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Tide basketball prepares for preseason tuneup tonight

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The Crimson Tide basketball team will take part in a live scrimmage tonight against the Division II UAH Chargers. The scrimmage will take place at 7:00 CST in Coleman Coliseum. Tickets are available for only $6, and the game will be streamed live on TideTV.

Obviously, the scrimmage is just an exhibition, and therefore the result does not matter. The coaching staff will be focused instead on trying different combinations of lineups and trotting out the first tests of what is likely to be an oft-employed four-guard lineup. There are many questions to be answered about this promising but young Crimson Tide squad, and tonight will be an important measuring stick for the team heading into the first game of the season, which will take place Friday night against North Florida.

It's probably a good thing that the result doesn't matter, because the Chargers are expected to be one of the elite D-II squads in the entire country. They made it to the Division II Elite 8 last season, return three players who were first-team all-conference, and are ranked #2 in the nation in this year's D-II preseason rankings. Without question, they would win a lot of games in D-I, particularly in some of the weaker conferences, and they are in all likelihood a better team overall than several squads the Tide will play in the regular season this year.

Make no mistake, Alabama will be tested in this "game". Luckily, the result won't matter, but how the Tide performs against a solid and well-coached team who knows how to win will tell us (and more importantly the coaches) where the Tide stands just days before the season begins.

Last year, the Tide faced this same UAH squad in the exact same setting and circumstances--and struggled mightily. UAH trotted out their trademark zone defense, and Bama was completely unable to hit an outside shot against it. Further, Bama's pressing defense wasn't all that effective against the Chargers guards, and as a result the shooting woes were magnified and the Tide escaped with a "win" in the scrimmage thanks only to a clutch Trevor Releford shot and an overtime period.

In other words, the scrimmage essentially foreshadowed the Tide's struggles for the first month of the season, while also highlighting the importance that Releford would play on last year's team. I expect the same from this year's scrimmage. It's already been said, but UAH will provide a better test for this team than many of the opponents we'll see in the regular season.

We'll get a good gauge on how the freshmen are picking up and buying in to Grant's defense, and if that defense will really involve a lot more full-court pressing, as many believe it will with a smaller but deeper lineup this year. Not only that, though, but because the level of competition will be high enough, we'll get a good sense of how successful that defense will be early on in non-conference play this year.

Finally, we'll also get the first chance to see just where the freshmen stand in the playing time pecking order, and what roles the coaches have in mind for them just days before the season starts. We'll also find out how much action Carl Engstrom sees in the post, if Charles Hankerson really has improved as much as some think (don't be surprised if he gets the start), if Tony Mitchell really plays most of the game at the 4, and if Retin Obasohan has passed Ben Eblen for the backup point guard role--in addition to just how big a role the hyped freshmen like Trevor Lacey, Levi Randolph, Rodney Cooper and Nick Jacobs play.

Remember, the result doesn't matter, but how the team performs will be a good indicator of where the team stands, and where our expectations should be for early-season success.