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Jumbo Package: Sweating it out in Coleman Coliseum down the stretch

Men’s basketball, women’s basketball, gymnastics — all have underperformed.

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Coleman Coliseum

Wednesday gives you Gump Day. Today, I fear, shall be quite a bit of anti-Gumping. But it comes from a place of love.

Still Perfect:

The Alabama Crimson Tide softball team is chasing perfection. Sitting at 20-0 on the season, ‘Bama is one of just two undefeateds in the land, and have vaulted all the way up to No. 4 in Softball America’s rankings (from 6th):

The Skinny: The Crimson Tide is the only other undefeated team in Division I. Alabama handled Michigan State, Southern Miss and Saint Francis (PA) at the Easton Crimson Classic. The Tide outscored its opponents 11-5 in four games. Alabama hosts South Alabama on Tuesday and Mississippi Valley State on Wednesday before welcoming Missouri to open SEC play.

Edit: As of five hours ago, on the heels of a 5-2 victory over South Alabama, the Tide are now 21-0.

The much ballyhooed corruption verdicts against Auburn bagman Christian Dawkins and other Adidas executives wound up being so much sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Despite a jury finding of systemic fraud and grotesque corruption, Judge Lewis Kaplan may have made things even worse at sentencing. There are slaps on the wrist, and then there’s...well, whatever the hell these sentences were:

Gatto, a 48-year-old Adidas executive, was facing a recommended 46 to 57 months in prison. Instead, he got nine months.

Dawkins, a 26-year-old basketball middleman, and Code, a 45-year-old Adidas consultant, were staring at 30 to 37 months. They got six.

Kaplan then afforded them the courtesy of choosing their prison, namely whatever minimum-security federal camp was closest to their homes. How’s a few months in Club Fed for you? Not that any of them are due to report until after they exhaust appeals, which could take years. It’s not out of the question that the Federal Bureau of Prisons just gives them house arrest. Anything is possible.

Simply put, sentencing day couldn’t have gone much better for the convicts.

Dan Wetzel rightly takes issue with Kaplan’s cavalier attitude towards sentencing. Indeed, Kaplan seemed very dismissive of the victim impact statements of schools who were shackled to Adidas contracts. His reasoning, one supposes, is that those victim statements ring hollow when contrasted with actual behaviors of the schools in the face of corruption, especially the actions of the Louisville Cardinals, who bought and sold young men and sex like chattel.

The second trial is about to get underway, and this will feature some heavy hitters in the coaching profession. If nothing else, it will make for more compelling stories. But, if these sentences were any indication, the federal court system has incentivized continued malfeasance in the entire rotten edifice of college basketball.

And, hey? Why not. Six months for a decade of luxury? That’s better than Madoff:

Full of confidence following Kaplan’s sentencing, the fight is on, two defendants more than willing to tear everything down because they have nothing much to lose — and maybe so little time to serve even if they do.

ICYMI: Here’s a breakdown of the issues at trial and the verdicts.

REMINDER: Derrick Henry is really good when you feed him the ball.

Look at that ridiculous stat: Almost a thousand yards rushing after contact — 4.12 yards after you lay a hat on him. That’s just 40 fewer post-contact yards than Zeke Elliot on about 75% of the workload — and a full yard-per-carry more than Elliot (3.12).

The Alabama gymnastics team has seriously underperformed this season, having failed to reach the 197.0 plateau at any point in the year — and have generally looked lost on the beam and vault landings along the way. But, on Friday’s Senior Night win against Auburn, Ariana Guerra had the meet of her life:

Alabama gymnast Ariana Guerra was named SEC Specialist of the Week, the conference announced Tuesday.

Guerra scored three career highs last Friday, as then-No. 8 Alabama defeated then-No. 12 Auburn in Coleman Coliseum. She posted 9.95s on the vault, uneven bars and floor exercise to win each individual title. Those marks also helped the Crimson Tide hit season bests on the same three events. Alabama had a 49.35 on vault, a 49.325 on bars and a 49.5 on floor. Its final score was a 196.7.

