New Wave in the Crimson Tide: Recap of Anthony Grant's First Season With Alabama
When the Mark Gottfried era finally ended in March of last year, Anthony Grant was the first on the list of possible replacements.
Soon after Grant's VCU team was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament, Alabama formally offered Grant the coaching job.
Grant agreed in principle to become the coach of the Crimson Tide, beginning the hopeful rebuilding process of Alabama basketball. Grant's rebuilding process began with the first regular season game against Cornell.
Alabama disappointed in their opener falling to The Big Red, 71-67 in Grant's first game coaching the Tide. After the loss in the season opener, Alabama rallied to three consecutive victories including an upset win over Baylor in the Old Spice Classic.
Albeit the Crimson Tide lost their next game to Florida State, they responded well with a shocking 68-66 thrilling victory over then No. 15 Michigan. Following the win over the Wolverines, Alabama dismantled North Florida and UL Monroe, setting the stage for the match up against Purdue, who was ranked fifth in the country.
The Tide came out of the tunnel upset-minded leading to a ten point halftime lead. The lead that got as high as 16 points in the second half. But the Crimson Tide some how found a way to blow the huge lead and an opportunity for key non-conference win.
The game against Purdue ended up being a preview of what Tide fans would be tasting all year. The Tide finished off non-conference by winning four out of five, with the only loss coming in a neutral court game against a Top 10 Kansas State team.
Alabama began conference play with a game at LSU. Before the arrival of Grant, the Crimson Tide somehow managed to win only three SEC road games in 3 years.
Led by 14 points from Jamychal Green the Tide earned their first conference win of the season, as well as the ever so rare SEC road win.
The Tide followed the big road win by losing three straight conference games, in two of these game(Vanderbilt, and Tennessee) Alabama had the lead in the last five minutes of the game just to blow it.
After the heartbreaking loss to Tennessee, Alabama rebounded by finally winning a close conference game, beating Mississippi State 62-57 in a huge conference win. The Crimson Tide added another conference win to the resume by demolishing LSU at home 57-38, improving Bama's SEC record to 3-3.
The next two games were once again games that could not be finished.
In the first game at Auburn, Alabama took the lead into the final minutes of the game, found a way to blow it, then Justin Knox missed a shot at the buzzer to win. The second game at home against Florida was almost the same story.
Alabama came out ready to play storming out to a 37-33 halftime lead, thanks to the driving ability of Mikahl Torrance and post play of Jamychal Green.
The second half was back and forth throughout, each team answering each other with buckets. Alabama took the lead on a Torrance floater with less then a minute, just to have Florida hit a game winning jump shot with less than ten seconds left to lose another one pont game 66-65.
Following the two disappointing one point losses Alabama traveled to Oxford to battle Colonel Reb. By halftime the game looked presumably over with Alabama holding a 40-20 against the Rebels heading into the break.
Alabama started the second half by draining a three to stretch the lead to 43-20, but that's when it all started going terribly wrong.
Slowly, but surely, Ole Miss chipped its way back in to the game, until Terico White's tip in with six minutes remaining gave the Rebels 58-56 lead that they would never look back, ultimately winning the game 74-67.
After the game many disconcerted Alabama fans began to question Anthony Grant's conservative play calling,or lack there of, in the second half. Grant did nothing to help himself by choosing to send an assistant to answer the questions of the media.
Following the collapse at Mississippi, the Tide traveled to Lexington to face the Number two ranked kentucky Wildcats. Alabama suprised most of the world by staying tight with Kentucky throughout, cutting the Wildcats lead to as few as five with less than two minues to play.
After many John Wall free throws in final moments of the game Kentucky ended up winning 66-55, but the way the Tide rebounded from their frustrating loss to Ole Miss was better than most people,including myself,expected
Before the game against Arkansas most people had never even heard the words Alabama and comeback used in the same sentence. Three days after the loss to Kentucky the Tide played home against Arkansas.In this game Alabama did something unheard of by normal Alabama basketball standards, comeback.
Down by as many 14 in the first half, Alabama scrapped itself back into the game finally taking the lead on a Torrance three with twelve minutes remaining. Alabama never trailed again in a sweet 73-68 victory, ending the Tide's four game losing streak.
After the emotional comeback win against the Hogs, Alabama took a gigantic step back in the next three games. The three game stretch started with a game at Georgia. The Crimson Tide held as much as a eleven point lead in the second half, but even after the big win against Arkansas, Alabama couldn't put together enough offense to hold it, ultimately losing 76-70.
The next contest was on the road against Jarvis Varnardo and the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Alabama fought hard throughout the game, but the point guard play of Dee Boss and the defensive prowess of Jarvis "Swat" Varnardo was too much for the Tide to handle, losing 74-66.
Varnardo stole the show the show by throwing an unannounced block party on the Alabama offense, blocking eight shots on his way to setting the NCAA record for blocked shots with 536 career blocked shots.
After the lost to the 'Dawgs, Alabama hosted a rematch with Ole Miss after the devastating loss to the Rebels in the teams previous match up. Alabama lead through most of the game,but once again, were not able to hold on, losing their third straight conference game 76-73.
Heading in to the month of March, Alabama looked as if they had already started preparing for the 2010-2011 season. But they were just beginning.
The Crimson Tide started the new month with a surprising 79-70 road win against South Carolina. The momentum from the big road win carried over to senior day against Auburn.
In front of a sold out crowd, mainly due to the showing of the ODK Trophy, Alabama dominated the Tigers 73-61, moving the Tide up to the number four seed in the SEC West.
After the two big wins to finish the season Alabama started their SEC Tournament with a game against the number five seed in the east, South Carolina.
Alabama came out against the Gamecocks uninspired, looking nothing like the team that had finished out the season on fire. Down by as many as 18 points in the second half Alabama came back to win 68-63, advancing to the Quarter Finals against Kentucky.
The next day against Kentucky, Alabama came out hot, maybe even spicy, against the Wildcats hitting four of their first five threes, while Kentucky missed their first eight shot attempts, leading to 35-30 lead at the break.
But as most people expected the Wildcats came back with a vengeance. Kentucky's comeback came mostly off the back of "Do It All" John Wall who scored 23 points, including seven straight in the second half in the Wildcats 73-67 win.
With the Tide's season over, after declining an invite to the CBI, it is time for my opinion on Grant's first season as coach. The main positive I saw from Grant was the competitiveness his team showed in every game they played in.
I feel that when Grant starts recruiting the state of Alabama the way he should, he will get enough players to have Alabama competing for the SEC West title year in and year out.
The only real problem I had with Grant's first season was the Crimson Tide's inability to finish close games. Alabama was a dismal 2-4 in games decided by three points or less.
I think that if Grant can start consistently recruiting the state of Alabama, and can get his teams to execute down the stretch, the Crimson Tide will soon be a force to be reckoned with.