The Crimson Tide basketball team will have a chance early this afternoon to salvage what they can from an ill-fated trip to the Virgin Islands for the Paradise Jam tournament. Bama will square off against the St. Peter's Peacocks of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in a rare weekday noon C.T. tip-off...yeah, that's what happens when you get relegated to the bottom of the loser's bracket in an early-season tournament.
I won't go into much detail about St. Peter's because this game isn't really about them--it's about how Alabama's team responds to their worst performance in the Anthony Grant era, an ugly loss to a bad Iowa Hawkeyes team on Saturday night that led Anthony Grant to offer the following quotes to the media after an epic 94-minute talk to his team in the locker room following the loss:
I said before we came here that we would find out about our basketball team. Right now, I don't like what I am finding out.
There was a lack of effort, a lack of intensity and a lack of focus from us tonight.
Obviously, we just had an extended team meeting. I've got to understand where we are and where we are trying to go as a team. Right now, I am not sure I fully understand it.
Last night (in a loss to Seton Hall) we lost a game where we beat ourselves in a lot of ways. We didn't have good execution, but we had effort. Tonight, we had neither. It permeated the whole team tonight, the lack of enthusiasm and the overall attitude.
There you have it. This Bama team has a lot to answer for after coaches and fans alike are questioning their mettle and desire following that ugly, disheartening loss on Saturday. Today's noon tip will be our first chance to see how the team responds.
Like I said, I won't go into a lot of details about St. Peter's, but here's what you need to know. They return every starter and key player from a team that was 16-14 last year and was in the middle of the pack nationally in the RPI rankings. They compete in one of the weaker conferences in the nation, but they are expected to be one of the better teams within their conference this year. This season hasn't started off well for them record-wise, but they've been competitive in their first two games at the Paradise Jam. Most impressively, they came within 7 points of an Old Dominion team that went Dancing last year and that managed to beat a good Clemson team last night to advance to the Paradise Jam finals later tonight. Their other losses have come on the road to a decent Robert Morris team in ugly fashion (they only scored 30 points), and in their consolation game in the Paradise Jam to Long Beach State.
It should go without saying that this game is one Bama should win--and needs to win. We'll examine Bama's trip to the Virgin Islands in more detail later this week as it relates to both on-court performances and tournament resume implications. For now, though, let's just hope the trip merely ends disappointingly, with a 1-2 record we can learn from, and not disastrously, with an 0-3 record we probably can't recover from.