Thursday, March 29, 2012

newspaper column, in which I make fun of myself for screwing up

Here's this week's column from the St. Clair Times that actually made the paper. As always, feel free to comment here or on Twitter.
Mix-up a lesson in the power of little things 
It’s never the big things in life that get a person in trouble. Always the little things. 
Two weeks ago Friday, I was afforded the opportunity to visit St. Clair County Correctional Facility with a group of media and Sen. Cam Ward, as part of his efforts to pass sentencing reform through the state legislature. 
The prison, it should be noted, is a foreboding, dangerous place. It’s not the sort of place you’d ever want to spend more than 15 minutes, under any circumstances. 
In a way, that was sort of the whole point of the story. Here is a dank, dangerous place where a mass of convicted felons are sentenced to pay their debts to us, the taxpaying public, for terrible offenses that are part of our past. But for the people who work there every day, it’s a part of their present — the people we want put away so we feel safer, they walk in and amongst on a daily basis. And it’s even more dangerous than that, given the numbers disparity — more than 1,300 inmates live at the prison, more than 750 living in the “general population” there. 
That would be daunting enough on its own, until Warden Carter Davenport mentioned that the typical staff of correctional officers “on the ground” is a robust seven people. 
At one point during our whirlwind tour, Davenport noted that, in “an ideal situation,” his general population dormitories would be staffed by one person in each dorm, plus another staff member to float. 
“How many dorms are you watching today?” he asked the officer at his elbow. 
“All of them, sir,” the officer responded. 
The response, however, wasn’t the big thing. It was a little thing. 
In the story that followed, the editor of this newspaper wrote that the population at St. Clair Correctional is “1,331, 768 of which are ‘general population’ inmates.” The joke, it seems, is on me. 
“Ain’t no 1 million people in that prison!” 
Fair enough. I’m sure there’s a lesson here about proper use of punctuation, and the importance of ensuring clarity in your prose, so that there’s no ambiguity in what you’re saying. 
Or it could just be that I’m not very good with numbers. Which is undoubtedly true — why do you think I went to journalism school in the first place? 
Then again, maybe the lesson here is that maybe we should all be thankful that our officers — inside the prison and out — can do the job they do. After all, my foible only cost me a few ounces of pride and a few minutes answering calls and emails from people who wondered if I should have my head examined. They mess up a little thing, and the cost is ... prodigious. 
I think I’ll stay where I am for now.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

a newspaper column that didn't make the newspaper

Editor's note: This particular entry started as a column for the newspaper, but it didn't really work for a number of reasons. So I'm posting it here, for your enjoyment. As always, feel free to attack me here or on Twitter
Root for Tebow, just to stick it to everybody else

Americans love underdog stories. It’s why movies like “Hoosiers” and “Bad News Bears” (the original, not that garbage remake) are so popular. It’s probably why we watch the NCAA Tournament in the first place — to see if the little guys can “shock the world,” in the great American sporting tradition.

It’s also why so many Americans have fallen in love with the Tim Tebow story. Which is interesting because, in reality, Tim Tebow isn’t an underdog.

Tebow, for the fortunate few who don’t have a television or access to news, captured the attention of the entire world last fall, coming off the bench to lead the Denver Broncos to the NFL playoffs. Sure, he compiled a pretty pedestrian stat line — he completed fewer than 50 percent of his passes, and compiled a record as a starter of only 7-4, to lead the team to an overall 8-8 record in a lousy AFC Western division.

But no one could deny that he was electric — of those 7 wins, 6 were by a margin of a touchdown, or narrower. And almost all of them followed the same script: Tebow and the offense would stink for three quarters, all hope would seem lost … and then he’d do something improbable, and the Broncos would win.

Tebow himself, devoutly religious and bizarrely humble, became the lightning rod for analysts and fans alike. There was no middle ground: either you hated his mechanics and killed him for failing to play like a “professional” quarterback (and risked sounding like a cynic); or you overpraised him and wished your team had a quarterback like him (and risked sounding like an overzealous nutjob).

Even politicians got into the mix — then Republican candidates Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry each compared themselves to Tebow in the run-up to primary season.

They were correct, but probably not for the reasons they wanted to be.

Let’s get this out of the way, lest we be misunderstood. Tebow is, by all accounts, a nice person, and someone whose spirituality and humility seem perfectly genuine. There was a moment during the Broncos’ come-from-behind win over the Chicago Bears that stands out as the most “Tebow” moment of the entire run: After his teammates recovered an onsides kick to give him a chance to lead a game-tying drive, the NFL Films microphones caught Tebow, calmly donning his helmet, singing the popular praise tune, “Lord I Lift Your Name On High,” like he was headed out to a Thursday practice.
That kind of stuff is neat. Even I can admit that.

