Bama prepared for SEC schedule

The Alabama men's basketball team didn't come out of Baton Rouge with a win over LSU, but the Crimson Tide is No. 1 in something. <br><br>Strength of schedule.

Quality non-conference wins over name-teams like Oregon and Wisconsin and wins over teams predicted to win mid-major conferences such as Austin Peay and Chattanooga earned the top spot for the Tide.

"Everybody on our schedule I felt like had a chance to have a great year for their level," coach Mark Gottfried said. "We felt like it was going to be a pretty challenging schedule. It's made our team better, there's no question in my mind. We'll see if at the end of the year it helps us or not, but right now we've got to take care of business ourselves."

Taking care of business will start in the remaining 15 games of the season, the first being a home game against Arkansas on Wednesday night. In his Monday press conference, Gottfried mentioned the importance of not only winning home games but winning every game.

There was method to Mark Gottfried's madness when he made out this year's schedule.

"If you want to have success in this league, you have to win at home and on the road," Gottfried said. "I've never wanted to believe that saying, 'if you win your home games and split on the road,' (that you'll be ok). I don't think you ever think that. We go into every game trying to find a win, every night. Regardless of where we are."

Alabama held a lead as big as 12 points late in the second half, but saw it dwindle away for good when LSU's Antonio Hudson hit a three-pointer to put the Tigers up one. Three turnovers later, the Tide was walking out of Baton Rouge with a loss. It left Gottfried signaling two main things his young team learned.

"I think they learned how hard and intense you have to play on the road," Gottfried said. "They understand with that kind of effort they can win in this league. Then we can learn how to finish games well. We've got to be a much better basketball team in the last couple of minutes in the game.

"You learn from the downsides as well. I'm proud of their effort and I told them after the game, we have 15 games left and that's a ton of basketball. If they give that effort night in and night out, they're going to have success. No question in my mind about it."

Sophomore forward Kennedy Winston led the Tide with 15 points, 12 coming in the second half. Winston has seen his ups and downs this season coming off knee surgery, but his biggest up came in the Oregon game, where he scored a career-high 27 points and hit the game-winning shot.

"He's doing pretty well," Gottfried said. "He started off a bit gimpy. I still don't think he is (100 percent). He's playing with pain and playing through it. I think he's done a great job considering he had surgery early in the fall."

But what's been the biggest difference with this team, Gottfried said, is that it has taken on the role of "their team." Not a team that contains four-year starters Erwin Dudley, Kenny Walker, and Terrance Meade, but a team with plenty of young players combined with a few seniors who lead the way.

"Look around the gym and now its our team (Shelton, Winston, etc.)," Gottfried said. "They know that we lost a lot and that it's their team."

With Kennedy Winston rounding into form after off-season knee surgery, the Tide has a chance to be good. (AP photo)

Gottfried did mention in his press conference that sophomore Evan Brock, who didn't play against LSU in favor of senior Reggie Rambo, will likely play against Arkansas. Rambo provided the Tide with a more physical match-up against LSU's Jaime Lloreda.

"He didn't play because we thought it was the best match-up with Reggie," Gottfried said. "I thought Reggie was doing a pretty good job. It wasn't that he did anything wrong, it was just a need decision based on the match-ups."

With an 8-4 record, there are some positives. One being that even with an opening SEC loss to LSU, there's still 15 games left. Gottfried isn't saying his team is bad anymore-now he's just a tad bit more positive.

"We got a group of guys who I think throughout the season are going to overachieve," Gottfried said. "We certainly played well enough to win but came out empty handed. We've had moments where we looked like a pretty good team and we've had other moments where we looked pretty bad. We just need to keep working and get better."

BamaMag Top Stories