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Jumbo Package: Focused Alabama enters the NCAA tournament on unfamiliar grounds: as the hunted

Don’t take anyone lightly, ever.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament First Round Birmingham Practice Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

There were questions swirling about in Nashville as to why Burnett and Welch did not play. The two have fought injuries all season, and it has impacted their play at times. According to Coach Oats, it really was about momentum.

“It’s hard to play 11 guys in every game,” Oats said. “We kind of went with the guys that are playing well. Stuff started out great. We just kind of rolled with the guys that were playing well at the time. They are both 100 percent healthy. Thought Nimari’s had two great practices, would anticipate seeing him early tomorrow based on those last two practices and how focused he’s been in video sessions and everything.

“I think Dom is playing really hard, and we’ll play him as needed. But there’s nothing wrong with either one of them. Kind of one of those deals – Gurley didn’t play in two of our last four regular season games and he averaged 20-plus minutes in the SEC Tournament. And played really well for us.”

Interestingly, Sports Illustrated opened up its piece on Alabama and Notre Dame coordinator changes with the very same ones that I had, including pointedly asking “Was it talent or was it Tommy Rees.”

That’s the question, isn’t it now?

Alabama: Is Tommy Rees going to take Bama back to a (slightly) bygone era?

Out: Bill O’Brien (Next: New England Patriots OC)
In: Rees (Previous: Notre Dame OC)

There are plenty of questions in a post–Bryce Young Alabama offensive world. Young’s brilliance many times masked the Tide’s relative downturn at other key positions, namely wide receiver after John Metchie III and Jameson Williams left, as well as tight end. Young also bailed out an offensive line that saw him become one of the most pressured quarterbacks in the country last year. So what will Bama do next? The offense under Nick Saban has had two eras: the first its classic I formation smashmouth and the next a much more QB run-game-centric system that embraced RPOs and the current notion of where offensive football is going. Does Bama have a third pivot in it, perhaps back to more of a smashmouth attack with multiple tight ends on the field? And does it even need to do that?

Notre Dame: Was it the personnel, or was it Rees?

Out: Rees (Next: Alabama OC)
In: Gerad Parker (Previous: Notre Dame TE coach)

Considering that Rees is now gone, what will Notre Dame’s offense look like? For the past few years, the Irish have lacked a dynamic explosive receiving threat. They’ve leaned into their strengths: big-bodied pass catchers like tight end Michael Mayer and a bruising run game. Notre Dame’s offense wasn’t too aesthetically pleasing last year, especially through the air, and a lot of the criticism obviously fell on Rees. But was Rees playing the hand he was dealt given an understanding of his personnel, or was he intentionally keeping the bridles on the Irish? The answer is probably more of the former, but we’ll find out by combining the observations of where Rees is now and what he leaves behind.

You can be mad at me all you want to — and hundreds of you were. But his record is what his record is...and it sucks. In my most optimistic moments, I think the best we can hope for is a continuity candidate that doesn’t chase off quarterbacks; I doubt anyone thinks he will be able to elevate the offense to its previous atmospheric heights. But on the darkest days, I’m less sanguine and caution fans to enter this experience with your eyes Droog-glued open. It could easily be an utter catastrophe. Because while nothing in his past suggests Rees’s ceiling is as high as we’ve become accustomed to, there is more than enough to suggest that his is low, and I mean low. This is a spectacular gamble, based on his outputs and the roster that Alabama has on hand, and one that has the potential to finish exhausting the fumes of The Dynasty that Alabama has coasted on the last two seasons.

So, is this a conscious return to The Process? The Standard? One that will payoff with more rings? Or is this a coaching legend desperately uncomfortable with what offensive football has become, one side-eyeing Georgia with envy in the hopes of going back to the future...though with far less certain success?

I honestly don’t know. I have my suspicions, because 40 games of results typically don’t lie. But we’ve seen even average coaches become outstanding under Saban...just as we’ve seen previously-successful ones implode.

The Tommy Rees offensive experience at Notre Dame.

TSN has a fairly awesome schedule up for you draftniks of every school’s Pro Days:

Most major programs have scheduled pro days for their draft prospects, giving teams an up-close look at any players who still have lingering questions. Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud, Will Levis, and Anthony Richardson are among the prospects who could take the field at their pro days in March and leave a lasting impression as front offices finalize their draft boards.

The combine does matter to teams, but it’s not uncommon for top prospects to put more emphasis on their pro days. Many quarterback prospects in recent years have chosen to skip throwing at the combine and instead showcase themselves at their pro days.


Georgia coach Kirby Smart insists he has not lost control of a program that has produced back-to-back national championships but has been rocked by offseason arrests and a car crash that claimed the lives of a player and a recruiting staffer.

“There’s no lack of control for our program,” Smart said before the Bulldogs’ first spring practice.

The more things change, huh?

Character assassination deprived Brandon Miller of first-team consensus All-American — an award he very much deserved.

