabama is 10-16 overall, the worst record the Tide has had through 26 games in 43 years. We are 4-9 in an average conference, despite having one of the best players in said conference leading the team at the point. Grant has led us to only one NCAA Tournament appearance, and despite the fact that we got hosed in 2011, that isn't very good. Heck, that one appearance was a one-and-done performance against Creighton. Players are leaving the program at a rate I have never seen before. Plenty of high school talent has left the state over the years, and the few in-state high school stars we have landed haven't produced at nearly the level we expected them to. People like to talk about the fact that Grant has a pretty good overall record here, but if you look at who we have beaten over that time, his resume looks a lot less impressive. Worst of all, this team has quit on him. Just watch them play. They take the court knowing that they are probably going to lose. They aren't having any fun out there. If Alabama brings Grant back next year, our returning guys aren't going to have any reason to get excited and buy in next season either. And don't even get me started on how bad the attendance will be.

Listen, I like Anthony Grant a lot as a person. I really hope that he has success at his next job. But it's time for him to go. Alabama needs to land a coach who will make basketball fun and competitive again. Heck, if Grant was being paid a middle-of-the-road salary it would be one thing. But the guy is making a top 20 salary, and Alabama has not seen top 20 results at all.

Sorry, but I felt like I needed to get all of that written out. I have done my best to be as level-headed as possible in these articles, but it was time to let it out. Alabama does have 5 games left to play this season, not including the SEC Tournament, and I will have something up for each game. But I'm thinking about making the format slightly different since A) Most of these games are against opponents Alabama has already played, B) I want to spend more time talking about where we go from here and C) I imagine y'all aren't too concerned with hearing about the Three Keys to Victory when our team doesn't even bother to come out after halftime.

So without further ado, I introduce today's breakdown.

From last time:

Missouri is a team that depends on three guys to do most of the work, especially on offense. Junior G Jordan Clarkson (18.8 PPG, 3.9 RPG, 3.6 APG, 0.9 SPG) is a transfer (something Frank Haith apparently can't get enough of) from Tulsa who, at the midpoint of the season, looked to be making a strong push for SEC Player of the Year. Clarkson is a very good player, though he has had his issues with turnovers at times. He isn't a very good long range shooter (27.5% 3P%), but he can score from almost anywhere inside of the arc (53.8% 2P%, 81.5% FT%). He also uses his 6'5 frame to grab himself a good amount of rebounds. Clarkson is the leader of this team, as the offense runs through him. He is definitely the guy that teams must try to stop first. Fellow Junior G Jabari Brown (18.4 PPG, 4.9 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.8 SPG) is the green-light shooter. Alabama has to keep a hand in his face at all times on offense, plain and simple. Brown shoots 47.1% from the field, 42.2% from three, and 75.0% from the line. He is also a very good rebounder, so whoever is guarding him is going to have his hands full. Not only do you need to prevent Brown from getting open looks, but you need to immediately find him when a shot goes up as well. Brown is not a passer, not only does he only average 1.4 APG on 36.8 MPG, but he also averages 2.3 TOPG. Look for the Tide to take advantage of that. The last of the three key Tigers is Senior G Earnest Ross (14.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.7 APG, 1.5 SPG, 0.7 BPG), who somehow still has eligibility remaining. Ross is a good scorer (42.7% FG%, 30.9% 3P%, 76.5% FT%), but what makes him such a good player is his athleticism. Ross has serious hops, which is why he is such a force in rebounding. He also has good hands which, when combined with his length, makes him a very good stealer as well. However, Ross, like Brown, as the same issues passing and handling the basketball. Both of them have negative assist to turnover ratios. Joining the big three in the backcourt is Freshman G Wes Clark (4.6 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.6 SPG). Clark is the one true point guard on the team, and will get plenty of time at that spot during the game. He seems to still be getting his feet wet with Haith's schemes and the speed of the game, as he sometimes seems lost on both sides of the court. He has a lot of potential though, so Alabama doesn't need to take him lightly.

