Happy Friday everyone. By now I fully expect that most of you find your brackets sufficiently busted, as few make it unscathed past the first full day of action. Since this is Basketball Christmas season, we'll start out with the shooty hoops:
Three teams in NCAA tournament history have ever made the Final Four as an 11 seed. Don’t be surprised if Wichita State becomes the fourth. The Shockers have experience, excellent guard play led by Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker and are an advancement metrics best friend. Despite being an 11 seed in the tournament, Wichita State entered Thursday as the No. 10 overall ranked team by KenPom, thanks to its 82nd ranked offense and No. 1 ranked defense.
The Shockers have obviously managed to make some noise in recent seasons, and may well make another run this year. That the Tide finished the season so poorly after showing the ability to beat such a team is a tough pill to swallow.
Back in August, momentum exploded with a commitment from five-star guard Terrance Ferguson of Dallas. Then a pledge from four-star forward Braxton Key in October and Alabama was climbing the rankings. The only issue is Key signed in the fall while Ferguson balked. His commitment to Alabama stuck until March 1 when he reopened the recruitment. That leaves Key and Ar'Mond Davis, the top JUCO priority for Johnson's staff, as Alabama's two newcomers next season. After losing to Creighton, Johnson vowed the recruiting drive wasn't over for next season's team.
Taylor averaged 5.2 points and 4.7 rebounds per game in his 21 minutes on the floor per night. In his third season on campus, the 6-foot-10 center was named a co-team captain with Obasohan before the season and was supposed to be a major part of the team’s nightly game plan on both ends of the court. But his stats show that wasn’t the case.
Coach Avery Johnson has certainly shown the commitment level required to lift the program, both from a recruiting and marketing perspective. The Tide simply must get better down low despite the fact that there are no post players currently committed. Johnson is in on two top big-man prospects in Marques Bolden out of Texas and Bruno Fernando out of Florida, but signing either will be an uphill battle.
No news on the Terrance Ferguson front, but the Tide has another 6'6" shooting guard prospect coming in, Ar'Mond Davis, who hasn't received as much attention:
Junior college ball in Idaho is certainly not the SEC, but Davis clearly loves to go to the basket and shows outstanding burst and body control in doing so. He also appears to be an outstanding finisher around the rim who prefers to throw it down when possible. Looks like an exciting player.
Petty is a five-star recruit whose offers include Kentucky, Kansas, Alabama and Auburn. As a sophomore, Petty was the 5A Player of the Year and finished third in Mr. Basketball voting. He's among the favorites for this year's Mr. Basketball award, which will be announced at a banquet April 6 in Montgomery. "He can play all five positions and there's not many people that can do that," Johnson coach Jack Doss said. "He's worked hard to refine his skills at each one. That's what makes him great. He's blessed with God-given talent and he's used those gifts. And it doesn't get any better than that."
247sports has Kentucky and Alabama as the only legitimate contenders for Petty, a blue chip in the class of 2017. Right now the Crystal Ball is all UK, but look for Johnson to make an all-out push to keep him in-state.
So a new spring season not only brings about several position battles but it also serves as an open audition for leaders to emerge. And after winning its 16th national title, Alabama needs a lot of players to do that.
Head coach Nick Saban was asked how his team fights complacency after losing so many of its leaders. "We want everybody that has a get-it-done type of attitude," Saban said after Friday’s first spring practice. "I think that everybody not only has to have a get-it-done type of attitude but they also have to take ownership for people who aren’t getting it done because they’re unable to do things to the standard that we want to do it."
Much has been made about the leadership on this season's team. If the Tide is to repeat, new leaders will need to emerge.
After Hand, the defensive end who could get a bump is Jamar King. The 6-foot-5, 285-pound junior college transfer is a bit of an unknown but Alabama traditionally doesn't take junior college prospects unless it expects them to contribute immediately. King was rated a four-star prospect and had 53 tackles, 19.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks last season for Mendocino Community College. King has a chance to really work his way into the mix and possibly get first-team reps in Allen's absence this spring. He'll be the oldest member of the defensive line – he's 26-years old after working after high school – but his junior college coach says he still has plenty of room to grow.
Have to admit, I had no idea that King was 26 years old. He should certainly be physically mature enough to contribute right away.
Jacobs ran for around 1,300 yards as a sophomore and 948 yards and 13 touchdowns in a little more than four games as a 5-foot-8, 180-pound junior. Jacobs then grew to 5-11, 200 pounds between his junior and senior seasons, moved from running back to a Wildcat quarterback and ran for an average of 245.8 yards per game as a senior last year.
"In the beginning, people weren't believing his stats," Payne said. "The newspaper and everybody else thought we were padding his stats until they actually came to one of our games, and they'd say, 'Wow.'"
Something about Jacobs feels like a star in the making...
"Najee and I are really good friends, actually. I'm a competitor. I think I could contribute in ways that he can't," Swift said. "We're both good players. He brings a lot to the table and I bring a lot to the table as well. I'm very versatile in my style of play. I can do whatever coaches need me to do. I'm not shying away from any competition."
Swift, who was named the U.S. Army All-American combine MVP in January, called Harris' and his game similar. But there's one big difference.
"He's more of the typical Alabama running back," Swift said of Harris. "He's like 220 pounds and over six feet tall, which is the typical Alabama back. I think I'm more shifty than he is and could play in the slot as well."
Bobby Wyatt, one of our best players, said, "I can't believe Coach's chipping. I hope he's back out here tomorrow—that action needs some serious work." Coach Seawell just nods. A day later, he's giving Coach Saban another lesson, and he says, "Bobby, come over here."
Bobby walks over. Coach Seawell says to him, "Tell Coach Saban what you think of his chipping. Tell him exactly what you told me yesterday." Coach Saban says, "Yeah, tell me what you said about my chipping." Bobby, looking as terrified as the football players looked at that practice, stammers, "Well, all I meant was, there's some room for improvement." Coach Saban glares at him for five seconds, which had to be an eternity for Bobby. Then he looks over at Coach Seawell, and they both crack up laughing. They really threw Bobby under the bus. It was awesome.
Hilarious excerpt from a great read that is worth your time.
As soon as I made it to the line of scrimmage, Marcell Dareus, a big defensive tackle who now plays for the Bills, hit me on my right side. You know, still to this day, what strikes me the most was how normal the hit was. It was the same hit I’d taken a million times growing up on those dusty fields in Tuscola. My dad didn’t let me even play football until I was in seventh grade because he wanted me to learn the proper way to hit and be hit. So I’d taken enough shots to know there wasn’t anything particularly special about this one. But for one reason or another, this tackle was different. This hit would change my whole life.
If only Colt hadn't gotten hurt....
Seriously though, this is another great read from a player's perspective. In fact, most everything produced on that site is interesting.
That's about it for today. Enjoy your basketball weekend.