The Alabama Crimson Tide (1-1) made the trip to Dayton, Ohio looking to see where exactly they stood as a program at the beginning of the Avery Johnson era. The revelation wasn't pretty.
After the 80-48 curb-stomping from the Flyers, Johnson now fully realizes what all must be done in order to return Alabama to its place of prominence in the SEC hierarchy.
That rebuild starts Friday night in Tuscaloosa, as the Tide will look to bounce back after a few days of licking their wounds. Don't let the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns (1-1) fool you, these guys can play. This will be a strong test from a veteran team who fields a couple of guys with NCAA Tournament experience. Bob Marlin is in his sixth season as head coach of the Cajuns, where he has built a consistent winner in Lafayette.
- PG Jay Wright (10.0 PPG, 1.0 RPG, 5.0 APG, 1.0 SPG)
- SG Hayward Register (5.0 PPG, 1.5 RPG)
- 3G Johnathan Stove (7.0 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.5 SPG)
- WF Bryce Washington (8.0 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.5 BPG)
- C Shawn Long (17.5 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 0.5 APG, 1.0 SPG, 2.0 BPG)
- G Kasey Shepherd (14.0 PPG, 1.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 2.5 SPG)
- F Devonta Walker (14.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 0.5 BPG)
- F Jay Hedgemen (5.0 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 0.5 BPG)
- G Tyrone Wooten (3.5 PPG, 2.5 RPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 SPG)
- G Tiremone Williams (3.0 PPG, 1.5 RPG)
- G Steven Wronkoski (3.5 PPG, 1.0 RPG)
- F Scott Plaisance (4.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG)
What To Watch For
- The Bounce-back. After suffering the worst loss in almost fifteen years, how will this year's group respond? It's very early in the season, so there is plenty of basketball to be played. However, this is a relatively quick turn-around against an underrated team. The character of this team is about to be forged, and it will be interesting to see how it shakes out.
- Can a Shooter Please Stand Up? Grantsketball was loathed by many Alabama fans because it relied too heavily on isolation and pick-and-rolls. In other words, players had to make something happen with their offensive skills alone, as there wasn't much designed offense based on sets, motion, or off-ball movement. When Trevor Releford was here, he was the go-to guy who made things happen. Heck, he basically carried the offense in 2014. Levi Randolph's emergence was huge for Alabama last season for this reason, as he became that guy for the Crimson Tide. Combined with Rodney Cooper's ability to heat up every so often, the Tide was able to generate enough points to make a postseason appearance in March. However, this year's team has yet to reveal a consistent jump-shot threat. Dazon Ingram and Retin Obasohan have been the best scorers this year, but neither of them have yet shown that they can knock down shots when needed. Someone needs to emerge in this area, or it could be a really long year in Tuscaloosa.
Three Keys to Victory
- Settle Down on Offense. Avery Johnson has installed a new uptempo, fast-paced attack that leads to a lot of baskets in transition. The downfall to that is if you are careless with the basketball and take poor shots, you are going to get embarrassed. That's exactly what happened to Alabama on Tuesday, especially in the second half. The team seemed to give up hope after the first few minutes of the second period, and it got really ugly from that point. Johnson wants this team to play fast, but not reckless. Reckless basketball, like the kind the Tide played in Dayton, will get this team slaughtered.
- Get Back and Pack In. The other part of the new fast-paced attack is that the Tide likes to run up-and-down the court a bunch. But if they don't get back in on defense, the opposing offense is going to have their way with Alabama. Lafayette has had issues themselves with consistently knocking down jump-shots, and they have been atrocious from behind the arc at 20.0%. They are currently 6th in the country at 70.1% from two-point land though. The reason why is because they play really well around the rim. Long and Walker are both very skilled offensive players in the post, and the rest of the team does a good job of getting to the basket themselves. Alabama needs to prevent easy transition points, swarm the ball in the paint, and force the Cajuns to hit shots from outside.
- Frustrate Long. Shawn Long is a legitimate NBA prospect for Lafayette; the guy can ball. However, there are three areas of his game that need serious work: free throws, turnovers, and fouls. He is currently averaging 3.0 TOPG, has fouled four times in each of their games, and is shooting a lowly 45.5% from the free throw line. Jimmie Taylor, Michael Kessens, and to an extent, Shannon Hale and Donta' Hall, need to do a good job of swarming and stifling Long. Make him earn his points. Low post traps would be an extremely good idea whenever Long gets the ball. Get in his head, force a few turnovers, let him get chippy, and make him earn his points from the line.