The Alabama Crimson Tide left Nashville and the house of horrors that is Memorial Gymnasium with a rare victory against the home team exactly two weeks ago today. That win moved the Tide to 15-8 overall and 6-4 in conference play, with most bracketologists moving Alabama safely into their projected NCAA Tournament fields. Barring a complete collapse, Avery Johnson’s squad was going to be returning to the NCAA Tournament for the second year in a row, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since 2005-2006.
Well, consider the collapse fully underway. That night was the last time the Crimson Tide won a basketball game, following up listless blowouts against Mississippi State and Florida with another horrible 2nd half breakdown against a bad Texas A&M team. I guess this shouldn’t surprise anyone, as it is February, a month that Avery Johnson just can’t seem to win any games in. Somebody ought to let him know that, unlike the NBA, there is no All-Star Break in February for college basketball. You have to keep playing decent basketball.
Enter the Vanderbilt Commodores (9-17, 0-13 SEC), a team so awful that they can’t win a single game in conference play, even with a massive home-court advantage. I can’t think of a better team that would deliver the final dagger to this season (and possibly Avery Johnson’s tenure) than this pathetically bad team. A loss tonight would complete this year’s Great February Collapse, even with another February game on the docket next Tuesday. The damage from a loss tonight would essentially render the rest of the season useless.
Believe it or not, Alabama’s actually still projected as in the tournament field by the majority of bracketologists out there. As ugly as the loss to A&M looked and felt this week, with the Aggies moving into the top 75 in the NCAA’s NET rankings, and because it was a true road game, it was considered a ‘Q1’ loss in the NCAA’s eyes. In other words, the selection committee isn’t likely to hold that particular loss heavily against a bubble team like the Tide. I know that is hard to believe, but that’s how they categorize it.
So, as hard as it is to believe, this team can still make the NCAA Tournament. A win tonight sets the Tide up with a four game stretch against ‘Q1’ teams to end the season. Splitting those four would likely put the Tide in the tournament. There is still much at stake tonight, even though it certainly doesn’t feel like it.
Also, tonight’s game represents Alabama’s turn to support and promote The Fight for Literacy. This is a great organization that raises awareness and support for a more literate America by participating in volunteer work and fundraising activities. So, even if you can’t get behind the idea of Alabama saving its season, come on out to support this great cause.
From Last Time
Three Reasons Why We Lose
Memorial Magic. Again, Alabama doesn’t win in Memorial Gymnasium. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are. It didn’t matter last season when a similarly bad Vanderbilt team knocked down 10 three-pointers and had the game-winning lay-up come from a near steal that just happened to bounce right to their back-up post Djery Baptiste for his only shot attempt of the game. It didn’t matter when the ‘Dores shot 50% from down-town in an easy win over an NCAA Tournament-bound Alabama team in 2012. It didn’t matter when Alabama came up a game short of the SEC Championship and a likely spot in the NCAA Tournament in 2011 when Tim Higgins called JaMychal Green out of bounds on the baseline, despite clear evidence that he wasn’t on Alabama’s final possession of the game. The gym is an embarrassment to the game. The court is elevated above half of the crowd, like some sort of gladiator arena. The benches are located on the baseline underneath the goals, preventing the coaching staff from having any sort of decent angle, let alone an ability to communicate with their team on the opposite end. The sight-lines for shooters are funky. It’s an abomination, and it absolutely affects the Tide every time they visit.
Vanderbilt is Due. As bad as the Commodores have been recently, they aren’t completely awful. They have capable players. Shittu could be in the NBA one day. Lee is a proven commodity that torched Alabama last season. Ryan and Toye are both capable shooters. Vandy is due for a win, and Alabama’s up-and-down play makes the Tide a prime candidate for this conference record correction.
Alabama Won the Last Game. Take a look at Alabama’s schedule so far in 2019: win, loss, loss, win, loss, win, loss, win, loss, win. The only thing the Tide can consistently do is be inconsistent. Hell, the Tide aren’t even rebounding consistently well anymore. A loss is next up on the trend-line.
I switched things up in the previous meeting and submitted a HooDoo preview as sacrifice to the hoops gods to reverse the curse in Memorial. I just didn’t realize I sacrificed the rest of the Tide’s season along with it. Never make deals with false gods, people.
Regardless, this Vanderbilt team is so bad, it’s really all about Alabama tonight. Can they finally get off of the mat and win a damn basketball game again? The ‘Dores are definitely still due, and tonight’s game would be a prime opportunity for them to finally get that elusive conference victory if the Tide continue playing like they have been recently.
I’m honestly stunned that Avery Johnson, with his job potentially on the line, doubled-down on playing guys like his son and Daniel Giddens for significant minutes while Alex Reese sat on the bench. Has another consecutive loss talked some sense into him? The Tide simply can’t afford to continue messing around with this odd rotation. Start Kira Lewis, John Petty, Tevin Mack, Herbert Jones, and Donta Hall. Let Reese, Dazon Ingram, and Riley Norris sub in, but keep two out of Lewis, Petty, and Mack on the court at all times. The bench needs to get shorter, not longer. And shooters like Reese need to be on the court. This isn’t rocket science, and it’s not the NBA: the end of the bench isn’t good enough to be out there logging 15+ minutes.
Many Tide Hoops fans have justifiably unbuckled at this point, but there are still five games left to play, and an NCAA Tournament spot to play for. Avery Johnson needs to turn this ship around immediately.
The game tips-off at 5:00 PM CST and will be televised on ESPNU.