Of course, Tebow isn’t a “rags to riches” story, or even really an “underdog” story. He was born to a perfectly stable, white, two-parent household, one that had a lot of money and afforded him all the advantages in the world. He was one of the most highly sought after high school athletes in the country — remember him bringing his high school team to Hoover in 2005, for a game on national television? — and was part of a top-5 college program in the country all four years he was there.

But the NFL overlooked him, you say! Yes, so much so that the Broncos had to wait all the way until the … um, well, the first round. They took him with their first pick in 2010.
And it’s not as though his detractors have any particular dislike for him personally. He has bad throwing mechanics, struggles to make good decisions in the pocket and generally doesn’t look anything like a “prototypical” NFL quarterback. His boss, John Elway, would probably be better suited for the job right this second, and he retired in 1999.

The fact that he’s not a typical NFL signal-caller, honestly, is what makes me root for him, at the end of the day. I’m not sure if anything otherworldly is driving the man, but every time he does something correctly, it’s another thumb in the eye of the self-righteous horde of professional analysts, all of whom loudly scream about “WHAT IT TAKES TO SUCCEED IN THIS LEAGUE,” like it’s a weird religion that only the pure NFL fan can truly appreciate. Give me a break.

So here’s to you, Tim. We don’t know how you’re doing it, but we hope you keep it up. Just because.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tuesday tube: for the good times

Discovered this video online today — it's ripped from a video they released in the mid-1990s and for some reason doesn't exist anymore. I'm posting it now ... just because. Enjoy it and be happy these aren't the last happy memories we have of Alabama football anymore.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday links: springing forward

— In the state of Alabama, we have many points of pride. One of those points of pride is not the quality basketball we play here, as Scarbinsky reminds us with this column. This seems like a tradition, by the way, among local columnists: complaining about the low-wattage hoop in the state every spring. It's sort of like a rite of spring, along with people complaining about pollen and ridiculous A-Day attendance figures. Speaking of things we do well here, the Tourism Bureau is adding the state's championship tour to its marketing campaign. Of course we are.
— Which means, obviously, that we should talk about football. Nick Saban's bunch was back at it this week, and BSR has the most comprehensive spring reports for your reading pleasure. TideSports has the video.
One of the key focus points for the 2012 edition of the Crimson Tide is the defensive line, which must begin with the nose position. The secondary is also rebuilding, but, as anyone who reads me regularly knows, I believe being great up front will cover up for a mass of deficiencies in the back end.
Oh, and while we're here, it's worth noting that Alabama's athletic department was the most profitable in the nation last year. But they still want me to be a contributor. I feel like cursing at that automated voice every time I hear it.
The baseball team did what the baseball team usually does. Softball did its usual thing, too. These things are opposites, by the way.

— Chipper Jones announced his retirement at the end of this season last week. David O'Brien calls him the greatest Brave of the Atlanta era, and it's hard to argue.
In other baseball news, Joba Chamberlain has really terrible luck.
— Miscellaneous stuff: Anniston's George Smith eulogizes the great Furman Bisher; the NYT discusses how to fight the NCAA; the state of Kentucky is preparing for Armageddon; and Texas A&M is taking its last long, wistful looks back at the Big XII.
— Finally, I would be remiss not to link to this wonderfully penned column about Tim Tebow, written by the great Spencer Hall. He's about got this Internet thing figured out.

The truth is that -- in what will be year three -- no one knows that it will not work. I think Tim Tebow could be a superb tight end, H-back or fullback. He could probably be a passable linebacker given time. If he wanted to throw the world a curveball, he could probably become a professional rugby player of some serious value. I think he will get an NFL pension by playing in the league for five years, and will probably spend the rest of his life being a reasonably good person somewhere. I am certain he will marry someone attractive (because he is rich) and make burly children (because he is burly).
These are things I think based on things I know about the subject of Tim Tebow. I believe nothing about him, but that is not about sports. That's a matter of belief, and of theology, and of things without box scores. Football is not a theology. If Tim Tebow exists on the football field, it will not require prayer, hope or faith to prove it. He will be right there between the lines, and as irrefutable as gravity itself.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

a newspaper column that's about writing columns

This week's edition of the column for the St. Clair Times started as a good idea but got written in a hurry. You can probably tell. Enjoy, nevertheless, as much as you can. What you don't enjoy you can let me know about either here or on Twitter
Title this column and win nothing of any consequence

On my desk right now a list of potential column ideas. Very few of them are actually mine.

