Tide at a Crossroad

The Alabama Men's basketball team (11-8, 0-4) has a week between last Saturday's loss to Mississippi State and their next game this Saturday (1/26/08) against Auburn to reflect. Will the reflection take place in some secluded gym off the beaten path? Will it be a seminar packed full of sports psychologists? Or the same routine?

These questions and others are weighing heavy on the minds of the coaches and players as the Tide is off to its worst start in conference since 1999.

In a year where most pundits believe that the SEC is down, Alabama has enough talent and athleticism to turn things around. This turnaround, however, needs to happen sooner than later.

Looking at the offensive numbers, it is hard to believe the Tide has not won a game in conference as they rank in the top half of the SEC in six different offensive categories.

These stats are encouraging as the Tide ranks fourth in rebounds per game (41.2) and assists/turnovers ratio (1.26:1). Bama ranks fifth in assists per game (16.3) and in the three point shooting percentage category (35.5).

They are currently sixth in scoring per game (75.7) and field goal percentage (46.8). The only category that needs much improvement is the free throwing shooting percentage which is 11th in the conference at 59.7 (which is where the sports psychologists should probably come in).

In the past, I have heard others say, "You may not bring your best shooting performance every night, but you can bring your best defensive effort every night."

The defensive conference stats show glaring weaknesses as the Tide ranks eighth in steals per game (7.3) and 10th in points allowed per game (71.9).

The killing stats are in the opponent's shooting percentages which Bama is 11th in field goal percentage allowed (43.5) and last in three point percentage allowed (37.2).

Evidence shows in three of the four conference losses, the opposition has improved its three point shooting percentages by double digits (Florida - 38.9 to 50, Georgia – 34.6 to 45.5, Mississippi State – 33.2 to 46.2).

The problem doesn't lie in shot contesting as the Tide ranks fourth in blocked shots per game (4.5), but in not making the opponent's shooters work for their shots. Bama should be more physical with the opposition by not allowing them to get into any offensive flow.

This can be done by not letting the shooters get to their favorite spots, being physical with the shooters as they are trying to get open, and having them to work even harder on both ends of the court making them tired and frustrated. An ineffective shooter is the one who is tired and beat-up.

Which ever form of instruction this team has chosen during this period, let's hope that it renders good results. A turnaround against your in-state rival at home would be an excellent way to start. A loss could send this season into a tale-spin.

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