The U.S. Basketball Writers Association released its 2022-23 All-America Team on Wednesday, and Alabama forward Brandon Miller was a second-team All-American pick by the outlet.

The USBWA is one of four All-America teams that determine consensus All-American status. The other three outlets include the Associated Press, Sporting News and National Association of Basketball Coaches. Miller was a first-team selection by Sporting News and the AP but a second-team pick by NABC and USBWA. With the latter naming him to their second teams, Miller missed out on consensus first-team recognition. However, he is now the Crimson Tide’s second-ever consensus second-team All-American, joining Leon Douglas (1975).

Find me five better players in America to justify knocking B Mill to the second-team. You can’t. I promise you.

Congratulations, Brandon. You deserved more. Still, being the first-ever First-Team AP All-American at Alabama is amazing.

It wasn’t the only milestone for Miller though.

Never before has anyone been named SEC Player of the Year, SEC Freshman of the Year, and SEC Tournament MVP. Not Anthony Davis, not John Wall, not Reggie King, not Charles Barkley.

If Miller continues his run of dominance and propels Alabama to a deep run into the NCAA Tournament, he deserves to be in the conversation for the greatest SEC basketball player of all-time.

Staggering to think that no one has nailed that hat trick in the SEC before, particularly when you share a conference with Kentucky.


But, having the spotlight on Miller has also made him the target of bad faith hacks who will die alone over a bowl of cold mac n’ cheese.

The kid is getting enough threats to warrant Alabama hiring additional security.

We’ve been fighting back against these shitty narratives from the start, but the backlash is really in full swing now against idiots like Goodman and Rodak and Robinson who’ve intentionally and deliberately trafficked in half-truths, distortions, and grief porn for a full month now.

Naming names. It needs to be done every time, against every one of them.

Believe it or not, there is basketball to discuss. Though you wouldn’t know it from AL’s coverage. Fortunately, Mike Casagrande has maintained his credibility and remained above the fray, and we always have good ole’ Charlie.

And Nate Oats, man. This is the best interview he’s ever done — with far afield candor, even by his usual earnest lights. Everything from letdowns, to what it’s like being a hungry midmajor, to his relationship with Coach Lutz at TAMUCC, to the team’s defensive prowess, the trip to Europe, the Gonzaga loss, and more.

“Then we had our next exhibition game against Southern Illinois, who is a good team, and we played much better. We came out in the first game and looked completely different than we had in that closed scrimmage. Maybe the next one after — we only played in Birmingham once this year. It was against Gonzaga, and we weren’t very good. Turned into an offensive shootout. There was no defense being played on our side. We got back from that game, we lost the game. I kind of asked the players, like, “What happened?” Just, we didn’t, you know, we didn’t do what we needed to on the defensive end. I said when we’re playing defense, the offense a lot of times takes care of itself. We’re one of the best teams in the country. When we forget about playing defense, we’re a really average team.

“So they kind of admitted to me exactly what I would have told them, but it’s a lot better when you ask them and they come up with it themselves. Really some of our freshmen were saying that. So when we lost to Gonzaga — sometimes you need a wake-up call. We kind of got ourselves woke up. And the loss at Oklahoma was another one. We haven’t had many losses, but I felt like the response after every one let us just getting better at stuff we weren’t good at in those losses and make sure we fix it. And that it doesn’t rear up again. I think we have a pretty good job at that. Couple of the stories that I have for you on the question that you asked.”

Best 10 minutes you’ll spend today.

And, finally, speaking of Coach Lutz — a former Greg McDermott assistant at Creighton:

Q. You mentioned everyone would know you guys if you pull it off tomorrow. Have you talked to the team about the UMBC-Virginia game from a couple years back, the last time and I think the only time.

COACH LUTZ: “We have not talked specifically about the UMBC game. As I said before in other interviews, we have been on the road at Mississippi State and had the lead. We have been on the road at Arizona and had the lead when they were top five in the country. We have been to Notre Dame, on and on and on. The difference is we’re not going to get a guarantee check for this game. But if we win this game, it’s more important than any guarantee check that you’re going to get. I promise you that. We talk about living in the present. We talk about enjoying the moment. We talk about doing your best every single day. If you do your best and we beat Alabama, man, they will never ever forget it. If they do their best and they lose to Alabama, they will forget it because they did their best. And that’s what matters.”

Great interview with Steve Lutz too.

That’s it for now.

Non-stop basketball begins today, as the most talented, accomplished team in Alabama history attempts to do what was once unthinkable: Compete for a national title at our “Football School.”

I’m ready to run through a brick wall for these guys.

Roll Tide


How would you define this season’s success?

This poll is closed

  • 19%
    It could end now, and it will still have been a success.
    (94 votes)
  • 26%
    Nothing less than Sweet 16 or Elite 8 is the bar. This team must make it to the second weekend.
    (129 votes)
  • 34%
    The Tide have been a Top Four team all year, so a Final Four must be the goal for a successful year.
    (170 votes)
  • 20%
    Cut down the nets. Accept no substitutes.
    (99 votes)
492 votes total Vote Now