"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Monday, March 13, 2006

Know Your Opponent: Alabama Crimson Tide

Marquette University is dancing again and will travel to San Diego to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Thursday.

Today, we're continuing our 'Know Your Opponent' series thanks to the help of Crimson Tide superfan and regular Rivals poster, matt_bamahoops. Here's the 411 on the Crimson Tide:

This game could become a battle between young point guards - - Dominic James and Ronald Steele. Steele had a breakout season for the Tide, can you break down his game for us?
Steele has always been a pass first guy but when the Tide's leading scorer Chuck Davis went down in the first half of conference opener Steele has been forced into more of a scoring role. Steele averaged playing over 40 minutes a game in conference due to the lack of depth when Chuck Davis went down and Justin Jonus decided mid-season to transfer.

Ron is the Tide's anchor that can hurt you from the outside or off the dribble. He was a unanimous first team All-SEC selection this year. In a nutshell, Ronald Steele is the total package that carries this Alabama team.

Chuck Davis has been out for several months. How did Mark Gottfried overcome the loss of such a key inside player? Who stepped up?
Ronald Steele and Richard Hendrix are the two guys that really stepped up to replace Chuck's presence in the lineup. Steele started looking for his shot more while Richard was forced to log more minutes in the post. Hendrix is a true freshman who was a McDonald's All-American coming out of high school. Hendrix was voted to the All-Freshman SEC team this season averaging 10.7 ppg and 9.3 rebounds per game in conference play.

What best characterizes Alabama's style of play?
Characterizing Bama's style of play is very hard to do because Alabama is a team that has struggled to find its identity all season. It is a team that went to Ole Miss and won in a very slow down game, then turned around a few weeks later and beat the very up tempo Florida Gators and Tennessee Vols. Both games, being forced to play the opposing teams style. So trying to describe Alabama as an up tempo team or a half court team is very hard to say. It seems that unless forced to play up tempo Bama is best when it is in a half court set and Ronald Steele has the ball in his hands trying to break down the defense. Bama's offense is run through Ronald Steele.

Which types of teams/styles of play give Alabama the most trouble? Which teams do they tend to have the most success against?
The style a team plays hasn't really affected Bama this year but teams that have a guy that can really get in Ronald Steele's grill and make him work for his touches are teams that give Bama a difficult time.

Kentucky did a good job of this using Rajon Rondo as the guy to stay on Steele the entire game. This forced Steele (who plays nearly 40 minutes a game for Bama) to get tired and have auncharacteristicstics turnovers late in the game. If a team lets Steele dictate the flow of the game they are in a lot of trouble. Bama is a team that all season has played to the level of its competition. But if a team doesn't have a guy that can slow down Ronald Steele, everyone on Bama's team gets a lot better. Are you guys seeing the key to stopping Bama yet? Haha!

The Tide closed the regular season winning three of your last five, including wins over Tennessee and Florida. Is Bama playing its best ball right now?
You could answer this with a yes but a disappointing loss at Mississippi St. to end the regular season and another loss in SEC tournament to Kentucky are the last two games Alabama has played. Definitely though the games against Tennessee and Florida are the best games Alabama has played this season. This team has been a big mystery all season as to which team shows up.

Jermareo Davidson is a tough, productive big man. Tell us a little about his game.
Jermareo Davidson is a guy that can dominate on the inside when he wants too but at the same time he can be on the floor and you know it know he is out there. He definitely gets pushed around a lot on the inside against guy shouldn't be able to push him around. Davidson tends to fall in love with playing from the outside too much and ends up taking to many 15 foot jumpers and tries to drive from the high post too much.

He is most productive when he gets the ball on the block and goes with a strong drop step or with the jump hook. Jermareo is also a guy that is very good at drawing fouls and hitting the offensive glass. Defensively he can be a force by snagging rebounds and altering shots but if he gets flustered early, especially on the offensive end, he can get into foul trouble, which is something a depleted Alabama lineup cannot afford.

Davidson and Steele are Bama's most notable players. Who else might surprise us on Thursday in San Diego?
Alonzo Gee and Jean Felix make Alabama a different when they both are scoring. Gee kept Bama in the Kentucky game by hitting 3-of-4 from beyond the arc in the 2nd half, scoring 15 2nd half points. Gee is a high energy that if you let him get hot he can really hurt you but like most freshman he can be taken out of a game fairly easily.

Jean Felix is Bama's defensive stopper. He is a 6'7" guy that is athletic enough to stay with just about any guard you put him on to cover. We haven't faced a guy like Novak yet so I am not sure if he will get that assignment considering Novak is 6'10". Felix is also a guy that will shoot you in or out of a ball game. Earlier in conference play he was a whopping 0-7 against Vandy but then drained a one handed shot with 20 seconds remaining to tie the game. If these two guys can combine for 20 points then Alabama becomes a completely different team.

Thanks for your time today Matt!

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