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Jumbo Package: Alabama will have to platoon to fill Nimari Burnett’s large shoes

There are veterans on the bench that will have to come up big over the coming months

NCAA Basketball: Alabama at Houston Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

If there is one regret I have in life, it’s in never being able to shoot the shit with Mike Leach over some Pappy Van Winkle. I do have a related story I’ll tell later, and it’s worth the wait. Until then, Ross Dellenger has a great story here on what made him tick

Mike Leach apparently lived like a law student until his death:

It was quite normal for Leach to converse over strong spirits until 3 or 4 a.m. and not arrive into his office until after noon. At Washington State, Chun’s day often started at around 5 a.m., when he’d wake up to a text from Leach that was sent an hour earlier. “When he was going to bed, I was waking up,” Chun laughs.

It became fairly normal for Mississippi State’s primary athletic spokesman, Brandon Langlois, to field calls from the coach at 2 in the morning. These weren’t work calls. They were random musings from a man sipping bourbon on the other end of the phone.

“You didn’t know what it would be about it,” says Langlois, the school’s senior associate athletic director for communications. “He’d be like ‘Hey, I’m sitting here watching this documentary on Showtime about John McEnroe. Have you seen it?’ You look up and it’s 3:30.”

There were no quick calls with Mike Leach. And there was no possibility of saying “no” to the man. He routinely convinced hotel lobby bartenders to serve well past closing time. And he was unafraid to belly up to the local dive bar. In fact, he preferred it.

SN’s National CotY shouldn’t surprise anyone — TCU’s Sonny Dykes.

There were a surprisingly lot of excellent candidates this year, honestly. Former ‘Bama coach, Curt Cigenetti, who guided James Madison to FBS play and then went 9-3, with two Top 25 upsets. Dykes. Coach Prime. Chris Klieman, who we will see in the Sugar Bowl. Josh Heupel. Willie Fritz. Even Kane Wommack, who guided South Alabama to its first 10-win season.

Nate Oats updated the media on Nimari Burnett’s injury, and those hoping for a quick return are apt to be disappointed. And honestly, CNO’s reasoning makes sense:

“Nimari’s timeframe is 6-8 weeks,” said head coach Nate Oats after the home win over the Tigers. “It’s similar to what Herb (Jones) had, but we don’t wanna bring him back with a cast on his hand. He’s not Herb that’s gonna pull up 17 rebounds and can kind of play him as a center on offense. He’s a shooting guard, so shooting guards need to be able to pass, dribble, shoot. We’re gonna bring him back when he can play with a brace on his hand, not a case. That’s why it will be a little longer, but it’s the same injury Herb had our first year here.”

For now. it sounds like the Tide will try to platoon to fill in the considerable shoes left by Burnett’s absence — Q, Rylan Griffen, and especially Darius Miles. Though, as Oats noted, Darius really has to work on ball security.

“We’ve got a lot of guys that are gonna get a chance to play more minutes with Nimari out,” Oats said. “Darius is one of them. I think Darius has kind of stayed locked in. He’s got some length, athleticism. We needed somebody a little longer to guard (Kendric Davis). He was asking for him. I thought he played pretty well. He came in and hit the one three. He goes 1-of-2 and he’s 2-of-2 at the line, five rebounds in 13.5 minutes. He played hard, got some stops and he’s a veteran guy that’s been in some big games and made some big plays for us in the past.

Though the Tide did not play its best game against Memphis, Nate Oats thinks basically the same thing we all did: Memphis is a very good team, and this iteration is better than last season’s team, that absolutely humiliated the Tide.

“As far as tonight’s game, this was a better Memphis team than last year’s team, in my opinion. I think Penny’s done a really good job of getting an older group in there. They’re veterans. You see how many seniors they played. At one point there in the second half for a while, we had four freshmen on the floor. At various points, we could have pulled away from them. I thought we should have pulled away, and we just couldn’t get the stops we needed to. So you’ve gotta give Memphis a ton of credit for hanging in there. They could have gone away. I think we were up nine there, trying to push it to 10 and just could never put them away.

And the challenge Saturday now is to adapt to the mentality of being the hunted, rather than the hunter. Last season’s group did a poor job with that. But this group seems different; there are some dogs on the pine:

“With the schedule we’ve had, to be 9-1 right now, it says a lot about the group of kids we’ve got. The only loss we have is to UConn. I looked on KenPom this morning, UConn was No. 1 in the country with the analytics. They’re a really good team. That’s our only loss. Our guys have answered the challenge. Tonight was not one of our better nights, but we were good enough to beat a really good Memphis team when we weren’t playing at our best. So yeah, you’re right. I think we’re getting everybody’s best shot. We’re at least gonna get a great effort out of all of our opponents to try to beat us.”

On what makes this team so special…

“I think they all are really, truly for the team. Like even tonight, some guys didn’t play well. They’re upset they didn’t well. But it’s more they’re upset because they let their team done, not they’re upset because their individual numbers weren’t great. Like Quinerly didn’t play great. He knows it. He’s down on himself a little bit. Didn’t play great at Houston. He’s great. I mean, he’s happy the team won, knows he needs to play better to help the team, but he’s not mad about personal numbers. I just think we’ve got a group of kids that pulls for each other, that challenges each other.

Everything else Coach Oats said is right here, over at BOL.

Speaking of analytics, today’s Points in the Paint highlighted a pretty startling fact: Alabama is just playing so well across the board. This isn’t luck or a mirage; it’s a team effort in all phases - even if they really need to hit some free throws and clean up those turnovers.

Oh, poor Tua, my sweet summer child. You have no idea what “lake effect” is, do you?

The Dolphins visit the Buffalo Bills for an AFC East showdown on Saturday night, prompting a reporter to inquire at the quarterback’s Wednesday press conference if Tagovailoa had seen snow.

“It snowed in Alabama my first year,” Tagovailoa said. “It snows in Alabama, guys. People don’t know that. Some people just think it gets cold, but it does snow.”

Buffalo had 12 feet of snow during its Thanksgiving Blizzard. That’s like three Bryce Young’s worth of miserable shoveling. You’ve not really seen snow yet, my man. If Tua wants the AFC to run through South Florida, this is a must-win. There are few places as miserable as Niagara in January.

As was expected, in a closed door meeting, the UC Regents did approve UCLA’s move to the Big 10.

Now, it’s up to the Cal Assembly — and Gov. Newsom — to see how they will respond, if at all.

This is literally the only Alabama football news today.

Of the 13 Tide players in the Quitter Hole, five have found a home.

Yup, that’s it. That’s your football news. Enjoy!


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