Truth be told, rarely does one have to do much brainstorming to come up with a column idea. Sometimes they fall into your lap with ease. But most of the time, people just offer them to you, unsolicited.

Not so long ago, I was sitting in a barbershop, with scissors near my head. I was pretty much a captive audience, in other words.

“I recognize you from the paper,” someone said. “Let me tell you what you should be writing about.”

The only place I can think that would be worse would be the dentist’s chair. Coincidentally, I was in the dentist’s chair once and heard the same thing.

“I think an article about (mystery subject X) would be great.”

It’s hard to argue with someone whose hands are in your mouth. The only real recourse would’ve been to bite her. But that’s just weird.

Many other suggestions for columns and stories come in via email, usually about some revolutionary new treatment for the common cold, a diet pill that will solve all my problems or a feature idea about a racecar driver with loose ties to the area.

And, of course, since it’s political season, I’ve received a number of different story ideas from campaign offices, most of which wonder why the “liberal elite media” is ignoring their opponents’ shortcomings.

(Note: It is one of my goals in life to reach a point in which I can be lumped in with these “elites” in the media that candidates are always slamming. Right now all of them take private planes and limousines to and from campaign events with their filthy-rich benefactors, and I can barely afford to dress myself on a daily basis. I guess that’s because I don’t know what it’s like to be a working class American or something.)

But, many of my story ideas also come from home. The other day while wheezing through a jog, I asked my wife (and running partner) what was the meaning of the orange bows on mailboxes in Leeds.

“No idea,” she said. “Shouldn’t you know that? Don’t you work for the paper or something?”

Ouch. By the way, I’m still trying to find that out, so if anyone knows … well, never mind.

The truth is, as we say here all the time, the newspaper only knows things if people let us know in advance. We can’t publish the details of someone’s track meet if we never knew the meet was taking place to begin with.

Then, last Saturday, during the Big Springs 5K, my wife (and running partner) asked me if I was listening to the conversations between parents and children taking place around me.

“This is all column gold,” she said.

And she’s probably right. But I could not breathe, at that point, so it’s best to save that for another day.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Tuesday tube: the Tide and Tebow's broken heart (just because)

Since the news of the yesterday revolved primarily around Peyton Manning (most likely) taking away Tim Tebow's job in Denver, it just made me feel good to think that perhaps the news made Tebow cry. I'm sure everyone remembers what that looks like.
That was fun. For a little more fun, here's Peyton yelling at small children. Really, it's too good to pass up.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday links: in which we say bittersweet things about the 2012 season

Discussion about the 2012 NCAA Tournament can wait, for now. For now, let's focus on the demise of Alabama's season, which ended Friday in a one-point loss to Creighton. As the guys at the basketball blog say, in spite of the rough ending, the season is ultimately a good one.
In my opinion, the season was, ultimately, a success. Starting four freshmen over the course of a season along with the turmoil surrounding the suspensions could have completely tanked the season. Instead the players and coaches responded and we played pretty well down the stretch. This team still isn't one of the top programs in the conference, but it's moving in the right direction.
Which means it's already time to start talking about 2013. Everyone on the squad, except for JaMychal Green, could return in 2013. And that includes the mercurial Tony Mitchell, though I suspect most who follow the program have already divorced themselves from him and are prepared to move on.
Coach Grant, for whatever it's worth, says there is no timetable.

It is Grant's performance, to me, that bears discussion, before we move forward. Certainly, no one would argue with the notion that the program is moving in a positive direction after three years under Grant. We're recruiting better; we have more talent; the result each year has been progressively better; and what's more, in 2012, Grant proved that he was capable of meting out discipline and still holding his team together well enough to (largely) achieve the goals.
Having said that, Grant's skills within the game — particularly on offense — remain ... um, in question. Through three years, this remains a basketball team that has no idea how to score when it needs to, has no "go-to" scorer to rely on and often appears to have no set offense in which it is confident. I hate bringing football into this because they're two completely different sports, but ... well, never mind. We need better offense. And possibly one shooter who's better than 30 percent. Let's leave it at that.
So we can effectively put a cap on the 2012 season. At least until Whit emails me back and we get his opinions.
Roll Tide.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

a newspaper column about football injuries

Not sure if I made the point I was trying to get at in this week's column for the St. Clair Times. If you'd like another (much more coarse and direct) point of view, you can read Drew Magary's screed on the subject from earlier this month. As always, feel free to disagree with me here or on Twitter.
Hit ‘em where it hurts, so long as it doesn’t hurt ‘em for long

One of the fondest memories for Alabama football fans — the ones who grew up in the 1980s, anyway — was the Tide’s 1986 game vs. Notre Dame.

