New Year For Tide Men's Basketball

What a difference a year makes. About a year ago, Alabama's men's basketball team limped back from the Virgin Islands having gone 0-3 against not very good competition. The result would haunt Bama the rest of the season, notably when it came time for the NCAA Selection Committee to determine the 64 teams for the national championship tournament. The Crimson Tide was omitted.

"This is a new year for us," said Alabama Coach Anthony Grant after the Crimson Tide returned from the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament in San Juan with three high-profile victories. "Five games into the season, we have to be pleased with the results of the weekend."

The Crimson Tide is 5-0, including the championship tournament run against Maryland, Wichita State, and Purdue, and Bama is ranked 13th in the nation.

The brand new year continues at 7 p.m. Wednesday when the Tide hosts Alabama A&M in Coleman Coliseum.

Although Grant said he had not yet made an in-depth study of Alabama A&M, he pronounced them "deep and quick. It should be up-tempo. They have a similar style to us."

Alabama is expected to stick with its starting lineup, which includes two true freshmen. Junior forward Tony Mitchell leads the Tide with a 17.2 points per game average and also contributes a team best 9.6 rebounds per game. He was MVP of the Puerto Rico Tournament. Senior low post man JaMychal Green averages 14.4 points and 6.8 rebounds per game. Sophomore point guard Trevor Releford averages 13.2 points. Alabama is also starting two true freshmen in guards Levi Randolph, who averages 7.2 points per game, and Rodney Cooper, 4.6 per game.

Grant said that Alabama played "good teams" in Puerto Rico and that Bama showed "a competitive spirit" in winning. He said the players did things that were required to win in San Juan and will be required to win throughout the season.

The Bama coach said his team needs to be more consistent offensively. In the tournament the Tide had some scoring pauses of several minutes each. "We had some gtood shots that didn't go down," Grant said. "But there were some stretches where we didn't have the patience [to get a good shot]."

Grant did note that he saw his team playing with a lot of confidence and that "a competitive spirit came out in adversity."

He is also pleased with the depth shown by Alabama in the early going. Although Grant said Alabama was playing a nine-man rotation, the Tide really has developed a five-man group of subs with 7-1 sophomore Carl Engstrom and 6-8 freshman Nick Jacobs playing low, 6-4 soph Charles Hankerson on a wing, junior Ben Eblen at point, and freshman Trevor Lacey playing point and wing.

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