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Alabama vs. Texas Tech Basketball Preview

The Alabama Crimson Tide (0-1) are getting set to take on the Texas Tech Red Raiders (2-0) in their home opener at Coleman Coliseum on Thursday night. The Crimson Tide will look to bounce back after a sour start to the 2013-14 season that saw them lose a neutral site game to Oklahoma in Dallas to open the season.

Alabama broke out to an early 16 point lead, but senior point guard Trevor Releford picked up his third foul early in the first half, and spent the rest of the game in foul trouble. Sophomore guard Retin Obasohan was in foul trouble as well and eventually fouled out of the game.

Releford ultimately played only 22 minutes, and while not taking anything away from Oklahoma, Alabama is certainly a better team when he is on the floor. Having him sit for big chunks of the game hurt.

The Sooners played better as a team than the Crimson Tide, assisting on 16 of their 28 made field goals. Alabama had only four assists on 29 made field goals. Alabama’s three-point struggles also continued, as they hit just 3-of-15 attempts.

Anthony Grant started four guards against Oklahoma in an attempt to match the Sooners’ four guard attack. Because of that, Carl Engstrom and Jimmie Taylor played a combined nine minutes, and Alabama missed on an opportunity to take advantage of Oklahoma’s lack of size. Grant said on Wednesday that he regretted not playing Taylor more.

Don’t look for Alabama to do that against Texas Tech, especially considering the Red Raiders have more size on the inside.

Texas Tech is off to a 2-0 start to the season with double-digit wins over Houston Baptist and Northern Arizona. This will be their first true test of the season. Texas Tech is coming off of an 11-20 season in 2012-13, but figure to be improved this season under the guidance of first-year head coach Tubby Smith.

While the talent isn’t yet on par in Lubbock with the heavyweights of the Big 12, they figure to be much better coached now. Smith has been successful at all four of his previous coaching stops, leading four different programs to NCAA Tournament berths. He won a national championship in 1998 with Kentucky in his first season on the job.

Here’s a look at the Red Raiders’ roster:

Projected Starters

Point Guard: Rob Turner

JUCO transfer Rob Turner has been a pleasant surprise for the Red Raiders so far this season. He was handed the reigns as the team’s starting point guard, and has impressed through two games as the team’s leader in scoring and assists. He was particularly impressive against Northern Arizona, where he scored 21 points and dished four assists on 8-of-11 shooting from the floor and drained five threes.

Turner came to Texas Tech with the reputation as a really good defensive player, and a pass-first point guard. His scoring through two games has been a major boost. It’ll be interesting to watch Turner and Trevor Releford go at it at Coleman, as the two will likely be matched up against each other for most of the evening.

Shooting Guard: Dusty Hannahs

Dusty Hannahs is Texas Tech’s knockdown three-point shooter. He’s a guy who can kill you from deep if you don’t account for him. He was 4-of-7 from deep against Northern Arizona, and he shot 37% from three last season.

As a freshman last season, Hannahs became a starter about halfway through the season and hasn’t relinquished that job to this point. Hannahs is a nice compliment in the backcourt to Turner, but is a bit limited in what he can do offensively other than his outside shot. He’s also a bit of a liability on defense, and Alabama should look to take advantage of that with their bevy of talented guards.

Small Forward: Jaye Crockett

Alabama had absolutely no answer for Jaye Crockett last season in their meeting in Lubbock. Crockett almost single-handedly led the Red Raiders to the upset as he brought his team back from a double-digit halftime deficit. He had 22 points and 11 rebounds in the game.

Crockett is probably Texas Tech’s best overall player, and the leader of the team. He can score in a variety of different ways, and has been able to extend his shooting range beyond the three-point line. He’s a do-it-all kind of guy for the Red Raiders, and his effort is contagious. He’s one of the better rebounders on the team, ranking second at 5.5 boards per game so far this season.

Crockett will get the start at the three, but he will see plenty of time in the post at the 4 when Smith goes to different lineups.

