The No. 12 University of Alabama men's basketball team closes out a three-game homestand on Thursday evening when it hosts Georgetown in the Big East/SEC Challenge. The contest will be televised on ESPN2 and carried via radio on the affiliates of the Crimson Tide Sports Network with a scheduled 8:30 p.m. CST tipoff. The Crimson Tide is 7-0 this season and 4-0 at home where it has won 24 straight games dating back to 2010 while Georgetown is 5-1 on the season after handling IUPUI, 81-58, on Monday evening. The Hoyas are receiving votes in both polls. "Georgetown is a very talented team that is off to great start with some very good personnel and a very good system," Grant said of Thursday's opponent. "They're a very dangerous offensive team with a lot of weapons from the perimeter and in the post they have great size."
"It's in the back of our minds, but the main thing in the front of our minds is our opponent," sophomore forward Charles Hankerson said. "The (home) record is just a result of all the hard work that you do every day, and if you don't do that hard work, it won't be there."\"If you don't play defense, a team can come in and beat you on your home floor," said junior forward Tony Mitchell, one of three remaining Crimson Tide players (along with JaMychal Green and Ben Eblen) who played in that Ole Miss loss. "Teams can beat you anywhere if you aren't ready." "There is a level of pride in continuing to win at home," UA coach Grant said. "But, even though it's nice, you don't play to continue a streak. You play to win the game."
Tony Mitchell and JaMychal Green have been dealing with nagging injuries over the last couple of games, but Grant expects the two to be ready to play in Thursday’s game. Green appeared to aggravate his elbow on Sunday night, but returned to the game and played to the finish. Mitchell went down against Alabama A&M with an apparent ankle injury, which turned out to be just a sprain. "My training staff is doing a good job of getting [my ankle] better," Mitchell said. "Getting it well, and getting it ready for the next game."
The Crimson Tide is led by their forward, JaMychal Green. The senior leads the team with 15.5 points per game and 8.0 rebounds per game. After facing Thomas Robinson and the Kansas Jayhawks, big men Henry Sims and Nate Lubick should know what to expect from Green down low. They’ll need to contain him a little better and force an inexperienced group of shooters to make shots for Alabama. Though the team spreads the ball around quite a bit, the offense Green and forward Tony Mitchell, who is coming off a high ankle sprain but should be ready to play. It [The offense] is very half-court based – if Alabama has its way, they’re going to slow the game down for the better majority. We don’t live and die with JaMychal, but the offense does revolve around him. JaMychael Green has progressed a lot. When he came here as a freshman, it was very surprising that he came to Tuscaloosa. Now, it’s general consensus on campus that he’s a first-round type of talent.
The Hoyas start three players 6-foot-8 or taller, including 6-10 center Henry Sims, who is averaging 13.5 points, 5.8 boards and 1.5 blocked shots. "They have the ability to put four guys 6-8 or bigger on the floor together," Grant said. "Any time you look at a team with that kind of size and skill, you certainly have to pay attention." Grant's biggest concern is on the glass. Alabama has been outrebounded only once, but it's giving up 14.1 offensive boards per game - though that number is at least partially inflated by its opponents' many missed shots.
No. 12 Alabama has evidently learned its lesson. The Crimson Tide (7-0) have ridden smothering defense and a blend of veteran players and impact freshmen to its best start in nine seasons. This time last year, Alabama was a struggling group that would get it together too late to salvage its NCAA tournament hopes. "Last year we started off pretty bad," forward Tony Mitchell said. "We just tried to come in this year and try to be the opposite. Instead of taking plays off, work hard and start playing defense in the beginning instead of in the end."
With the recent success of the Alabama basketball program under head coach Anthony Grant, the Crimson Tide has been seeing an increase in popularity. When asked if basketball will ever rival Alabama football, Joseph was skeptical. "Football is such a beast that I don’t think it’s a realistic aspiration to have," he said. "If you look at schools that have both big football and big basketball programs, football is way more popular. Florida is just now getting to be consistent, and it’s always football there. It’s the same at Ohio State. So few can do both at the same time. Look at Kansas and Kentucky."
No, I don’t think it’s fair. The BCS is never fair. Occasionally there comes a year in which the outcry is minimal, and invariably some talking head will say, "The BCS worked this time." Reality check: The BCS never works. The best the BCS ever can hope is to get lucky. Case study in inconsistency: In 2007 Georgia was ranked No. 4 in the next-to-last BCS standings. The teams ranked first and second — Missouri and West Virginia — lost on the regular season’s final weekend. Georgia didn’t play. It finished atop the SEC East but was shaded by Tennessee on a tiebreaker. LSU, which had lost its final regular-season game to Arkansas, beat the Vols for the SEC title, and the Tigers got to play for the BCS title. LSU moved from No. 7 to No. 2. Georgia didn’t play a game and slid to No. 5. Why? Because LSU coach Les Miles kept making the point that his team had "won its conference" and because the many talking heads on ESPN took up the cry. (As we know, what’s said on ESPN has an outsize effect on college football, the only sport in which opinions matter.)
If Alabama doesn’t go to the national championship game, it would still likely travel to New Orleans, just one week earlier for the Sugar Bowl. Players and coaches will have to wait until Sunday night, when the final standings will be revealed. "I’m really not nervous about it," senior center William Vlachos said. "You can only control what you can control. I really never worry about things that I can’t control. We’ll let the people that have those decisions make them for us." The Tide won’t practice this week, and won’t know its practice schedule until its bowl game is announced. But the focus will be on keeping players in top shape, so they can prepare for whichever postseason contest awaits them. "All we can do is wait," senior nose tackle Josh Chapman said. "Whoever we play is who we play, that’s who we’ll prepare for. But right now, we’re just going to work on how can we be a better team, and the little things we can do."
Trent Richardson was named one of five finalists Wednesday for the Walter Camp Football Foundation 2011 College Player of the Year award. The Alabama junior running back has rushed for a career-high 1,583 yards and 20 touchdowns. He alo has 27 receptions for three touchdowns. Other finalists include Tyrann Mathieu (LSU), Robert Griffin III (Baylor), Case Keenum (Houston) and Andrew Luck (Stanford).
After Alabama rolled over in-state rival Auburn, the stage was set for a rematch between Louisiana State and Alabama in the B.C.S. national title game. All season, Alabama and L.S.U. have been viewed as the two best teams in the country, and whispers of a rematch were swirling even before the first game took place. Running back Trent Richardson, a Heisman Trophy candidate, said Alabama is definitely one of the two best teams in the country and the Tide want a rematch. "We can’t wait until we play them," he said, adding that L.S.U. wide receiver Russell Shepard had called to tell him he would see him in New Orleans. "I can’t wait to meet him there."
Saban reminisced about glory days of winning a state championship when he played at Monongah (W.Va.) High School. "I get just as much positive self gratification and just as good a feeling when I go home to my town in West Virginia ... and I see that sign that's still up there," Saban said. "It says, '1967 Double-A State Champions.' "And still, when we play games at Penn State, we played LSU here this year, seven or eight of my teammates come to those games. So what you're about to try to accomplish is something that's going to be lifelong if you have a chance to do it, an achievement that you'll always remember and cherish. ..."