A new era is about to ring in at the Capstone, as Anthony Grant is soon to make his regular season debut as the Crimson Tide Head basketball coach. Anthony Grant is taking over for long time Head Coach Mark Gottfried who spent 11 years on the Tide bench. Gottfried put together a record of 210-132 in his 11 seasons in Tuscaloosa. He led Alabama to 5 NCAA tournament appearances during that span, including an Elite Eight run in 2004.
Mark Gottfried did a lot for this Alabama basketball program, but it was indeed time to make a change, and he was let go after 19 games last year. With Gottfried gone, a new man has taken over, Anthony Grant. Anthony Grant was a key contributor as an assistant coach with Florida during their 2006 National Title run. After that, Grant became the Head Coach at Virginia Commonwealth, and led them to two NCAA tournament bids in three seasons, including an upset over Duke in the first round of the 2007 tournament. He compiled a record of 76-25 while coaching VCU, and never had a season with fewer than 24 wins.
Now Anthony Grant takes over an Alabama basketball team that will need to be rebuilt into what used to be a perennial contender in the SEC Western Division each and every year. Alabama has missed the NCAA tournament for the past three seasons and are looking to get back. He inherits a team that won 18 games last season, and there is some talent around him.
A big loss to the Alabama team this season was Alonzo Gee. Gee was a big time scoring and rebounding threat in his three years as a part of the Tide. His leadership and presence on the court will not be easily replaced; he leaves a hole at the SF position. Freshman Tony Mitchell looks like he will get the call to fill the big shoes of Gee. Tony Mitchell was ranked as a 4 star recruit last season, and the 38th best player in the Nation. He averaged 27 points and 8 rebounds a game as a senior last season, and will play a big role for Alabama this season.
The other freshman coming into town is Ben Eblen who was Grant’s first commitment with Alabama. Eblen was a former VCU commit, but asked to be released after Grant left. He decided to follow Grant to Tuscaloosa, and could be the point guard of the future for Alabama. I think he will need to be groomed into a point guard in the SEC, but he will likely see a big role right away.
Returning stars for the Crimson Tide include junior guard Senario Hillman. Hillman can play the point but is better suited for the two guard in my opinion, so Grant may go with Eblen at the point next season. Hillman averaged a little over 12 points per game for Alabama last season. Mikhail Torrance is another player to watch out for on Alabama. He averaged 10 points per game last season in a little over 20 minutes a game. His minutes could see an increase this season, but he will likely be the sixth man for the Tide.
Maybe the biggest player to watch out for is sophomore JaMychal Green, who was a highly touted player coming to the Capstone last season. He averaged 10 points and 8 rebounds per game last season, and I believe that the season truly hinges on his progression as a player. If he can take on a star role this season, and be one of the better players in the SEC, then Alabama could be ahead of schedule.
A lack of size will force Alabama into being a running team this season. They are pretty weak in the post, and when they face teams that have good size and strength down low, the Tide will likely struggle. Alabama is going to have to find a reliable option in the post alongside Green. Justin Knox and Demetrius Jemison will likely get the majority of the minutes in the post, but if they struggle, I wouldn’t be surprised if Alabama moved JaMychal Green to the 5, sliding Tony Mitchell to the 4, inserting Mikhail Torrance to the 3, with Senario Hillman and Ben Eblen in the backcourt along with Andrew Steele and Anthony Brock seeing some significant minutes off the bench. If Alabama goes with that lineup, then they will be trying to out run teams as much as possible.
In the exhibition games so far, that has seemed to be Alabama’s game plan. Run, run, and run some more. All the running should make this Tide team fun to watch, but will it translate into wins? I’m not so sure. Alabama is going to need some players to develop this year, and they will need Eblen to mature quickly if he is to start at the point.
I think Alabama is a year away from seriously competing on the SEC and National stage. This is most likely going to be a rebuilding year, and there are going to be some bumps on the road, as expected in a rebuilding process. I just don’t think Alabama is quite on the level as Tennessee or Mississippi State in the SEC. But, if things do come together for the Tide, and Green emerges into a superstar, then Alabama could be the surprise team in the SEC.
One thing is for certain, Anthony Grant has opposing coaches in the SEC looking in their rear view mirrors as the Tide approaches.