February 11, 2012; Baton Rouge, LA; Alabama Crimson Tide guard Charles Hankerson Jr. (2) has his shot blocked by LSU Tigers center Justin Hamilton (41) during the first half of a game at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

Alabama vs. Florida Basketball Preview


Coleman Coliseum is always a welcome sight for the Crimson Tide, no matter the situation. But this homecoming will be bittersweet. Anthony Grant announced yesterday that Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele will be allowed to return from their one-game suspension. Coach Grant also stated that JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell wouldn’t be available for the Tide’s game on Tuesday night against the Florida Gators.

Both JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell are indefinitely suspended for violating team rules and for Mitchell “an accumulation of things.” There is no doubt about it, the Tide will miss their star forwards on Tuesday. But can Anthony Grant win with “his team on the floor?” We will find out.

Florida has shown time and time again this season they have some great guards. They use dribble penetration and a dribble drive attack to free up the inside. Also, the Gators use the dribble drive to free up outside shots away from the play.

Alabama will have a tough matchup defending the Gator’s great guard play, but it is feasible. Trevor Releford, Levi Randolph, and Andrew Steele have to contain the outside. The first step to stopping the dribble drive is on the ball. If you slide your feet to get in front of your man, the play is halted. Luckily for Alabama, Levi Randolph and Andrew Steele are two of the team’s best defensive players.

Saturday night, the short-handed Crimson Tide did a lot of things wrong in the first half. LSU dominated Alabama on the glass. One crucial mistake Alabama made was on box-outs. Alabama’s guards weren’t boxing out on long shots. That’s one of the things you have to know while playing guard; long shots equal long rebounds. Box-outs on the outside have to be executed; the Tide can’t give up second and third chances on the offensive boards, period.

One of Anthony Grant’s favorite defense sets is the two-three zone. Alabama usually runs it to perfection. The two top guards usually stay in position and make some great switches when necessary. If Coach Grant shows Florida the zone, the front defense is very important. Remember, Florida loves the dribble drive, and the only way to stop it is at the source.

There’s no way to get around this one; Alabama must put points on the board. Florida averages 78.8 points per game, enough to be 16th in the country. Even if the Tide plays great defense, they will have to score to win.

In the absence of JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell, Anthony Grant has looked to his bench players for production. Moussa Gueye and Carl Engstrom will continue to see increased playing time. Alabama did a nice job using these two big men to set screens at the top of the floor. Engstrom has developed a decent screen game, but Gueye is still a little rough. It is great to see Moussa Gueye get after the screen, but you just can’t be too physical. Using screens on the outside should open up scoring opportunities for Alabama’s guards.

Honestly, I think Nick Jacobs needs more touches in the low post. He is still very green. The freshman has seen a lot of playing time in big games, but he has to step up. He has one of the best hook shots on the team. Paired with his unorthodox left-handed stroke, many teams have issues with him down low. Heck, even Anthony Davis had issues defending Nick Jacobs early in the game at Rupp Arena.

So, what does Alabama have to do to win? It ultimately comes down to guard play. Alabama has to slow down Florida’s guards, somehow. Florida’s offense relies heavily on their guards. If the guards aren’t producing, problems arise. Also, the Tide has to stop the Gator’s penetration. Florida uses an outside in attack, they use their strong guard play to free up the low block.

Finally, make the shots you should. One play comes to mind from Saturday night: Nick Jacobs drove and took one too many steps and then missed a dunk. Are you kidding? You can’t miss shots from the inside in major college basketball and expect to win. Alabama will have to play as a team to come away with the victory on Tuesday night.

Key Matchup

Kenny Boynton vs. Andrew Steele. Like most guards Andrew Steele  goes up against, Kenny Boynton is the leading scorer for the Gators and provides the main spark for their offense. There is no doubt Boynton will be a hard matchup for Steele, but he is up for the task.

Kenny Boynton is a scorer. He is always looking for creative ways to put points on the board and is one of the best shooters on the team. But he is also dangerous on the dribble drive. Kenny Boynton averages 17.5 points per game and is second only to Bradley Beal in minutes per game.

Andrew Steele is just the opposite. He may only score four points, but he provides a huge spark for the Tide on the defensive side of the ball. Steele is a specimen to watch; he is active and very aggressive. He will be a tough matchup for Kenny Boynton to navigate, especially in Tuscaloosa.

Keep in mind, Andrew Steele is coming off a suspension. Coach Grant didn’t make it clear on Monday how much, if any action Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele would see. Hopefully the two have served their time and are ready to get back to the team.

Will the Tide be able to rebound against Anthony Grant’s former team? If Coach Grant drops another one, will his job be on the line? Alabama has a lot riding on this game, including a spot in the NCAA tournament. It’s a shame two of the Tide’s top players will be watching from home, because Alabama needs a win on Tuesday night in Coleman Coliseum.

Game Info

February 14, 2012 – 6:00pm CST
Coleman Coliseum (Tuscaloosa, Alabama)
ESPN, streaming on ESPN3

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