Power Forward: Jordan Tolbert

With Crockett’s usual strong play, the emergence of Rob Turner at point guard, and then Jordan Tolbert at the four, Texas Tech suddenly has a potent “big three” to lead the team. Tolbert has had a nice start to the season as well, averaging 15 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Tolbert is far and away the team’s best post player, and his strength inside can be tough to handle.

Tolbert is only 6-foot-7, so his size won’t provide matchup problems for Alabama with Nick Jacobs likely drawing the assignment on him. What he lacks in height, however, Tolbert more than makes up for with his strength and sheer determination in the paint.

Tolbert will likely start at power forward, but he’ll also see time at center when Texas Tech wants to go smaller.

Center: Dejan Kravic

The 7-foot senior is back as the team’s starting center. Kravic improved over the course of last season, but he still isn’t viewed as much of a threat. He does provide nice size underneath, but he’s surprisingly not a strong rebounder despite his stature.

He is off to a slow start so far this season, but he should only get better. He averaged 9 points and 5 rebounds per game last season, and he’s a better scorer than most would give him credit for.

The presence of Kravic inside will probably force Anthony Grant to start Carl Engstrom at the 5, but Jimmie Taylor should see a good bit of playing time as well.

Key Reserves

Jamal Williams

Williams is referred to as Texas Tech’s “glue guy” off the bench, and is versatile enough to play a variety of different positions for Tubby Smith. Much like former Crimson Tide guard Andrew Steele, Williams does a lot of the dirty work that may not show up in the box score, but is vital in winning games.

Toddrick Gotcher

Gotcher can play the one and the two, but he’ll most likely be used as Hannahs’ backup at shooting guard. Gotcher provides a completely different look when he’s at the two as he isn’t known for his shooting ability. Gotcher is more of a mid-range guy who can drive to the basket. He’s a physical player with an impressive build who gets to the basket and rebounds above his height.

Aaron Ross

Ross was a heralded recruit for Texas Tech last year, but never took the floor because of an ACL tear before the start of the season. He received a medical redshirt, and figures to be a major contributor off the bench this year. Even though he is listed as a forward, Ross plays like a guard. He has a nice shooting stroke for his size, and can handle the ball as well.

Alex Foster

Foster switched his commitment from Minnesota to Texas Tech when Tubby Smith was fired by the Gophers and resurfaced in Lubbock. His youth and energy on the inside has been a plus for Texas Tech off the bench so far.

Randy Onwuasor

Onwuasor is another freshman who has made an early impact for Texas Tech. He’s a combo guard from California who gives Tubby Smith much needed backcourt depth. He’ll see some time at point guard when Rob Turner is on the bench.

Projected Alabama Lineup

PG: Trevor Releford

SG: Algie Key/Retin Obasohan

SF: Rodney Cooper

PF: Nick Jacobs

C: Carl Engstrom

Anthony Grant won’t come out with a four guard lineup like he did against Oklahoma due to Texas Tech’s size in the frontcourt. He’ll likely match Texas Tech’s seven footer with his own in Carl Engstrom, but Jimmie Taylor should get a lot of run at the five as well. Nick Jacobs could slide to the five when Texas Tech tries to go small, with Cooper moving to the 4, and Grant inserting another guard.

I’m not sure who will start alongside Releford in the backcourt between Algie Key and Retin Obasohan. Both played pretty well against Oklahoma, with Key’s 20 points leading the team. Regardless, both will see a lot of action.

Levi Randolph played more in the season opener than I thought, but I still don’t think he’ll be in the starting lineup. He’ll likely come off the bench for a while until he’s back in the same game shape we are used to seeing.

Shannon Hale should also play, as Grant will probably once again go with a nine-man rotation of sorts.

Texas Tech seems to be a much improved team from a year ago, and they gave the Crimson Tide a game last season. This should be another good early season test for Alabama as they look to get their first win of the season.

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