After a game that was a bit closer than many of us would have liked, Alabama (2-0) gets ready for their last home tune-up before heading up to Kansas City for the CBE Hall of Fame Classic next week. "Tune-up" might be a bit disingenuous to Southern Miss (2-0), as the Golden Eagles have seen a lot of success on the hardcourt over the last few years, and should give Alabama a good test tonight. However, in head coach Doc Sadler's first season, the Eagles are having to rebuild a good amount, as they lost four of their best players to graduation last year. Still, this is a program that has been used to winning games, and they are no strangers to beating SEC teams (Missouri in the NIT last year, @ Georgia two years ago, Ole Miss in 2011, etc.), so don't expect these guys to lay down.
- PG Rasham Suarez (4.0 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 5.5 APG, 1.0 SPG)
- SG Shadell Millinghaus (15.0 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.5 SPG)
- 3G Chip Armelin (12.0 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 1.5 ASP, 1.5 SPG)
- SF Matt Bingaya (17.0 PPG, 9.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.5 BPG)
- PF Jeremiah Eason (7.0 PPG, 4.5 RPG)
Southern Miss runs a smaller, more athletic lineup than your traditional look. Eason is their biggest starter at 6'7, and he is the only traditional post player. He's a solid post player, but he doesn't do much more than add size, as he has yet to block a shot this year, shoots only 41.7% despite all of his looks being around the basket, and grabs a decent amount of rebounds. Eason is the lone senior on the team. Bingaya, a true freshman, has been dominant for Southern Miss in their first two outings. He's the leading scorer, averages about a double-double per game, and makes 2.5 impact plays on defense per game. He's only 6'5, but he is long and plays with a nice motor. If there is one spot he struggles in though, it's his inability to knock down jump shots.
Moving out into the backcourt, the Eagles run three guards most of the time. Saurez is a pure point guard, one who looks to hook his teammates up rather than shoot the ball himself. Considering he only shoots 37.5%, that's probably the right idea. Millinghaus and Armelin are both good off-guards. Combined they average 27.0 PPG, 10.0 RPG, 3.0 APG, and 3.0 SPG. Millinghaus (69.2% FG%, 60.0% 3P% 81.8% FT%) has been a lights-out shooter for Southern Miss thus far. It would bode Alabama well to get a hand in his face when he has the ball. Armelin has struggled from three (11.1%), but inside the arc he has excelled (77.8% 2P%).
- G Dallas Anglin (9.0 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.5 SPG)
- F Norville Carey (7.5 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 2.5 BPG)
- F Eddie Davis (1.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG)
- G Kevin Holland (1.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.0 APG,)
- G Keljin Blevins (1.0 PPG, 1.5 RPG)
- F Michael O'Donnell (1.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG)
Anglin and Carey are the first two off of the bench, and both are pretty interesting players. Anglin doesn't take many shots, but when he does, he makes them count (50.0% FG%, 66.7% 3P%). The junior obviously knows when he has a good look, but he doesn't try to create much off of the bench. When he does try to create something, it's usually by going to the line and knocking down free throws. Anglin averages 6.5 FTAs per game, and knocks down 6.0 of them on average. Thats good for a 92.3% FT%. Carey is the post player off of the bench. He is a long 6'7, and provides a strong impact when he is in the game. The interesting thing about Carey is that he averages 2.5 BPG, despite only playing 16.0 MPG. That is some fine rim protection off of the bench. The rest of the guys are either career backups or true freshmen. Regardless, they haven't made much of an impact this season.
What To Watch For
- Grant's Rotation. Alabama has a relatively young, raw team right now. While there is plenty of experience, Grant is asking a lot out of guys like Justin Coleman, Ricky Tarrant, Michael Kessens, and Riley Norris. Tarrant and Kessens don't have many live reps with the rest of the guys, and the true freshmen don't have many reps period right now. Because of this, Grant is still getting a feel for how he should best utilize his players. Keep an eye on how many minutes guys get, and where they are lining up.
- Development. This is kind of a tangent to the last point, but Grant and his staff still have a lot of developing to do with this group of players. It's early in the season and this is a young team, so in theory, there should be some strong improvement as the season rolls along. Also, this team really needs to continue to develop chemistry with one another. They already move the ball much better than what Alabama fans have become accustomed to seeing, so hopefully this is only the tip of the ice burg.
- Points! With the 80 point showing Monday night against Western Carolina, the Crimson Tide have notched back-to-back 80+ point games for the first time since the 2007-08 season. Alabama was able to reach this plateau despite going 2/17 from the three point line. This year's team has, at the least, been much more entertaining to watch, as the team has done a much better job of creating movement on the offensive end.
Three Keys to Victory
- Free Throws. I know this has been reiterated a few times already this season, but Alabama has only backed up the assertion that knocking down free throws is crucial early in the year. The Tide went 32/42 from the charity stripe, the most free throw makes since the epic upset over Stanford in the 2004 NCAA Tournament. When you include the fact that many of those free throws came down the stretch, it wouldn't be outlandish to say that free throws are why Alabama avoided the upset on Monday.
- Levi Randolph. With Trevor Releford no longer around, Alabama has needed someone to step up on both sides of the court. Thus far, Randolph has assertively taken that role. He has done it all. 17 PPG on 56.3% shooting, 8.0 RPG, 3.5 APG to only 1.0 TOPG, 2.0 SPG, and a perfect 16/16 from the free throw line. If Randolph continues to play at this level, Alabama will be tough to beat.
- Stopping the Drive. Two of the Eagles' top three scorers (Bingaya and Armelin) thrive off of being able to put the ball on the ground and drive to the lane. So far, no opponent has been able to deny these two that ability, and Southern Miss has thrived because of it. Alabama needs to stop dribble penetration from these two, as it will really force them into awkward situations. Neither Bingaya nor Armelin are great shooters, and no one else besides Millinghaus has been a very reliable option offensively.
Tonight's game is a big one as far as the team's confidence is concerned. If Alabama can play well and get a solid win tonight, they will take an undefeated record up to Kansas City with them. Iowa State looms next week, and that is a terrific basketball team. With everybody healthy, hopefully there will be plenty of chemistry being built against Southern Miss.
The game will once again tip-off at 8:00 PM CST and will be televised by the SEC Network.