An eventful and hype-filled off-season finally came to an end last Friday night, when the 25th-ranked Crimson Tide went up to Annapolis, Maryland and defeated the Memphis Tigers 82-70 in the Veteran's Classic. The Tide played an exciting and fun, albeit sloppy, brand of basketball that has been rarely seen around Tuscaloosa in recent years. The good news is that Alabama comes home for their next tilt: a match-up with the Lipscomb Bisons (2-0). Coleman Coliseum should be filled with an anticipation that hasn't filled the air of the cavernous arena in ages, as Avery Johnson's young, fiery club gets set to open up the 2017-18 home slate.
The Tide faithful will hopefully be treated to repeat performances from the likes of Dazon Ingram, who dropped 20 points on the Tigers, Donta Hall, who recorded a double-double to go along with 5 blocks in the opener, and newcomers Daniel Giddens, John Petty, Herb Jones, Alex Reese, and Galin Smith, who all showed glimpses of how good they could be one day in Annapolis last week.
Oh, and some guy named Collin Sexton will be making his debut in Crimson and White.
- POINT 6'5 Michael Buckland (8.5 PPG, 7.0 APG, 7.0 RPG, 2.0 SPG, 1.0 BPG)
- GUARD 6'5 Garrison Mathews (31.0 PPG, 3.0 RPG, 1.0 APG)
- WING 6'7 Matt Rose (5.5 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 1.0 APG)
- WING 6'8 Eli Pepper (11.0 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 2.0 APG)
- POST 6'8 Rob Marberry (15.0 PPG, 11.5 RPG, 2.5 APG, 3.0 BPG)
The Bisons have started off the season with a pair of solid victories, dropping 98 points on Emory in the opener and then following that up with a 77-70 victory over Morehead State on Sunday. Without question, the main conduit of their scoring is junior guard Mathews, who has knocked down 16/31 shots on the year, including 8/15 from beyond the arc. If there is anyone on this team that can't be allowed to get loose, it would be Mathews. He's also already attempted 31 free throws on the year, of which he's made 22 of for a solid 71.0% clip. His fellow back-court mate, Buckland, has had his issues scoring (4/14 from the field), though he's hit every free throw he has attempted this season. His 14 assists in two games sounds great, but considering he's the primary ball-handler and he's averaging 30.0 MPG, it seems less impressive. Especially considering he's turned the ball over 10 times himself.
In the front-court, the Bisons rely almost entirely on the three guys listed above. Marberry is the star, averaging a double-double with very good assist and block percentages. He'll have his hands full defending Hall and Giddens in the post, but his ability to score (10/17 from the field, 10/12 from the free throw line) should keep those guys just as busy on the other end. Rose and Pepper have the ability to extend the defense with their range (combined 4/13 from three-point land), but Pepper has been significantly more efficient early on this year (Rose: 4/13 from the field, Pepper: 9/13).
All-in-all, one of the Bisons' best strengths is that they have good size across the board, but Alabama does as well.
- GUARD 6'1 Greg Jones (2.5 PPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 RPG)
- GUARD 6'4 Aaron Korn (0.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG)
- GUARD 6'5 Andrew Fleming (9.0 PPG, 2.5 APG, 3.0 RPG)
- POST 6'10 George Brammeier (5.0 PPG, 2.0 RPG)
As is the case with most smaller schools, Lipscomb isn't very deep. Fleming has been a strong contributor off of the bench, though a lot of that may have more to do with volume than effectiveness (3/11 from the field this season). Honestly, it's too early in the season to accurately assess much from the Bisons' bench, as the four guys listed who have played both games simply haven't logged enough minutes for proper analysis.
What To Watch For
- Player Development. Regardless of what Lipscomb brings to the table Tuesday night, this game will be all about Alabama. How will the Tide build upon their opening night win over Memphis? Can Petty and Jones blossom into the potential stars they showed flashes of becoming Friday night? Can Ingram continue to rack up buckets in a variety of ways in a leading role for the Tide? Reese showed off some range as a shooter in the opener, but he also banged on the boards for 7 rebounds. If he can become the stretch forward Shannon Hale teased Alabama fans with becoming, the Tide will have yet another dangerous match-up problem for opposing defenses. Hopefully, Giddens will stay on the floor more Tuesday night, because he could team up with Hall to become a serious presence in the post.
- Discipline on Defense. Yes, a lot of the foul calls from last Friday were weak, but that's just how college basketball is officiated in today's game. Alabama has a lot of new faces and inexperienced players, and boy did they look the part during the first half of Friday's game. Foul trouble alone kept Memphis hanging around longer than they probably should have, even despite their horrible free throw shooting. Better teams won't let Alabama off the hook in that regard.
- Collin Sexton. What else needs to be said about this young man? Sexton is a game-changer. A legitimate lottery pick in next summer's NBA Draft. It would be dishonest to suggest that Sexton's debut isn't the #1 thing to watch for Tuesday night.
The Crimson Tide showed a ton of promise in the opener against Memphis, and now Sexton joins the fray. With Riley Norris supposedly not far from recovering from his injury, and Braxton Key apparently on a fast-track towards playing again, things should only get better for this young group. Avery Johnson has a few tune-up games to get Alabama polished and playing better basketball prior to their big match-ups with BYU and Minnesota next weekend, so each one of them will be very important for getting his new roster up-to-speed and ready to go.
The game will tip-off live in Coleman Coliseum at 7:00 PM CST and will be televised on the SEC Network.