Tuesday, December 22, 2009

basketball-blogging, whit-heath style, part ii

Editor's Note: The second installment of what I hope will be a regular feature once basketball season truly cranks up in January: me emailing my brother Whit, a youth minister and aspiring hoops coach, to get his unabashed thoughts. You can read the first installment here. Please also note: these questions were emailed late last week, before the team's Saturday-night meltdown vs. Kansas State, but Whit's answers came in today, and are thus current up to the minute.
If you have questions you want Whit to answer – and yes, we'll accept questions about his relationship status as well as his knees — please feel free to leave them in the commentary section, or email willlamarheath@gmail.com.

(One other note: Someone at RBR is already examining Alabama's prospects for the postseason. Enjoy.)

Q: So now you've seen a little bit of our boys and what they'll be for the 2009-10 season? Initial impressions? Is there one thing about the team that impresses you? That concerns you?
A: Coach Saban and Coach Grant share the common theme of their teams working to find their identity during their season. The football team has obviously found their identity and they compete at superior levels with superior talent. The basketball team still has a good bit to do in order to find their identity.
My initial impressions of this team were very different than I expected them to be. I expected to see a group of guys that were still trying to adjust to their new coach and as a result slightly confused. I found a team that is going to run up and down the court, a great conditioned team, and a team that will be fun to watch.
I suppose the one thing that impresses me is that these guys are in great shape and as a result press very regularly. "I ain't expected that." It will be a lot of fun to watch our guys press people when they get off the bus. I do expect this basketball team to beat a few teams that they shouldn't.
The one thing that concerns me about this team is their defense. Their defensive intensity is a lot of fun to watch, but our guards trap as a part of the zone defense and it has caused some trouble. When our guards go to trap, our backside defense just falls apart and we're left with a 2-on-1 half-court set. It has caused a good deal of problems, and if our guys continue to trap at the time line, the backside defense will have to make plays in order to win.

Q: What was the biggest difference you saw between our squad and the Purdue team that beat them the other night?
A: "They're fast, they're big, they're dirty... plus they're fast."
That's the only thing that I could think about while I watched the Purdue game. My good friend, a trainer with the team, told me that Bama continued to run a zone because we couldn't match up with them on the inside. I have played basketball for a while, and have never been a person of any size, BUT I promise you that I could play defense on people a few inches taller than me. It seems, however, that our big guys can't muster up enough physical play to stop other forwards and centers from embarrassing them.
The biggest difference between our guys and Purdue the other night was that our guys were not as physical as Purdue. "Not as physical, you say? Well what does that mean?" It means that the other night in Coleman Coliseum, Alabama's forwards and centers were boxed out, out-positioned, and embarrassed on countless pick-and-rolls. In order to beat a top team, our guys are going to have to find some heart. They're going to have to find some kind of drive that pushes them to play until they pass out or get knocked out. It's as simple as that.
The other problem I have with Alabama is our shot selection when we get befuddled. It never fails: an opposing team makes a small run during the game; Bama in-bounds the ball to a guard who inevitably dribbles around the top of the key while his four teammates stand, don't move, and stare at the ball handler; then, the guard usually gets a screen and drives or puts up an ill advised three pointer.
I don't think that Coach Grant designed a play like that so I'm not entirely sure what can be done if the players are the ones screwing up, other than graduate those players.

Q: Based on what you've seen, who's the best college basketball team right now? In the SEC?
A: I haven't seen too much SEC basketball. I think Florida is a great team, but they come off to me as a team that is too goofy to win big games.
The only team that I have seen more than a few times is Kentucky. Yeah...they're awesome. John Wall is a beast. He seems to move a lot faster than everyone else on the court.
I think Kansas and Kentucky are the two best teams that I have seen this season. I know Texas is number 2, but I haven't seem too much of them. I do know that Damian James is really good and he's a lot of fun to watch. Also, Jai Lucas is playing now for Texas after transferring from Florida and sitting out for a year. It will be fun to watch him play alongside Balbay and watch those two run teams up and down the court.

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