Alabama Basketball Preview - No. 13 Alabama vs. VCU
No. 13 Alabama (6-0) vs. VCU (3-2)
Nov. 27 | 8:30 p.m.
Tuscaloosa, Ala. | Coleman Coliseum
Nov. 26, 2011
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -
The No. 13 University of Alabama men’s basketball team plays the second of three straight home when it hosts VCU on Sunday evening at Coleman Coliseum. The contest against the 2011 Final Four participants will be broadcast on ESPNU and via radio on the Crimson Tide Sports Network with an 8:30 p.m. CST tipoff.
The Crimson Tide is 6-0 this season and 3-0 at home where it has won 23 straight home games dating back to 2010. VCU, which UA head coach Anthony Grant coached for three seasons before coming to Tuscaloosa, is 3-2 on the young season after advancing to the Final Four last season. Sunday’s contest will mark the first time a non-conference team has visited Tuscaloosa following an appearance in the Final Four the previous season.
“This is a very good team that has proven itself year in and year out,” Grant said of VCU. “After what they accomplished last year, it’s a great opportunity for us to play a quality opponent and test ourselves in terms of where we’re at and what we need to improve upon moving forward in our season.
The Tide’s defense has retained its status as one of the top in the nation by allowing just 50.7 points per game this season, the seventh best average in the nation. Only one of UA’s opponents has even reached the 60-point mark this season and three have failed to score 50 points. Those six opponents have converted on just 30.7 percent of their field goal attempts, the fifth lowest average in the nation. That stifling defense will again be the focal point of the Tide’s gameplan on Sunday.
“For us it will always start on the defensive end,” Grant said. “They’re [VCU] great in transition and are really looking to get out and run so you have to limit those opportunities. They’re a very explosive and capable three-point shooting team that will put a variety of guys on the floor at one time that can shoot the three. We’ve got to be able to take care of the ball and execute offensively, those things will be key.”
VCU is coached by third-year head coach Shaka Smart who replaced Anthony Grant on the VCU bench. Smart was also hired as an assistant at Akron by current UA associate head coach Dan Hipsher. Burgess Bradford leads VCU with 11.2 points per game with 60 percent of his field goals coming from behind the arc. In the Rams’ last game against Western Kentucky, he scored 16 points on 4-of-9 shooting from three-point range. He is one of two returning starters from last year’s Final Four team.
“Those players have had the opportunity to benefit from the experience of that run and are very familiar with playing against major conference opponents,” Grant said. “They’ve played and had success against great competition. Being a part of a winning program has an effect.”
The Tide is led by reigning SEC Player of the Week Tony Mitchell with 14.7 points and 8.7 rebounds per game despite only playing eight minutes against Alabama A&M before leaving the contest with a right ankle sprain. His status for Sunday has yet to be determined. In his absence, sophomore Charles Hankerson, Jr. posted a career-high 16 points with nine rebounds.
"It was really good to see him come out and be productive like he was,” Grant said of Hankerson’s career night. “You look at nine rebounds, that's awesome from a guard plus the five steals.”
Sunday’s game will be the fourth meeting between the two programs. With UA winning the previous three meetings. In those three contests, at least one of the two programs was ranked, a streak that will continue Sunday.
Tickets for Sunday’s contest are available through the Alabama Athletics Ticket Office or via www.RollTide.com. Sunday’s game is also UA Faculty/Staff appreciation day with half-price tickets available for UA faculty/staff.