Congratulations, Arianna.

Todd McShay, not the most gifted draft analyst ever, has bumped what could be a seventh Tide player into the first round, and has the nation’s best tight end (sorry, Noah Fant), Irv Smith heading to the Pats.

Looks like Ed O is getting in on the second-chancers-as-analysts trend Nick Saban began. Kevin Cosgrove, slated to be UNM’s LB coach, has instead opted to be an analyst with the Tigers.

You may recognize Cosgrove from his years at Southern Miss and, more prominently, Barry Alvarez’s major domo during the Badgers’ rise from the historical Big 10 cellars.

Yesterday was Alabama’s Jr./Sr. Pro Day, and Tua Tagovailoa (who most has supsected was a shade under six-feet) had his official measurements. And he stood at an honest 6’ — not bad at all.

I guess that makes Kyler Murray about 5’7”-5’8” (no, that’s not a joke or an exaggeration either.)

Heisman Trophy Presentation
5’10” my rosy red ass.
Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

This was somewhat of a surprise, seeing as he was one of the Rams more reliable defenders in the second level — and he had a great Super Bowl — but Mark Baron was released yesterday:

The Rams have released the former Alabama All-American, ESPN and USA Today reported on Tuesday afternoon, although Los Angeles had not made an announcement on the personnel move.

Barron had two seasons remaining on a five-year, $45 million contract. Because Barron already has been paid the $20 million in guaranteed money in the contract, the Rams can release him without owing him anything.

We’ll have our unit previews for Spring Football upcoming. Others have begun their interpretation of the depth chart and what to watch over the next few weeks.

Here’s BOL’s introductory look, and they begin with the secondary.

Spring football practice begins for Alabama at the end of the week, and the Crimson Tide will begin its journey back to the College Football Playoff for what would be a sixth straight year.

With less than a week until spring drills, BamaOnLine will take a week-long look at each position group on Alabama’s roster -- sometimes combining a couple to cover all the bases -- by examining who the Tide lost, which players are coming back, the new recruits coming in as a part of the 2019 recruiting class and a player or two that could step up at each position during the spring.

Now for the bad news...

Gross. And, yes, I mean basketball — sorry, still can’t get over Tuesday.

Despite the Seasonal Second Half Swan Song we’ve grown used to under Avery Johnson, the Tide still managed to avoid the worst of the worst: Next Wednesday’s opening round SEC games. ‘Bama is looking at a finish anywhere between 6th and 10th:

Even before tipoff, Alabama had avoided the dreaded Wednesday first day games of the bottom four teams in the SEC Tournament in Nashville next week. When South Carolina defeated Texas A&M earlier in the evening, the bottom four were set – Vanderbilt, Georgia, Missouri, and Texas A&M.

Alabama went 3-2 against that slate and should have nailed down a sweep to get a solid 4. But, if wishes were fishes, we’d all cast nets.

With one left to play, and the Tide riding the razor’s edge, several bracketologists have ‘Bama as one of the last four in.

Here’s Lunardi’s.

Others, like Dobbertean at Blogging the Bracket, have the SEC as a 7-bid conference, with ‘Bama just out (or in, depending on the day. LOL). Keep an eye on the Big East tourney though. There are so many teams on the bubble in the Northeast, and from far more established programs, that a few upsets could kick ‘Bama to the NIT.

I think we an agree though, that Saturday is the absolute biggest game of the season...and it rides on the shoulders of the Tide’s single-ballhandler too. NBD, he’s 17

Alabama Gymnastics is in a six-team Elevate the Stage friendly this weekend before closing out their regular season on the road in Norman against the deservedly-No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners next Friday. If you have young children, you may want to avert their eyes: those who saw Sunday’s UCLA-OU meet can’t help but get sense that one is apt to be a slaughter.