To set the stage, Alabama, to that point, had never beaten Notre Dame, on the field or off. More than that, the losses to the Irish — deified by a fawning national press — always came in painful fashion. And even worse, Notre Dame had twice stolen national championships Alabama believed it should have owned (1966 and 1977).

So Bama fans wanted that game badly. And the Tide would win the game, 28-10, in front of an apoplectic crowd at Birmingham’s Legion Field.

The game, in retrospect, however, is symbolized by one play: When Notre Dame’s record setting quarterback Steve Beuerlein, on his first pass attempt, was crushed by Alabama linebacker Cornelius Bennett. The force of the hit — both the initial contact and the impact with the rock-solid turf at Legion — knocked Beuerlein out completely.
Now an announcer for CBS, Beuerlein — who actually returned to the game even though he was concussed and threw a touchdown pass in the second quarter — says he’s still hearing about the play from longtime Alabama fans.

And I bring this up only for this reason: Being a football fan, ultimately, requires a person to make an uneasy truce with sanctioned brutality. After all, Bennett and Beuerlein are now immortalized through video, legend and art by Daniel A. Moore, for that play. The play is part of the pregame video before Alabama home games, and Tide fans often wait for it so they can yell, “BOOM!” when it runs across the screen.

We cheer for these things because we want our boys to play with reckless abandon, sacrificing their own health and putting others at risk for the sake of our pride. We say we don’t want them to hurt their opposing numbers “intentionally,” but then again … we do want them to hit, and hit hard.

As a child, I remember watching games with my parents, and someone for the opposition would go down with an injury.

“I hope he’s OK,” one of them would say. “Tomorrow, I mean.”

So then, maybe it’s not a huge surprise when someone unearths the “shocking” news that a professional football team was offering its players “bounties” to knock members of the opposing color out of the game. Not to hurt them permanently, you know. As long as they’re OK tomorrow.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

some midweek links, with no Big Dance

Just a couple things I left out of Monday's edition. Will attempt to focus on tournament related things later.
(As an aside, last year I didn't fill out a bracket, and it's looking like I will probably hold off doing it this year. I have no idea how to explain this, except that I just enjoy watching the games in and of themselves, and stopping after every game to say, "Who did I have in this one?" makes them less enjoyable. It's probably just me. Actually, it's definitely just me. Anyway, on we go.)

— The Alabama baseball squad broke out of its slump last night with an 8-3 win over Southern Miss. It's always helpful to actually hit the ball and score runs. At least I think it is.
— Speaking of depressing baseball stories, while we're on the subject, you probably haven't been paying attention to this, but the dominant story for this Braves season — other than the impending third-place finish in the National League East — is Chipper Jones' slowly decomposing body. After giving an interview earlier this week discussing how sore he is, he has now counterpointed that he has no intention of "walking out on his team." Great, but he apparently looks awful.

— On to more pleasant things: the gymnastics squad hosted Missouri for a 2013 SEC preview, and won yet another road meet. Gerlaen Stack-Eaton — that's a great name, folks — received Gymnast of the Week honors in the aftermath.
 — Rounding things out with football: Mel Kiper predicts five first-rounders from the Capstone; Nick Saban's staff added Blount High head coach Kelvin Sigler to its staff; and Andy Staples has an SEC spring primer.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tuesday tube: let's hear it from Gus

Since we're on the verge of the NCAA Tournament — and, since there will be no Gus Johnson this time — it seems only appropriate to have Gus' screaming voice put us all in the right frame of mind. You're welcome in advance.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Monday links: Dancing Days are here again

An all-tournament edition of the links for today.

First things first: our boys did indeed earn their way into the tournament today, drawing a No. 9 seed and a first-round date against Creighton. Of course, the reward if we were fortunate enough to win that one: a second-round date with North Carolina, inarguably one of the five best teams in the country (and a likely candidate to see multiple players on its 2012 roster drafted into the National Basketball Association). But, there will be plenty of opportunity to worry about that, or to dream about the possibilities.
(Note: Click here, for information about tickets.)

First, there's Creighton, who may not be 100 percent thrilled about its seeding (I like this, actually). And really, before we even get to that, there's an opportunity to celebrate being here in the first place.
Really, to stop and think about it, this is a team that started 14 different starting lineups over the course of the season, at one point lost 4 consecutive conference games, made me give up on it about 45 different times ... and yet, they just kept coming back. Anthony Grant, for all my complaining about him, has done a great job coaching this team this year.
— Every college basketball tournament time means a list of tournament snubs, and another series of columns and opinion pieces about John Calipari, coach of the No. 1 overall seed in this year's bracket. Here's a version of this year's story.
This time, though, Calipari really does have the best roster, the best team, the best season. Even in the nadir of that night in 2008, he believed he’d have another chance to win it all. He’s got it with this group. Whether Kentucky can deliver a title won’t change whether Calipari is a great coach. But if it won’t change what you think of him, what’s the point? 
Also, there's a chance Duke and Kentucky could play for their regional title, which nearly killed Dick Vitale.
— I would also be remiss to leave out future SEC member Missouri, who left the Big XII with a championship and an "S-E-C!" chant. Well played.

