What’s in a name? Everything, at least for the early goings of the 2012-2013 Alabama basketball season.
In the infancy stages of the season, the Crimson Tide need many names to stand up and deliver as the Tide try to replace JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell from last year’s team. With that, here’s what to look for in tonight’s game against South Dakota State.
Where to put Pollard
True freshman Devonta Pollard is expected to make an impact for the Tide in his first year of college basketball, as Trevor Releford, Trevor Lacey, Levi Randolph, Rodney Cooper and Nick Jacobs all did as freshmen.
The question is, where?
The point guard position is loaded down with Releford, who could make a claim at an All-SEC team this season, with Lacey being able to play the position, but the fanbase hoping for bigger and better things our of Retin Obasohan after a great summer abroad. Lacey and Randolph can both play shooting guard and the small forward, while Cooper can be seen as a small and power forward, and can play shooting guard if head coach Anthony Grant gets desperate.
Since Obasohan is out with stitches in his finger, Lacey will likely be playing point guard when Releford is not in the game. This means Lacey and Randolph could make up the 1-2 (point guard-shooting guard), while the 3-4 (small forward-power forward) can be interchangable with Cooper and Pollard (preferably with Cooper at 4, since he seems to have bulked up rather well in the offseason and Pollard is built like Kevin Durant: tall but as skinny as they come).
Or, when Releford is on the floor, the Tide can keep either Randolph or Lacey on the floor to give Cooper and either Randolph or Lacey a rest, opening up small forward for Pollard while the post is manned by Jacobs and Moussa Gueye. There are a myriad of options for the highly-touted freshman, and where he plays (and how often) will be of note.
Nick Jacobs’ defense
Jacobs arrived at the Capstone as a big man with great scoring potential, perfect for Grant’s system. Jacobs has shown flashes of his scoring ability in the past, including his 15 points against Alabama A&M and other double-figure performances (with a beautiful baby hook), but his defense has been suspect.
Last year, Jacobs had a tendency to give up position more than he needed to and foul when it was unnecessary. Jacobs needs to take on more of a banger mentality, like Gueye has. Gueye is a physical presence in the post on defense, one that Jacobs is not to the point where opposing teams want to attack him on that end. Speaking of Gueye….
Moussa Gueye’s offense
Gueye is a player to watch on both ends of the floor, for different reasons. Defensively, Gueye is about as fun to watch as any player on Alabama’s roster. Gueye is so physical that some post men will step out just to get a break from his punishment down low. Gueye can contest a shot and has a decent step across the lane to move over for help defense, although he does pick up a great deal of fouls when he does it.
Gueye’s offense is the issue here. If Gueye can show the same physicality on offense that he does on defense and use his newfound to finesse to finish at the hoop (dropped from 292 to 255 pounds), it opens up an entirely different scheme for the Tide if their center can score. If not, Alabama’s offense will be playing 4 vs. 5 whenever Gueye is on the floor.
Contain Nate Wolters
The South Dakota State Jackrabbits may not be a team that gets instant credibility from the name on the front of their jerseys, like Duke or Kansas, but tend to leave opposing gyms with respect for the names on the back.
Last year, the Jackrabbits won their conference championship and earned a 14 seed in the NCAA tournament, and return four of the starters from that team for this season.
“South Dakota State, after having a chance to watching them on film, I’m extremely impressed with them,” Grant said. “They have good size, tough team. It will be a great challenge for our guys from a defensive standpoint, to be able to contain them.”
The Tide could have special difficulty guarding point guard Nate Wolters, who Grant says is a serious Player of the Year candidate in the Summit League.
“He’s an excellent player, kind of reminds me of a kid I coached at VCU by the name of Eric Maynor,” Grant said. “A lot of the same qualities except he (Wolters) is a little bit bigger at 6-4. He really affects the game, helps his team and makes the game easier for his teammates.”
Maynor went on to be drafted into the NBA and is currently a key bench piece for the Oklahoma City Thunder, who went to the NBA finals last season.