The Alabama home basketball schedule this year isn't quite that bad. It will be no surprise at the end of the year to see several of the teams from the Crimson Tide's non-conference schedule make the NCAA Tournament field.
Nevertheless, it is understandable that Bama Coach Mark Gottfried has to warn his team to be ready for the likes of Texas Southern. Alabama will host Texas Southern at 6 p.m. CST Saturday in Coleman Coliseum.
Gottfried said, "They are a team that's very quick. They play five-man motion. It's a lot of movement, and we've got to get ourselves ready to defend that and leave what happened in the islands down there. I tell our team all the time, ‘You fear nobody, but you respect everybody. And Texas Southern is a team that we certainly will respect."
After taking the day off Wednesday following Bama's championship run through the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands, the Crimson Tide was back at practice Thursday and scheduled to work Friday afternoon.
Alabama, 4-0 including wins over Middle Tennessee State 71-62, Iowa 72-60, and Xavier 63-56, at the Paradise Jam, is ranked eighth in the nation by the Associated Press and ninth in the Coaches' Poll. Frank Burlison of Scout.com moved the Crimson Tide up to fifth in the nation this week.
Gottfried said, "I think we played well at times (in the Paradise Jam). I was really proud of our effort and I think we competed really hard, but I still think there are a lot of areas where we can improve: our execution at times, our shot selection, our free throw shooting. The list goes on and on. We'll get a couple of days of work in before this weekend and see if we can continue to improve."
The surprise scoring leader for Bama after three games is sophomore forward Alonzo Gee, averaging 15.5 points per game after being named MVP of the Paradise Jam. Gee, best known for his defense as a freshman, is shooting 57.1 per cent from the field. He is also averaging 4.8 rebounds per game and has four assists, five steals, and three blocked shots.
Center Jermareo Davidson missed the first game in the Virgin Islands in order to attend the funeral of his girlfiriend, who died in a traffic accident the previous week. In the three games in which he has played, Davidson, a senior, has had double-double performances – double figures in scoring and rebounding. He's averaging 14 points and 11 rebounds per game and has 13 blocked shots.
Pre-season All-America point guard Ron Steele has been hampered with a sore knee, but has played very well. The junior is averaging 12.8 points per game and has 22 assists.
Soph forward Richard Hendrix is also in double figures at 12.3 points per game and is averaging 7.0 rebounds per outing.
In the first four games the fifth starter has been the holdover from last year, 5-11 sophomore guard Brandon Hollinger. Hollinger is averaging only 3.8 points per game, but has 12 assists and plays solid defense. But Hollinger has not had as much playing time at the wing guard position as has junior college transfer Mykal Riley. Riley is averaging 8.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and has 10 assists.
Steele and Davidson have been announced as among the 50 players nationwide who are preseason candidates for the Naismith Trophy, the award presented by the Atlanta Touchdown Club to the men's player of the year. In January the Naismith Trophy Voting Academy will narrow the preseason list to the Top 30 players in the nation. Those players, and others who may distinguish themselves throughout the season, will be eligible for the final ballot in March. The winner will be announced in April at the Final Four in Atlanta.