Jan. 3, 2014
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The Alabama men's basketball team will play its first game of 2014 and its final non-conference match-up of the regular season when it hosts the Robert Morris Colonials on Saturday evening. The Tide and Colonials, who will meet on the hardwood for the first time in series history, are set to tip off at 4:30 p.m. CT.
Saturday night's contest will be televised on CSS (also can be seen on ESPN3.com), with Dave Baker (play-by-play) and Kyle Macy (analyst) on the call. The game can also be heard on the Crimson Tide Sports Network, with Chris Stewart (play-by-play) and Bryan Passink (analyst) calling all the action. The Alabama radio call can also be heard nationally on Sirius Channel 110 and XM Channel 199. There will be live updates throughout the game available on twitter @AlabamaMBB.
Alabama head coach Anthony Grant is in his fifth season at the helm of the men's basketball program. Grant owns an 91-59 (.607) record during his time at the Capstone and is 167-84 (.665) in eight seasons as a head coach. Robert Morris head coach Andrew Toole is in his fourth season and has guided the Colonials to a record of 73-45 (.619) since taking the helm, which includes a record of 39-15 (.722) against Northeast Conference competition. The 33-year-old Toole has led Robert Morris to back-to-back postseason appearances, including the CIT in 2012 and NIT in 2013.
Saturday night's contest will mark the first meeting in program history between the two teams.
Alabama lost for the fourth time in its last five games when it dropped another narrow decision, falling at UCLA, 75-67, on Dec. 28. The loss marked the sixth in the Tide's last eight contests - all of which have been decided by a combined total of 29 points (4.8 points per loss). Senior guard Trevor Releford led Alabama with a game-high 34 points, while junior guard Levi Randolph (12) also reached double figures in the losing effort.
Releford leads all Alabama scorers with an average of 18.5 points per game. The Bob Cousy Award Watch list honoree has connected on 51.9 percent (69-of-133) of his shots from the floor and a team-best 42.4 percent (28-of-66) from beyond the arc, while also averaging 3.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.2 steals per game.
Sophomore guard Retin Obasohan is second on the team with 12.9 ppg and tops UA with 2.8 steals and 1.4 blocks per contest. The 6-1, 205-pound guard also leads the squad in free throws made (67) and attempted (87).
Junior guard Levi Randolph (10.3 ppg) and junior forward Nick Jacobs (10.1 ppg) and are each averaging double figures for Alabama. Randolph also and also ranks second on the team in three-point field goal percentage (.361, 13-of-36).
Alabama currently ranks second in the SEC and 13th in the nation in three-point field goal percentage defense (27.6 percent). The Tide also leads the SEC in free throw shooting (.716). Furthermore, UA ranks among the SEC and national leaders in blocked shots (5.3 bpg; 6th/47th) and steals (7.8 spg; 5th/55th) per game.
As a team, UA is shooting 45.8 percent from the floor and 34.2 percent from beyond the arc. The Tide is outrebounding the competition through its first 12 games by 0.4 rebounds a game (35.4-35.0) and outscoring foes by 5.8 points a game (73.3-67.6).
ALABAMA-UCLA: QUICK HITS
Alabama and UCLA played for the fourth time in series history last Saturday night. The Bruins now have a 3-1 lead in the all-time series with their 75-67 victory.
Alabama's appearance in Pauley Pavilion was the second overall and the first since the Tide won at then-No. 1 UCLA, 70-67. on Jan. 28, 1983. Sadly, that contest was played just two days after the passing of legendary football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant (Jan. 26, 1983).
Alabama had a 17-11 edge on the boards, but was outrebounded 26-9 over the final 20 minutes, including a 10-2 advantage on offensive glass. The Tide was outrebounded, 37-26, for the night and falls to 0-6 when it losses the battle of the boards.
Trevor Releford led Alabama with a season-high 34 points, which was the second-best scoring output of his career (had 36 in a triple overtime loss at LSU last year). Releford connected on 11-of-15 shots from the floor and 6-of-9 from beyond the arc. It is the fifth time he led the Crimson Tide in scoring and was his 11th double-digit scoring game this season.
With Releford's big night, he became the 16th player in Alabama program history to record 1,500 points in a career (1,503). The program's all-time steals leader also had a season-best five steals and now has 218 takeaways for his career.
Freshman forward Shannon Hale made his first career start last Saturday and finished with a career-best nine rebounds on the night. He also added nine points on 3-of-7 shooting from the floor.
Center Carl Engstrom also made his first start of the year. However, he only played five minutes and did not score a point.
The Tide lost by seven points, 75-67, and drops to 0-7 this year in games decided by 10 or fewer points.
Alabama will open the 2014 Southeastern Conference season when it hosts the Vanderbilt Commodores on Tuesday, Jan. 7, at Coleman Coliseum. The contest will be televised on ESPNU.
Tuesday's match-up will mark the 133rd meeting between the two teams with the Tide holding a 67-65 edge in the all-time series.
The Tide captured a 58-54 win at Vanderbilt last season. Prior to that victory, Alabama had lost 11 straight games at Memorial Coliseum, dating back to 1987.