In the frontcourt, Missouri has a serious dropoff in both talent and productivity. Their best player is 6'9 true Freshman F Jonathan Williams III (6.9 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.6 BPG). Williams is a raw product with a lot of potential, and he and Clark look to have a bright future for Mizzou, but he can be overwhelmed at times down low. He shoots only 48.8% from the field, which isn't what you want out of your leading scorer in the post (Alabama fans should understand), and he is a bad free throw shooter (55.6%). He is the leading rebounder and shot blocker, so Alabama needs to be ready for that. Senior F Tony Criswell (6.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG) has to be the most disappointing player on Missouri's roster. At 6'9, Criswell isn't a very good rebounder or shot blocker (0.1 BPG). Considering the kind of potential he has, his 47.4% FG% is underwhelming, but he does shoot the three pretty well for a big (30.8%). 6'10 Sophomore F Ryan Rosburg (4.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG) is a traditional low post player. He doesn't have much of a scoring presence, but he is an efficient scorer at 68.2% from the field. Rosburg is a role player in the post, but he gets a lot of minutes due to Missouri's lack of depth. 6'11 Junior F Keanau Post (1.1 PPG, 1.8 RPG) is the only other player that gets a significant amount of playing time.

The first point I want to make is that, while Clarkson has continued playing at a pretty high level, Jabari Brown has gone nuts since we last played them.

Brown (20.1 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.9 APG, 0.7 SPG) is making a serious push at SEC Player of the Year. I really think it will be either him, Kentucky's Julius Randle, or one of Florida's leaders, Casey Prather and Scottie Wilbekin. Brown is shooting 49.1% from the field, 45.2% from three, and 79.8% from the line. His intensity has really taken off, and he has made a number of clutch plays for Mizzou in recent weeks.

Clarkson (18.8 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.1 SPG) is still playing at a very high level though. He is shooting 47.5% from the field, 83.3% from the line, and has even started knocking down threes at a higher rate (31.7%). He is still the floor general for the most part.

Ross (14.3 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.4 SPG) has continued to be an athletic force. His numbers are pretty similar to before, which is not a bad thing at all for Missouri.

Williams (6.1 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 0.7 APG, 1.5 BPG) and Clark (4.5 PPG, 2.3 RPG, 2.2 APG, 0.7 SPG) have both continued to acquaint themselves with the system and are continuing to give the Tigers some good production.

Rosburg (4.9 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 0.7 BPG) has maintained his steady presence in the post.

Criswell (4.3 PPG, 3.8 RPG) continues to see a lot of minutes off of the bench, and has been very effective at making his free throw attempts count (83.3%).

Missouri has been pretty hot lately, getting three crucial home wins in a row against Arkansas, Tennessee and Vanderbilt. The Tigers have put themselves back safely in the NCAA Tournament as of now, and with a pretty soft schedule the rest of the way (at Alabama, at Georgia, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, and at Tennessee), Mizzou is looking like they will probably solidify a spot somewhere on the 7-9 line.

The Trevor Releford Watch

The one player on this team that I will defend no matter what is Trevor Releford. He has been awesome for us, has stuck with us through thick and thin, and has always had a passion that no other player on our team has shown. I neglected including him on my list of potential SEC POY candidates above because I don't think he will get the credit he deserves from the voters, but just check the stats (all numbers were entering the week):

19.0 PPG (6th in the SEC)

50.5% FG% (6th in the SEC)

90.5% FT% (2nd in the SEC)

40.1% 3P% (5th in the SEC)

2.2 SPG (1st in the SEC)

He has done all of this while playing on a team that will probably finish in the bottom four in the SEC. He is also soaring up the all-time points list here at Alabama, and he already owns the record for most career steals all-time. Releford is now tied with Erwin Dudley for 7th all-time in points with 1,775 points.

Anyway, it has been a rough year for all of us Bama basketball fans. Alabama and Missouri will tip-off Saturday night at 7:00 pm CST and the game will be televised by ESPN2.

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