The Crimson Tide basketball team will return home to Coleman Coliseum tonight after a 3-0 performance in Puerto Rico when they take on the Alabama A&M Bulldogs. Tip-off is set for 7:00 pm CST. The game is not slated for television, but will be streamed live on TideTV (subscription only) and will be available on radio via the Crimson Tide Sports Network. As usual, we will have a live game thread here at RBR for those who wish to comment and for those who need updates.
Alabama A&M enters the game as heavy underdogs. Last season they finished in the middle of the pack in the SWAC, considered to be the very weakest of all the 33 Division I college basketball leagues. They do return four starters, so they have experience and depth, but from a pure talent standpoint they should in no way be able to seriously challenge the 13th-ranked Tide. This is probably the only game left on the schedule that is really a sure win, and I don't say that lightly.
Because this should be a mismatch, we won't spend any time breaking down Alabama A&M here. Rather, we, like the coaching staff, will focus on what Alabama needs to improve on heading into what is going to be a tough few weeks. After Alabama A&M tonight, the Tide will welcome one of last year's Final Four teams, VCU, to Coleman Coliseum on Sunday night before hosting Big East power Georgetown next Thursday night. (If you haven't already gotten your tickets for these two massive non-conference games, get them quickly; they are going fast.) The Tide will then take a tough road trip to face a very good mid-major team, Dayton, in the first true road game on the season the following Wednesday.
As the Tide enters this stretch, improvements need to be made, especially on the offensive side of the ball. Alabama has been able to beat some good teams--particularly Wichita State and Purdue--early on, but still hasn't had to face a top-25-caliber team. Despite the 5-0 start, we've seen Bama struggle at times offensively. While the defense has been even better than most anticipated with so many true freshmen playing big roles, Alabama simply can't expect to compete with college basketball's elite without more consistent offense to go along with it. Working on offensive execution and perhaps even toying around with some different offensive looks will serve the Tide well as it looks to improve heading into a tough slate of non-conference games.
No one can complain about Alabama's results thus far: 5-0, including two neutral court wins against teams that will at least be in the conversation for NCAA Tournament bids this season. However, Alabama still has many flaws that need to be addressed before the team is ready to compete with those at the very top--and with a #13 national ranking, the very top is exactly where this team needs to focus, not simply on what is good enough to beat decent-but-not-great teams in an early-season tournament.
Bama will be focusing on just such improvement as it looks to improve its record to 6-0 with a win tonight over Alabama A&M. Enjoy the game, join us for the game thread, and have a Happy Thanksgiving.