Alabama has a record of 42-18 when playing Vanderbilt in Tuscaloosa, including a 24-11 mark at Coleman Coliseum. However, the Commodores have won two consecutive games over the Crimson Tide under the arched roof of Coleman Coliseum.
LETTING THE GAME "RUN" AWAY
Alabama comes into the game against Robert Morris with a 5-7 overall record. But the Tide's record could look entirely different had UA finished some of the close games it has lost.
Alabama has not won a game this season in contests that have been decided by 10 or fewer points (0-7). In fact, UA's seven losses have been by a combined total of 38 points - an average of 5.4 points per game.
In each of its seven losses, Alabama either held the lead or was within striking distance late in a game. However, in each instance, the Tide allowed the opposition to go on a game-deciding run late in the second half.
Below is a break down of each loss, including the decisive run that occurred.
OPP Score (time) Opp. Run | run-length | score Final
vs. Okla. 66-67 (6:07) 10-1 | 5:01 | 67-77 73-82
vs. Duke 51-56 (5:17) 13-8 | 4:44 | 59-69 64-74
vs. Drexel 61-57 (1:07) 4-0 | 1:07 | 61-61 83-85 (3ot)
at USF 46-42 (10:34) 18-6 | 8:03 | 52-60 64-66
Wichita St. 58-58 (4:44) 13-8 | 3:33 | 66-71 67-72
Xavier 57-50 (8:30) 18-6 | 5:24 | 63-68 74-77
at UCLA 67-67 (1:34) 8-0 | 1:34 | 67-75 67-75
Alabama's 5-7 record may be a little deceiving when taking a closer look at the team's schedule, which is ranked as the third-toughest thus far in Division I by ESPN.com.
The Tide's seven losses have come against teams with a combined record of 75-18 (.806) as of Jan. 2 [Oklahoma, 11-2; Duke, 11-2; Drexel, 8-4; USF, 9-5; Wichita State, 14-0; Xavier, 11-3; UCLA, 11-2].
Of the seven losses, five have come against teams ranked among the 50 RPI, according to KenPom.com.
HALE MAKING IT RAIN
Freshman forward Shannon Hale has been solid for head coach Anthony Grant over the Tide's last two contests.
Coming off his first career start last Saturday at UCLA, Hale had nine points and a season-best nine rebounds against the Bruins. This coming off a career-high 14 points against Xavier (12/21).
Through his first nine games, Hale had a total of 24 points and 20 rebounds, an average of 2.7 points and 2.2 rebounds per game.
After not playing against Wichita State, Hale has since collected a total of 23 points and 10 rebounds over Alabama's last two contests, which is an average of 11.5 points and 5.0 rebounds a contest.
NATION'S UNLUCKIEST TEAM
The Tide can argue it is the unluckiest team in the NCAA and has the statistics to back it up.
According to KenPom.com's "Luck" category, the Tide ranks 351st, last among all NCAA D-I men's basketball teams, with a -.237 ranking, thus earning the moniker as the nation's unluckiest team. For comparison, the nation's luckiest team according to the website is Missouri State with a +.231 rating.
The "Luck" category is defined by Ken Pomeroy as "A measure of the deviation between a team's actual winning percentage and what one would expect from its game-by-game efficiencies. Essentially, a team involved in a lot of close games should not win (or lose) all of them. Those that do will be viewed as lucky (or unlucky)."
THE MAGIC NUMBER IS 70
It seems the 70-point mark will be a key for the Alabama men's basketball team this season.
Through the first 12 games, the Tide is 4-3 when scoring 70 or more points on the year, but 0-6 when the opposition goes for 70 or more points.
In fact, Alabama has lost 19 straight games when the opposition reaches the 70-point plateau. The last time the Tide won when giving up 70 or more to an opponent came on March 3, 2010 when it captured a 79-70 win at South Carolina.
As a comparison, UA has a record of 42-13 (.764) when it scores 70 or more points during head coach Anthony Grant's tenure (2009-pres.)
LIMITING THE TURNOVERS
Over his last five games, senior guard Trevor Releford has done a much better job of taking care of the ball compared to the start of the season. As a result, the Crimson Tide's turnovers have dropped over that same span.
During Releford's first six contests, he combined for 10 assists and 24 turnovers. However, in his last five games in which he has played, Releford has 18 assists and only eight turnovers.
As a team, the Crimson Tide averaged 15.0 turnovers a game over its first six contests. But in the last five games, behind the play of Releford, Alabama is averaging only 10.0 turnovers a contest.
Twelve games into the 2013-14 season, there have been a few noticeable trends when it comes to the Alabama basketball team.
One of the biggest trends to keep in eye through the course of a game is Alabama's field goal percentage. The Tide owns a record of 12-3 when it shoots 40 percent or better in a contest.
Below is a breakdown of a few other key factors to look into during a game. Alabama is:
5-1 when holding teams to below 70 points
0-5 when allowing 70 or more points
5-1 when outrebounding the competition
0-6 when opponents outrebound Alabama
5-2 when UA shoots better than opponent
0-5 when opponent shoots better than UA
5-0 when games decided by 11 or more points
0-7 when games decided by 10 or fewer points
0-4 when scoring between 60-69 points