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Bama Basketball Breakdown: And One! Edition

After the gut-wrenching loss to #11 Wichita State, Alabama returns home to face Stillman and Appalachian State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

There isn't much more to say than what's already been reiterated multiple times in the last few days about Alabama's loss to the Shockers on Tuesday night, so the focus needs to move towards the future. The Crimson Tide (6-3) return home to lick their wounds against D-II neighbor Stillman College (4-3) and a few visitors from Boone, North Carolina, the Appalachian State Mountaineers (3-5). As the game against Stillman Friday night will basically be a glorified scrimmage (it is technically an exhibition game by the NCAA Tournament's standards), we decided to take out two birds with one stone for this weekend by combining the two games into one preview (refunds will be distributed at the door). Stillman will be a good opponent for Alabama to turn the page on their heart-breaking loss, and Appalachian State is not much better, honestly. The Mountaineers do have a win over Virginia Tech this season, though the Hokies have been playing a bad brand of basketball thus far. Regardless, this will be a nice weekend for the Tide to get back off the mat before the team takes a few days off for Christmas.

Stillman's Starting Five

  • PG Antonio Penny (8.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 5.6 APG)
  • SG Rodnerius Lewis (25.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 2.6 APG, 2.4 SPG, 1.4 BPG)
  • SF Kairo Cannon (6.2 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 2.8 APG, 1.4 SPG)
  • PF Jamon Jackson-Wilson (13.0 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.2 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.4 BPG)
  • C Harold Ingram (6.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.8 BPG)

At first glance, the immediate thing that pops out is the stat line that Lewis has at the off-guard position. It doesn't matter what level of play he's been competing against, those are some impressive numbers, especially considering his 55.3% FG%, 46.7% 3P%, and 72.0% FT%. However, he also is averaging 3.2 TOPG, which is not good, especially when you do take into account the level of competition. The team as a whole makes quite a few impact plays defensively, though they don't have many scorers. Cannon (25.0% FG%) and Ingram (33.3% FG%) have some bad shooting numbers. Penny has a great shooting percentage (69.6% FG%), but he is obviously looking to pass first.

The Bench

  • G Madison Madison (14.0 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 2.0 APG)
  • F Maurice Crenshaw (13.2 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 1.0 APG)
  • F Matrell Smith (5.4 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 1.2 APG)
  • G William Green (3.2 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.2 APG)

Madison Madison (no, that's not a typo) has only played in one game, their most recent bout with Montevallo, but he played a decent amount off of the bench. Crenshaw is an interesting player. He is listed as a forward, and has very similar stats to what you would see from a low post player, but he is only 6'1, which is clearly why the guy is playing D-II basketball. That's tiny for his position. However, he obviously outworks his opponents, as he averages the second most minutes on the team. Smith and Green provide some relief in the frontcourt and backcourt, respectively.

Appalachian State's Starting Five

  • PG Chris Burgess (10.6 PPG, 3.1 RPG, 2.1 APG)
  • SG Frank Eaves (15.9 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.1 APG, 1.4 SPG)
  • SF Dustin Clarke (7.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 1.3 APG)
  • PF Tommy Spagnolo (9.7 PPG, 6.9 RPG)
  • C Michael Obacha (0.7 PPG, 2.0 RPG)

The Mountaineers will only go as far as Burgess, Eaves, and Spagnolo will take them this year, as those three guys are the individual leaders in assists, points, and rebounds, respectively. However, each team leader comes with a bit of a caveat. Eaves is the factor guard in their system, but his PPG comes largely from how much of a high-volume shooter he is, as he shoots only 34.6% from the field but averages 11.3 FGAs per game. Burgess may lead the team in assists, but he is the point guard, and even then he only averages a pretty paltry 2.1 APG. In fact, this is one of the worst passing teams in the entire country, as they are currently 334th in APG this season. There are 351 teams in D-I. Spagnolo also has that same provision, just in rebounding form. 6.9 PPG isn't exactly setting the world on fire, and the Mountaineers rank 212th in RPG. Obacha starts because he is 6'8, but there isn't really much else to say about him as a player. This starting backcourt does hit their free throws though (Burgess: 80.0%; Eaves: 84.5%; 83.3%), so Alabama would do well not to bail them out with misplaced fouls.

The Bench

  • G Jake Babic (4.7 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 1.6 APG)
  • F Griffin Kinney (4.3 PPG, 4.1 RPG)
  • F Jacob Lawson (4.0 PPG, 2.6 RPG, 1.2 BPG)
  • G Tabarris Hamilton (3.3 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 1.0 APG)
  • G Mike Kobani (2.7 PPG, 1.0 RPG)

Appalachian State's bench is made up of mostly freshmen players, with Lawson and Hamilton being the only exceptions. Further, both Lawson and Hamilton missed the previous game against Charlotte, and they are questionable for the game this weekend as well. If they can't go, it will be all rookies coming off the bench for the Mountaineers. Babic and Kinney are going to be good players for them some day, but they are nothing more than solid players currently.

What To Watch For

  • How Does Alabama Recover? Clearly the Crimson Tide are superior to both of these teams in pretty much every metric imaginable. The only way either one of these games will present any trouble is if Alabama doesn't recover well from the gut-wrenching loss the other night.
  • Where Did the Offense Go? After the shootout in Cincinnati against Xavier, Alabama took a week off for final exams. Well, I think they lost their offensive mojo some time that week. The Tide played pretty strong offensively from about the 15:00 minute mark to the 6:00 minute mark in the second half the other night, but other than that, it's been a struggle for Grant's team. They seem to have reverted back to the previous poor form fans have seen the last few seasons. Let's hope the team can shake that off and get back to that fast-paced tempo they had earlier in the year.
Three Keys to Victory
  1. Show Up for Stillman. Alabama need only bring their "C" game on Friday night in order to pull off a comfortable win over an over-matched Stillman team. The team needs to take advantage of every opportunity though, and Alabama has a lot of areas where they need improvement.
  2. Force Appalachian State to Pass. The Mountaineers are horrible passers. This will not be the same as playing Iowa State or Xavier, for example. Against those kinds of teams you want to keep the passing lanes as clogged as possible. Against Appalachian State, however, the Tide will want to bait the Mountaineers into passing the ball. Expect to see plenty of traps and on-ball pressure while this game is competitive.
  3. Break the Press. Wichita State forced the Tide to implode on themselves late in the game by rolling out a hyper-aggressive full-court press. Both of these teams will take note of that, and try to turn the Tide over themselves. This will be a good time to work on breaking the press in a live situation for Alabama, as they were atrocious at it the other night. The Tide not only had some terrible passes, they coupled that with a horrible play from Coop to not get the ball over in time and some terrible lapses in judgment where the team played right into the Shockers' traps.
Neither one of these teams should give Alabama any trouble, and if they do, that could be a bad sign for Anthony Grant's team. Alabama needs to move on from the loss the other night and take advantage of these opportunities to improve. There is a big home game on the other side of the break against an historic blue-blood of the sport, so there is no time to waste.

Alabama will tip-off with Stillman Friday night at 6:00 PM CST. Sunday evening, Appalachian State will come into town. That game will be televised on the SEC Network with a 5:30 PM CST tip.

12/19/14 vs. Stillman, Tuscaloosa, Ala. 6:00 p.m. CT - Bama 69 Stillman 49 - F
12/21/14 vs. Appalachian State, Tuscaloosa, Ala. 5:30 p.m. CT, SEC Network