And with that, we'll get to working on a bracket. And this year's version has Alabama vs. UNC in the second round. Roll Tide.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

return of the newspaper column: where there are no good guys

 This week's column for the St. Clair Times probably should've been longer, but the point still stands. And I've tried to vote for Ron Paul, for the record, but I can't see that he's any more appealing than anyone else. Anyway, you can argue with me here or on Twitter. Thanks.
Vote for the good guys, or vote against the bad guys

Just once in my life, I’d like to go to the polls and vote for someone.

I should clarify. I have been of age to vote in America since 1999, or three different presidential election cycles, along with a number of municipal and state elections. Now that I think about it, the first vote I cast as a registered voter was on then Gov. Don Seigelman’s lottery, which was on the ballot that spring.

Then, as now, there was nothing to vote for. Only something to vote against.

I couldn’t vote for the lottery, because then I’d be opening the state up to illegal gambling, which I was told would eventually lead to everyone being a drug-addicted welfare dependent who would murder me for a handful of extra food stamps. On the other hand, I couldn’t vote against it, because if I did I’d be taking money away from school children, which would eventually lead to them becoming uneducated rubes without the capability to read a STOP sign, which would lead to me being killed in an auto accident.

My first presidential election was similarly vexing. I could have either voted for George W. Bush, who I was told was a doofus puppet of a right-wing conspiracy that wanted to destroy the environment and drive gas-guzzling vehicles made out of poor people; or I could vote for Al Gore, and usher in a namby-pamby state of people who believed in a far-fetched utopia and stole money from successful people to support shiftless “liberal elites.”

I’m probably exaggerating.

The thrust of every negative ad during this campaign is the same, and has been since the beginning of the experiment in voting: “If you’re not excited by our candidate, at least understand you CANNOT VOTE FOR THE OTHER GUY BECAUSE HE WILL RUIN EVERYTHING AND YOU WILL BE RESPONSIBLE.”

A political science professor I knew in Tuscaloosa told me that, for everyone at some point in their lives, they will have a candidate that they consider “their guy.” That’s someone who energizes them, makes them put out signs and causes them to stay up late on election night, hoping they can change the world.

I have yet to encounter that person and doubt I ever will. Which means, I guess, I’ll have to settle for voting against the bad guys.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Tuesday tube: That one-man drive

With our basketball squad's season potentially riding on avoiding an embarrassing upset Thursday vs. South Carolina, now seems like the right time to post this memorable moment vs. the Gamecocks from 2009. Because ... eh, why not?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday links: tourney time

So I suppose it wasn't much of a surprise — given that we didn't really need the game and we've always played poorly in Oxford — that we played like garbage Saturday in a season-ending loss to Ole Miss. It's still pretty disappointing, given that the loss cost us a bye in the SEC Tournament, not to mention forcing us to play South Carolina, which will ultimately affect our RPI negatively, regardless of the outcome. The loss was, frankly, the most disappointing effort this season since that South Carolina game. Which is sort of apropos.)
It was bad all the way around. 
(By the by, if you're interested in UAB, you can read a preview of the C-USA Tourney here. Tough year for the Blazers, as well.)
— Also bad: The baseball team, which split two during the week vs. South Alabama and Southern Miss (getting drilled in that one) then dropping 2 of 3 at Tulane. Admittedly, Tulane is pretty good. Even so, that Tuesday matchup vs. Auburn in Montgomery looms pretty large, even if it technically doesn't count in the standings. 
— On a brighter note, our softball squad — ranked No. 1 in the nation — beat UAB this weekend, to run its record to 17-0. No kidding.
(The gymnasts lost to Oklahoma, for the record, even though our scoring was the best it's been all season. You figure it out.)
— Football related things: Chase Goodbread examines the receiver position before spring; and Nick Saban discusses Trent Richardson's superhuman abilities. Just because, let's relive a few of them.

— Non-Alabama stuff: New Orleans, which barely played a lick of defense the past three years, apparently had bounties on its opponentstwo of Atlanta's best young pitchers got shelled yesterday; and Bob Ryan breaks down Sunday's exquisite Celtics-Knicks game as only he can.

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.

Photo via
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.