And the lack of name recognition aside, the opponents for Bama this week are not the type to expect a scoring frenzy. Alabama had that in its last outing, a 105-68 win over Alabama State, but for the year the Tide has 16 fewer field goals than its opponents. Bama is 2-1 with a 64-58 win over Miami of Ohio and an 87-76 loss to Memphis.
"We've got a big week," Gottfried said Monday. "I think we have two really tough challenges."
Although some may be beginning to peek ahead to next week's game in which Coleman Coliseum is rededicated, and Notre Dame is the competition, Gottfried is focused on this week's competition.
Alabama will host Louisiana Tech at 7 p.m. Tuesday and Winthrop at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Gottfried said, "I hope we're not a team that struggles to score. We took off our team from last year two guys, Kennedy Winston and Earnest Shelton, who had the potential to score 20-25 points each every night. The guys who are playing the wing now–freshman Alonzo Gee, sophomore Justin Jonus, senior Jean Felix–have to play their roles."
The Tide coach said Jonus "is doing the best right now." In fact, Gottfried said, Jonus is doing the best of any outside player other than point guard Ron Steele. The coach said that a wing is expected to play good defense, handle the ball, get the ball inside when possible, and take (and make) the shot when he has it.
Although Evan Brock had played at the wing in the early going, Gottfried said Brock didn't have a good enough perimeter shot and would go back inside as a back-up with freshman Richard Hendrix for Chuck Davis and Jermareo Davidson. (He also said it is likely that freshman inside player Yamene Coleman would be redshirted this year, "and he's fine with that.")
Gottfried said, "I think we've had enough practice—we're probably practiced-out a little bit right now since we didn't go to New York (for the NIT finals). We were able to work on a lot of things, but at the same time I think this time of year guys are anxious to play. So we're ready to get going this week and get back in the groove of playing games."
When Bama was eliminated from the Pre-Season NIT, Gottfried said it would give the Tide an opportunity to work on some things. Monday he said, "I think last week was a good week. Our guys obviously wanted to be in New York City. We were disappointed we didn't get to go. We had to take a look at our team and start evaluating our team a little closer. I think it probably gave us some time to do that, to put some emphasis on the defensive end of the floor which I think to this point we've lacked a little bit; defined roles a little bit better each day at practice with who should be doing what offensively. So I think all those things were good throughout the week. You know you have a week where you want to practice hard--you obviously don't want to get anybody hurt—(but you want to) make sure you just get through the week and make sure you're getting better and you're still getting good conditioning every day and then get yourself ready to play again."
Gottfried said it sometimes takes time to find the roles for all players, and that it has to be done "under the lights; you can't do it just in practice." He added, "We're young. I think we're going to be a lot better team in a month. I think we can get better."
Regarding the week's schedule, Gottfried said, "I think Louisiana Tech is a team that's really quick, really athletic. And you've got the nation's leading rebounder in Paul Millsap. He gets your attention real quick when you start watching him on tape. And then we follow-up Saturday with a very difficult game with Winthrop coming in, a team that just went on the road and won at Marquette. So it's two difficult games."
Millsap, a 6-8, 245-pounder, led the nation in rebounding both as a freshman (12.5 per game) and as a sophomore (12.4). He's averaging 16.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game this year for the Bulldogs, 2-2.
"We can't let him have a big game," Gottfried said. He said Louisiana Tech likes to go inside. "They've made 105 shots and 90 of them have been inside the three-point line."
Gottfried said he thought it helped his team to play Memphis and it will help to play Louisiana Tech and Winthrop. He said Alabama's scheduling philosophy is to schedule non-conference teams it thinks will win their conference championships. He said it was for two reasons: One, it helps the RPI, the rating that has proved to be the most influential aspect of being selected to play in the NCAA Tournament; and, two, he thinks it makes his team better.
He noted that Winthrop went 27-6 last year and returns its top 10 players. "In the coaching fraternity, Winthrop is a team that everyone says you don't want to play," Gottfried said.
Bama's Chuck Davis, a 6-8 senior averaging 16.3 points and 5.3 rebounds, said,"It's been a while since we played and we're ready to get back out there and see how we're doing. We practiced hard during the week, worked on some areas where we needed some work, and we've gotten a lot better. I'm ready to see how we do when the lights come on. Tomorrow we're playing a good team in Louisiana Tech and it will be a good challenge for us."
Davis will be joined in the starting lineup by 6-7 senior Jean Felix (7.0 points per game, 3.0 rebounds per game), 6-10 junior Jermareo Davidson (15.7 ppg, 12.3 rpg), 6-5 soph Justin Jonus (13.3, 2.3) and 6-3 soph Ronald Steele (9.3, 2.3, 3.0 assists per game).