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Points in the Paint: Banged-up Tide will stay short-handed in the post for a few more weeks

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Weekly Roundup of all things ‘Bama Basketball

NCAA Basketball: Furman at Alabama Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

One of the keys to Alabama basketball’s renaissance has been the play of a healthy Jordan Bruner in the post. However, as the calendar turned, so too did ‘Bama’s injury luck — Jelly missed several games for illness; Herb Jones has had a banged up tailbone, a hurt back, a gimpy wrist, and even a busted nose; and perhaps the greatest loss of all — Bruner went down with a meniscus injury.

Meniscus tears are similar to hamstring injuries, in that the recovery time is notoriously finnicky. Some players can return within two to four weeks; for others, it is a season-long outage. For Jordan Bruner, injured on the 12th of January, it appears his timetable is on the slower end of recovery.

Yesterday, Coach Nate Oats said that the Tide expect to be without him for at least another 2-4 weeks...and that doesn’t even address his conditioning when he returns.

Alabama is going to need to get quality minutes from its now-undersized frontcourt, especially for a team that has struggled with defensive rebounding this season.

Well, this is slaw AF. Alabama’s rematch with LSU on Wednesday night has been moved from the much more viewer-friendly ESPN2 all the way to ESPNU. What? Was the Ocho not available? But seriously, that takes about 24 million potential eyeballs off the best story in basketball.

The Tide dropped a very tough road game in Norman on Saturday. For Alabama, it was their third straight Greco-Roman wrestling event, having come off back-to-back slogs versus Mississippi State and Kentucky. Not coincidentally, without Bruner, it was also the Tide’s third straight game where it had long stretches struggling in the paint and Alabama consequently was in a lot closer of a fight than it probably should have been.

Marked by cold early shooting, a ton of sluggish first half turnovers, poor early effort on the glass, enough layup bricks to build a McMansion, and some outright bullshit officiating, it’s one that Alabama will definitely want back...but it’s not one that you can hang your head over either. OU is playing better than anyone in the Big 12 not named Baylor. Over their last few games, the Sooners have trucked Kansas, beat Texas in Austin, and taken down Alabama. (They’ve moved all the way up to a projected 4-seed, BTW.)

Still, the loss didn’t really hurt Alabama’s national perception. The Tide moved up to 7th in the Coach’s Poll, its highest ranking in 14 years, and the AP only dropped ‘Bama one spot to No. 10. That seems about right. That said, this team is going to have to finish inside the circle, attack the glass early, and be prepared for a lot more physical games like the Sooner/Wildcat/Clanga troika — every team in America has seen the playbook now and especially in postseason play, they’ll face a lot of molasses ball. It’s like the 1985 Big East all over again!

BRACKET CHECK

  • Alabama is 10th in the NET rankings
  • Using the ole’ RPI, the Tide is 7th.
  • TSN’s Mike DeCourcy has Alabama as 2-seed in his initial Bracketology, standing across from a team it just faced a few years ago: the ULL Cajuns. That game was brutal too. Alabama won the game, but had absolutely no answers for ULL’s interior game keyed by Shawn Long. Oh, and Alabama’s projected opponent in a 1 vs. 2 South pairing? NBD, probably just the best team in America — Baylor. (Though, I am still more partial to ‘Zaga than the Fightin’ Highlighters).
  • Jerry Palm at CBS has given Alabama an even less favorable path. Again, the Tide is in the south, but as 3-seed in the South — with a first round matchup against another mud wrasslin’ team, Abilene Christian (NET 73). And then a second-round meeting versus Florida State (NET 25) or San Diego State (28). Yuck. Let’s hope he’s wrong.
  • Going total homer here, but I like Lunardi’s the best — ‘Bama as a 2-seed vs. Texas State, with a second round matchup versus reeling UNC or inconsistent Okie State. And, at the end of the rainbow? The second-weakest (in my mind, anyway) 1-seed: the Michigan Wolverines. Look, there’s a ton of quality ball played in the Big 10, but I think the Tide could gas these slow-ass motion screen teams. Besides, don’t you think Nate Oats — a native Michigander — would love to show up the homestate flagship? It would be a good story. It’s a lot better story in my mind than Alabama facing a school that gave us the moral calamities of Dave Bliss and Art Briles.

Levi Randolph made an appearance on the Sideline Story podcast. You can check that out here.

And, another one of our all-time gritty faves, Retin Obasohan, also appeared on the Clubhouse podcast, discussing the travails facing student athletes as they try to compete in ‘Rona-plagued world.

Finally, pour one out for one a real G, of Philly’s favorite sons, John Chaney.

Chaney’s accomplishments were remarkable, especially a trailblazing black head coach in the 70s and early 80s. He didn’t invent the zone defense, but he may have perfected it. And in his very long coaching tenure, he led Cheney State to a D2 title, won 8 A-10 regular season titles, 6 A-10 tourney championships, 5 A-10 COTY awards, a D2 COTY award, the 1988 D1 COTY award. He coached at Temple for 23 years and missed the post-season just one time...his first year. Thereafter, he guided the Owls to postseason play every season. More impressively, all but six of those were NCAA berths — and five of those six NIT bids came in his last five years on the bench.

It’s hard to say what his best teams were. The two times his Owls made the Elite 8, they had entered the tourney with double-digit losses. While some of his best teams, like the 2000-2001 squad that finished 5th in the AP Poll, fell flat in the early rounds. The NCAA tournament is totally about matchups, and few teams lived and died against like them quite like defense-first Owls.

RIP, my dude. Sit tibi terra levis.