The Crimson Tide basketball team will return to the court tonight at 7:00 pm for their second game of the new season when they face the Troy Trojans. Alabama is 1-0 on the year after opening the season on Friday night with a resounding 76-37 win over Florida A&M.
As is the case with most of our non-marquee non-conference home matchups this year, tonight's game will not be televised. It will, however, be streamed live on TideTV. You'll need a subscription to watch the games on TideTV, but at $12.95 per month, it's completely worth it for any Bama basketball fan who can't attend most home games. Every Bama game beginning in January will be televised, but over the course of the next two months we will play 8 non-conference home games that won't be televised and will instead be available on TideTV. So for about $3 per game, you can watch all of the Tide's home non-conference games online. Not a bad deal at all.
Troy was a very good mid-major team just one year ago, winning the Sun Belt conference championship en route to an NIT berth--in fact, they were mere seconds away from the Big Dance before falling to North Texas in the Sun Belt tournament final. That won't mean much tonight, though, because the Trojans lost all five starters and 80% of their scoring output from last season. Not many teams outside Kentucky can have their entire starting lineup wiped out and be able to reload the very next season. That's especially true for mid-major programs, who usually rely on developing experienced players over several seasons. As such, the Troy team we will see on the floor tonight in Tuscaloosa will be a mere shadow of the Sun Belt championship team from last year.
Troy does return their sixth man from last year, Vernon Taylor, an extremely athletic small forward who averaged 7 points per game last season. The only other returning players are reserve center Bernard Toombs and reserve small forward Levan Patsatsia, both of whom are in line to start. The starting lineup is rounded out by senior guard Regis Huddleston, who took a medical redshirt last year, and sophomore point guard Will Weathers, who transferred from UCF. Two JuCo transfers, Shawntez Patterson and Tim Owens, will play a big role off the bench down in the post. Guard DeAndre Ross, a transfer from South Alabama, will see plenty of action in the back court. This new-look lineup was successful in Troy's first game on Friday night, a 100-59 blowout win over Division I newcomers Huntington.
With Troy in rebuilding mode, this is yet another game in which the Tide simply must take care of business. With a tough three-game trip to the Virgin Islands coming up this weekend, anything other than a 2-0 start would be a huge misstep. Bama's defense was dominant in the rout of FAMU, but Troy will bring a bit more size to the front court than did the Rattlers, so a big key for the Tide will be closing out defensive possessions by cleaning the boards. Speaking of rebounding, keep an eye on the types of lineups Grant uses throughout the game. We started out and played most of the FAMU game with three guards in the lineup, so it will be interesting to see if that trend continues. The well-coached Troy will also likely provide a stiffer test for the Bama offense, as FAMU did little to force the Tide to to execute its half-court offense. Right now, in terms of playing rotation, Grant seems to be relying on those he trusts most on the defensive end, sometimes to the detriment of our offensive playmaking ability. It's important that our young players begin to "get it" on that end so that they can contribute more on the offensive end as the season progresses.
I'll be offering live game commentary in tonight's game thread here at RBR for those unable to attend or watch the game on TideTV. See you there.