The program has fallen further and further behind national powers since winning the SEC title in Coach Duckworth’s first season, doing just enough to get by in regionals — and this despite revamping the coaching staff after last year’s moribund showing in St. Louis. It has been a more consistent squad this year, but that is a consistency not even good enough to win SEC meets: Alabama, one of the nation’s premiere programs and the beast of the South (with Georgia) has clearly fallen into the second tier even within its own conference.

I’m not sure what else needs to be done or what the answer is here, but a solution must be found. This year alone Alabama lost at home for the first time in 40 years to Florida. Alabama also lost its Power of Pink meet for the first time in program history. Worse, fan participation and enthusiasm is at an all-time ebb, striking for its lagging attendance and failing to even sell-out the PoP meet.

With one regular season meet, the SEC tournament, and then regional action left, it would be a really good time for Dana Duckworth to get the Tide’s act together. The problem, I fear, is that this is as good as it gets. Welcome to our new normal.

Another team looking to get hot and earn a bid for post-season play is the Tide women. Curry has generally done a good job in the postseason — it’s the 30 games before then that have been the problem. And, today was no exception, as Alabama’s women started SEC tournament play began with a beating of Vanderbilt:

Shaquera Wade poured in a career-high 26 points and scored her 1,000th career point in Alabama’s 74-57 victory over Vanderbilt in the first round of the women’s basketball Southeastern Conference Tournament on Wednesday afternoon inside the Bon Secours Wellness Arena.

‘Bama (14-16), needs a lot of wins in a hurry, and at least two more to earn at an NIT bid. Their next opponent? Six-seed Auburn. The Barn beat 11-seed Alabama by 10 in Tuscaloosa, and then pasted the Tide 77-38 in Auburn. AU is going for the sweep...and perhaps may just usher in a coaching change for ‘Bama.

The returns from Coach Curry have to be considered a disappointment. Two seasons ago, Alabama was riding what we hoped would be a resurgent wave. The Tide had taken three of its last four against Tennessee, had a final four showing in the SEC tournament, made the Elite 8 of the NIT, and then signed a Top 10 class.

Two years on, the Tide has failed to reach the WNCAA tourney, and now is fighting for its very life just to make the NIT. ‘Bama has particularly abysmal in SEC play, finishing sub .500 for about a decade and absorbing a lot of grisly blowouts. Whatever the opposite of “capitalizing on momentum” is, WBB did that.

Like gymnastics and men’s basketball, I’m not sure of the solution here either: talent is not really an issue on any of the teams (though, admittedly, WBB could use a few more reliable scorers, and MBB really needs a second ball-handler.) We’re not asking for national titles in all of these sports or rosters stacked with All-Americans (although, that would be nice). But, I do think we’d like to see the talent on-hand maximized to its advantage and to compete for SEC crowns.

I often think the very worse thing that ever happened to the overall state of the athletic program has been the dominance of the football team. There has been a ton of mailed-in hires, willful neglect of facilities, and a managerial touch so light and so DGAF that it has been non-existent until problems become full-blown crises.

Non-revenue sports like T&F, Golf, Tennis have been improving a ton with upgraded coaching and facilities. But in the revenue sports, where Alabama has to satisfy the bottom line? We have seen steady erosion of those programs. And, even when things appear to be looking up, it proves to be the outlier of otherwise unsteady, mediocre finishes. Oklahoma wouldn’t settle for this. Ohio State doesn’t settle for this. I have no idea why Alabama does so. Yes, I do — FOG holdovers like Finus and superannuated Bill Battle, the worst Athletic Director of the last 20 years.

Depending on how the Men, Women, and Gym finish over the next few weeks, Greg Byrne could have a lot of sleepless nights as to what to do with...


/waves arms frantically at the burning poopy diaper in Coleman Coliseum

Okay, this is already at 2200 words. It’s your turn.

What do you do about Basketball? Women’s Basketball? Gymnastics?

Do you do anything at all?