David Cloninger

October 26, 2013

SEC Hoops Lookahead: Alabama

David Cloninger

All things Gamecocks, especially basketball and football

South Carolina basketball beat writer David Cloninger looks at every other team in the SEC as the season approaches.


2012-13 record (SEC finish): 23-13, 12-6 (T-2nd) *NIT third round
Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Anthony Grant (86-52, fifth year; 162-77, eighth year)
Top returners: G Trevor Releford (14.9 ppg, 2.7 rpg); G Rodney Cooper (11.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg); G Levi Randolph (8.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg)
Biggest losses: Trevor Lacey (11.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg); Devonta Pollard (3.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg); Andrew Steele (3.8 ppg, 2.0 rpg)

Hard to believe that Anthony Grant is entering his fifth year with Alabama. I always figured he’d be contacted for another major job by now and vamoose from Tuscaloosa, where no matter what he does, it will always be viewed as filler between football seasons.

Grant has done a phenomenal job at Alabama, with or without the due recognition, leading the Crimson Tide to three postseason tournaments in the last three years with one SEC West championship and finishing tied for second in the league last season. He gets a lot of four-star recruits and teaches them how to play defense; opponents almost always leave a game with the Tide feeling black and blue. It’s not that Grant’s system is dirty or overly physical, it’s just that he finds players that are more than happy climbing into the opponent’s jersey and staying there for 40 minutes. They do it very, very well, as last year’s national finish in scoring defense (17th, 58.4 points per game) can attest.

Trevor Releford is the guy expected to lead the charge after Devonta Pollard, a five-star recruit, rather bizarrely terminated his Division I career (Wow). Releford is a guy that does everything well. He led the team in scoring last year and was voted preseason first-team All-SEC. He’s a senior on a veteran team (only two freshmen and two sophomores) and is as good at stealing the ball (70 last year) as he is at dishing it (85 assists, but also 62 turnovers).

Grant took Alabama to the NCAA tournament two years ago, a year after he won 25 games, 12 in the league, but didn’t get to the dance due to a low RPI. He has three straight 20-win seasons and has upgraded his non-conference slate to include Oklahoma, Texas Tech, a game at USF (coached by former Arkansas big whistle Stan Heath) and then a brutal three-game stretch of Final Four participant Wichita State, Xavier and at UCLA. Alabama’s first three SEC games are Vanderbilt, Georgia and Mississippi State, so a strong start should easily put Grant in line for another 20-win season and perhaps a look from the NCAA tournament. Of course, that’s dependent on beating some of those big non-con teams, and finishing top four or five in the SEC.

Another strong team that won’t post a lot of SportsCenter highlights but will win a lot of games. If Kentucky is the hare, Alabama is the tortoise of the league – slow and steady, plus some excellent defense, wins the race.

2012-13 record (SEC finish): 13-18, 2-14 (T-13th)
Coach (record at school, years; overall record, years): Kristy Curry (First year; 309-149, 15th year)
Top returners: G Daisha Simmons (12.4 ppg, 4.6 rpg); G Shafontaye Myers (10.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg); G Jasmine Steele (4.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg)
Biggest losses: Jasmine Robinson (9.5 ppg, 3.9 rpg); Meghan Perkins (8.5 ppg, 5.2 rpg); Kaneisha Horn (8.3 ppg, 5.4 rpg)

It was no surprise at all when Wendell Hudson was reassigned following the end of last season. I get that Alabama wanted to be loyal to him, giving him a full five years after he did so much for the university (he was the school’s first black scholarship athlete), but the program was going nowhere. The Crimson Tide finished last or next-to-last in the SEC four times in five years under Hudson, and third-to-last in the other.

Alabama couldn’t go wrong getting Kristy Curry after she continued a dynasty at Purdue before heading to Texas Tech. Her time in Lubbock wasn’t grand, with two NCAA appearances in seven years, but she did take the Red Raiders to two NCAAs and two WNITs in her final four seasons. Alabama is just hoping that eventually, she’ll be able to do something with the Tide.

Alabama has been lousy for years. Even before Hudson, the Crimson Tide paid rent in the SEC cellar. The last time they finished in the top half of the league was 1999. Curry definitely has a huge rebuilding task on her hands, but at least for this year, she has the top two scorers from last year returning in Daisha Simmons and Shafontaye Myers. Curry also convinced Karyla Middlebrook, a Top 100 recruit that had committed to her at Tech, to come to Tuscaloosa.

Miracle turnaround? Who knows? Alabama at least knows that Ole Miss stands to have a pretty bad year as well, and Mississippi State shouldn’t raise any eyebrows, either. Nowhere to go but up.


Don't miss USC's Tip-off Tailgate leading into the Missouri football game tonight.

USC's release:

The South Carolina Athletic Department, in conjunction with the Gamecock Club and My Carolina Alumni Association, invites Gamecock fans to the "Tip-Off Tailgate Party With Gamecock Basketball," to be held today at Colonial Life Arena. The event, which is free and open to the public, will begin with doors open at 5:30 p.m. Fans are encouraged to enter at the main entrance at the arena, while students should enter at the College Street entrance with their Carolina Card.

The event, which will feature the USC men's and women's basketball teams, will begin one hour prior to kickoff of the USC-Missouri football contest, scheduled to kick off at 7 p.m. After a fun and interactive hour with the basketball teams, fans can stay at Colonial Life Arena to watch the Missouri football contest on the videoboard, and enjoy available concessions as they cheer on the Gamecock football squad.

The event will also be an opportunity for fans to purchase and select seats for new season ticket holders. Representatives from the USC basketball season ticket sales team will be on hand throughout the arena to assist fans through the ticket purchase and seat selection process.

The Tip-Off Tailgate Party will feature exciting programming, including scrimmages from both squads, a 3-point shootout contest, comments to the crowd from coach Frank Martin and coach Dawn Staley and autograph and photo opportunities for fans.

Students in attendance will receive double rewards points (two points), and if 2,000 or more students attend, the rewards points awarded for the event will be doubled to four. Free food will be available, and the new official student section T-shirt will be provided for the first 2,000 students.

Additionally, one lucky student will be randomly selected from the crowd to attempt a half-court shot to win $10,000 in cash. Martin will also make a special announcement to students who attend the event as well as all of his team's home non-conference games this season. Fans will also enjoy introductions of both teams and coaching staffs and giveaways such as rally towels and schedule posters for all in attendance. Fans should use the hashtag #TipOffTailgate when spreading the word about the event via social media.

Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState

Related content



Sports Videos