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Bama Basketball Breakdown: Towson Tigers

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The Crimson Tide return to the court to start off the 2014-15 season

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday, I went over the roster breakdown of Pat Skerry's Towson Tigerswhich you can find here. Today, I will spend a little bit of time breaking down the game to a deeper extent. This is the game-plan we've got going here at RBR this season, so make sure to read both if you want to sound like an informed Bama hoops fan at work when the team stuns everyone and wins 20 games this season*.

*Offer not guaranteed

What To Watch For

  • Injuries. Retin Obasohan, Ricky Tarrant, and Michael Kessens are all dealing with offseason injury issues and all sat out Monday night's exhibition with Montevallo. Tarrant and Obasohan are both listed as "probable" for the game, though whether or not they will be 100% remains to be seen. Regardless, it sounds like both will go, which is great news for Alabama fans. Kessens is listed as "doubtful", and I would expect it to be a few more weeks before Anthony Grant plays him. This team will need the big guy for the long run.
  • Development. One of Grant's biggest criticisms while he has been here is his inability to develop guys once they get to the Capstone. That criticism may be a bit over-the-top, but it does seem that many players haven't developed like they seem to do in other programs across the country. Keep an eye out on Jimmie Taylor's offensive presence, Shannon Hale's off-ball defense, Obasohan's shooting ability, and Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper's ability to run the offense. Those are some of the major keys to this season.
  • The Freshmen. Justin Coleman, Devin Mitchell, Riley Norris, and Jeff Garrett will all make their collegiate debuts in this game, and that's always an exciting event.

When Bama Has the Ball

There are quite a few things to look for when Alabama has the ball, as it is the beginning of the new season. The major question is whether or not the team has developed a better offensive game-plan than the one they have been using the last several seasons. Hopefully, we will all be treated to something that looks a lot better than the stagnant, pass-around-the-arc until someone throws up a shot offense that has reared its ugly head in recent years. Grant's halfcourt offense heavily utilizes the pick-and-roll, and if the team can effectively execute it, it will work. That's the beauty of the high pick-and-roll: it's so simple, but so effective. Taylor has the perfect body for laying the hard screen, but he needs to be more of a threat with the roll.

Off-ball cuts really need to return to this offense, and in a big way. There has been too much standing around in recent years, so look to see if guys are moving around off-ball. Back-door cuts away from the high screen on the pick-and-roll are such great looks when teams sag in to take away the roll, yet the team never seems to look for them. Regardless of how the team decides to do it, there needs to be more movement on offense. There has been way too much isolation from Alabama over the years, especially since the Tide hasn't had many guys who can even beat defenders one-on-one.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Trevor Releford is no longer around to lead this offense. Someone has to step up, whether it is Tarrant, Randolph, or even Coleman. This team will not establish an offensive identity until a leader can take over with the ball in his hands, plain and simple.

When Towson Has the Ball

The Tigers are a mystery to me as I didn't exactly follow them last season and the regular season is just now starting, so I don't have a ton to offer here. The Tigers lost nearly all of their stats from a season ago, as the top four scorers all graduated. This will be a new-look team for them. Defensively, Alabama will continue to show different looks, as Grant always likes to do. Man-to-man, the 2-3 zone, and the 1-3-1 zone are all looks that Grant likes to utilize, and he often switches it up in-game.

Three Keys to Victory

  1. Limit and Create Turnovers. This early in the season most teams will still be getting used to playing against a full-speed defense. Early season upsets are often sprung because the under-dog will win the turnover battle by a significant margin. If Tarrant can't go for whatever reason, the Tide will need Coleman and Obasohan to really step up when Alabama has the ball. On the flip-side of this, Towson is a really young, inexperienced team. Alabama needs to pressure them and take advantage of their lack of chemistry.
  2. Free Throws. Another characteristic of early season games is a larger-than-normal amount of fouls on both sides, as players are getting used to full-speed, live games. Therefore, Alabama needs to hit their free opportunities.
  3. The New Guys. Alabama probably won't go very far this year unless a number of the new players can step up. Look for some of them to make an immediate impact for the Crimson Tide Friday night.
It's a new season ladies and gentlemen. Alabama is looking to make it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012. Anthony Grant's squad will need to continue to develop and gel as a team, and early season match-ups like the one with Towson Friday night go a long way in that regard. The game tips-off at 8:00 pm CST and will be televised on the SEC Network alternate channel and Watch ESPN.