Tide Basketball Hosts Ole Miss

What's the deal with Tony Mitchell? The man who should be Alabama's best basketball player has become something of an unfavorite with Crimson Tide fans as he has struggled offensively in 2011-12.

Although Tony Mitchell is averaging 15.1 points per game (second best for Alabama to JaMychal Green) and 7.2 rebounds per game, which is best for Bama, the only time Mitchell seems to evoke any positive response is when he hits the occasional three-point shot (he hits only 31.9 per cent of those) or when he has a dunk opportunity. When Mitchell went scoreless in a home loss to Vanderbilt, the Tide went into a tailspin.

It is unusual for Alabama's pre-game basketball notes, which have a "Who To Watch" category, to not include Mitchell. But as the Tide prepares to host Ole Miss Saturday, Bama notes suggest watching point guard Trevor Releford and low post player JaMychal Green. Green has been as up-and-down as Mitchell, including not starting in last week's win over Arkansas.

Asked about Mitchell this week, Alabama Coach Anthony Grant was a bit evasive.

As for Mitchell's confidence and demeanor during his scoring slump, Grant said, "I think we have a variety of guys that have to do a variety of things from to scoring, to rebounding and defending. You guys (reporters) have made a lot of about the scoring end of things but I've never made that something I've focused on with any of our guys. The thing that we talk more about is doing the things that affect winning. Obviously scoring is a big part of that, but I think we've got guys that are capable of providing that for us. Certainly we need Tony, we need Mike, we need Trevor, we need all of our guys to be aggressive, hunt good shots and do the things we need to do. I would not put that on one individual in terms of having to do one thing. There are a lot of ways to affect the game."

He was also asked about Mitchell's contributions when not scoring.

Grant said, "We do a lot of things from a defensive standpoint with the press. We try to be a team that creates deflections and do things from a defensive standpoint that will lead to us having opportunities offensively. From an execution standpoint, being able to run the action that we do on offense to getting the ball where it needs to be. There's a lot the guys have to be responsible for. Those things obviously affect your offensive execution, the quality of shot you get, the defense in terms of the quality of shot you give your opponent, your ability to block out and rebound, the ability to go to the offensive glass and keep balls alive. There're a lot of different things. When you look at it, really, it takes about 2-to-3 seconds to take a shot. If you're on the court, what are you doing the rest of the time that you're out there? There's a lot more to do than just shoot the basketball."

There have been rumors that Mitchell might not be a part of the Bama plan for Ole Miss this week, but he is listed as a likely starter, along with Releford and three freshmen – forward Nick Jacobs, and wing players Trevor Lacey and Levi Randolph.

Alabama hosts Ole Miss in a Southeastern Conference game at 7 p.m. CST Saturday in Coleman Coliseum. ESPN2 will televise the game.

Alabama, which has not played since last Saturday, is 3-4 in SEC games and 14-7 overall. The Tide snapped a four-game losing streak with a 72-64 win over Arkansas last Saturday. The Rebels of Coach Andy Kennedy are also 14-7 and have a 4-3 conference mark. Mississippi has won three of its last four games.

Alabama has an all-time record of 116-52 against Ole Miss, including a 70-10 mark in home games.

Grant said the open week had given Alabama "a lot of time for prep work" and said that practices have been good.

"For us," he said, "this week it's been really about us. Offensively and defensively. Just worrying about us. We haven't had an opponent to prepare for, so it's been about us."

Now that he's looking at Ole Miss, Grant said, "They have size, physicality, rebounding and experience. They're defending well, have done a very good job and are a team that's really playing well."

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