The Alabama basketball team is definitely coming off a nice victory, a 79-58 rout of Illinois in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament. Now the Crimson Tide heads to South Florida to take on the Miami Hurricanes in the second round at the BankUnited Center in Miami. And that brings us to the rest of the Newton theory:
“Unless acted upon by an outside force.” That would be Miami.
With Anthony Grant’s firing only a few days in the past, it’s ironic that Grant is a native of Miami as Bama makes its first trip there for a Saturday morning game. Tipoff will be at 11 a.m. EDT (10 a.m. central time) with television coverage by ESPN.
Bama Interim Coach John Brannen isn’t Grant, but he sounds an awful lot like the man Brannen coached under for nine years before taking over the program this week.
“Each game is its own entity,” Brannen said Thursday as his squad was to begin preparations for Saturday’s game. “You can’t carry over from the game before. It’s a different opponent. There is momentum in the post-season, but each game is its own tntity.”
Alabama (19-14) started the NIT as the sixth seed in the Richmond Quadrant, while Miami (22-12) started as the second seed. The Hurricanes defeated North Carolina Central, 75-71, to advance to Saturday’s second round. The winner Saturday will play the winner of Sunday night’s Richmond-Arizona State game on Tuesday.
Alabama and Miami have met only two previous times with Alabama winning in brand new Coleman Coliseum in 1968 and again in Tuscaloosa in the 2011 NIT with Bama taking a 79-64 to advance to the Final Four in Madison Square Garden.
Statistically, at least, Bama seems to have some momentum. In the last three games, nice wins at Texas A&M and in the NIT opener over Illinois, around a disappointing loss to Florida in the first round of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, all starters are doing well. Bama’s leading scorer, Levi Randolph, has maintained his 15.3 points per game average and freshman forward Riley Norris has also maintained his average, 4.7 points per game. Three other starters have improved their scoring in the last three games.
Jimmie Taylor is up from his season average of 5.6 points per game to 11 ppg over the last three outings; Retin Obasohan averages 6 ppg for the season and 12.3 the last three games; and Rodney Cooper 10.8 for the season, 14.3 the last three games.
Bama and Miami, which was 10-8 in ACC play, are similar in scoring. The Hurricanes average 68.6 ppg and allow 63.4, a 5.2 margin, while Alabama (8-10 in SEC games) averages 67.1, allows 63.8, a margin of 3.2. Miami averages 33.6 rebounds, Bama 33.0.
While no one thought Alabama should have been in the NCAA Tournament, many were surprised that Miami did not make it. Among those was Brannen, who called the Hurricanes “outstanding,” and “tremendously prepared.”
Although Alabama looked like a different team in its win over Illinois, Brannen pointed out that nothing had changed since the firing of Grant and Brannen being handed the reins. “We’re not changing anything,” he said. “We’re just trying to get better at what we do.”