Thursday, March 1, 2012

basketball thoughts: now with more thoughts

A bit of an email back-and-forth with my brother Whit in the wake of last night's ugly win over Auburn at Coleman.

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will: The unique thing about this team, as we've said repeatedly, is its depth and versatility, particularly on defense. But it occurred to me last night that this may also prove to be sort of a weakness. Because coach Grant has so many options down the stretch, Alabama doesn't appear to have a set rotation, from game to game or even moment to moment. Last night Ben Eblen didn't play one second during the first half, then played virtually all of the second half (including crunch time, which was slightly awkward since his steadfast refusal to shoot led people in my section to wonder if he would attempt to pass on his 2 FT attempts). Engstrom and Gueye played big minutes vs. State, and didn't play at all in the second half vs. Auburn. What are your thoughts here?
Whit: You're right. The depth and versatility available has seemed to not make sense at times, but I think perhaps Coach G is playing those people who are  hustling their butts off and making good decisions. Take Eblen, for example, in the minutes that I watched him play, I didn't see him make too many mistakes and I don't remember him turning the ball over (I could be and probably am wrong). So if he's got a good basketball mind and knows his role, it allows other people like Lacey to attack all the while knowing that Eblen will be back on defense because he hustles his tail off. I know that he turned down an open look at a 3, but I think he turned it down because he was told to. You could tell he thought about it, and then passed. Oh and Eblen was a BIG 1-2 from FT.
I think that Coach Grant was trying to give JaMychal every minute that he could last night. At one point, we had Eblen, Releford, Lacey, Cooper, and Green which was interesting to me because that group would be fun to watch if they got hot. I think Coach Grant has done a wonderful job incorporating Gueye, Engstrom, and Jacobs into the rotation. How many other teams out there have a lineup that they play around with like this? Gueye and Engstrom will have significant minutes in the SEC tournament and beyond. 
will: I may be way off-base here, but it's entirely possible that Trevor Lacey may become the go-to player for us down the stretch on offense. He looked sharp and aggressive vs. Arkansas before mangling his ankle, and last night he was pretty much the only player we had in the second half who wasn't shrinking from the moment. I hope he rests that thing and it's healthy for the postseason; I'd love to see him make a name for himself. Who's our crunch-time 5 right now?
Whit: Lacey has come alive recently and it has been fun to watch. He has also taken some really stupid shots and cost Alabama some possessions (but who hasn't?). Lacey has given Alabama an option when the shot clock is running down (every other possession) though, and he seems to be the only one willing and confident enough to create their own shot. I like his new found confidence, but if, and only if, he is smart about shot selection and continues to give good effort without the ball.
I think that "our crunch-time 5" should be Releford, Steele, Lacey, Cooper (if he can get away with it on defense), and Green. Releford is necessary and irreplaceable. Steele is a veteran and as previously mentioned will do good things for you in crunch time.  Lacey will be able to score from a SF role. If Cooper can get away with guarding a big well on the defensive end, his quickness and jump shot make an ideal mismatch with a bigger slower player. Green is a veteran and as long as he gives 100% on both ends of the floor and in transition, I think he is the best option there. 
will: Looking ahead, what are your thoughts on the conference tournament? If we're really in the Dance (I said "if"), is it worth everyone's effort to try hard at the SECs?
Whit: Alabama will be in the NCAA tournament, and I think it's definitely worth their effort to play hard at the SEC tournament. Right now, Alabama will receive a bye in the first round and I hope they play well enough to face a tough Kentucky team one more time. There's nothing like playing the #1 team in the land to prepare you for the NCAA tournament. 

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