Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports
The Alabama Crimson Tide (7-4) suffered a devastating loss at home on Saturday afternoon to the Mercer Bears (7-6). The Tide fell 66-59 in front of a terrible home crowd at Coleman Coliseum for their fourth loss in their last five games after a promising 6-0 start to the season.
Quite frankly, this is a loss that will haunt Alabama this season, and could ultimately prove to be the loss that keeps them out of the NCAA Tournament, but at this point it isn’t even worth mentioning this team and March Madness in the same sentence. Maybe we can talk about the NIT, but at this point that could even be a stretch unless something changes with this team in the very near future.
This is an embarrassing loss for a team coming off of an NCAA Tournament berth a year ago. Alabama blew a double-digit lead for the second game in a row. They were able to hang on to a four point victory over Texas Tech in Lubbock on Wednesday night, but this time the Crimson Tide weren’t as fortunate as Mercer outplayed, outhustled, and outcoached Alabama on Saturday afternoon.
Trevor Releford and Rodney Cooper both had strong games, but everybody else struggled against the mighty Mercer Bears out of the powerful Atlantic-Sun conference.
Anthony Grant questioned the effort of the team in his postgame press conference.
“Let’s just be real about it,” he said. “We didn’t show up to play for 40 minutes today. We didn’t. Let’s not sugarcoat it.”
That’s obviously not a good sign. The last few years, even when Alabama wasn’t all that talented under Anthony Grant, you could always count on them busting their tails for 40 minutes and putting it all on the line. That obviously hasn’t been this case so far this season, and absolutely wasn’t the case this afternoon against an inferior opponent.
Make no mistake about this. This is a horrible loss. Mercer is a sub-200 RPI team, and they came to Tuscaloosa and took it to the Crimson Tide.
It’s hard to fathom how far the Crimson Tide have fallen in such a short period of time this season. Alabama started the season 6-0, and won the 2k Sports Classic in New York City that included a dominant victory over Villanova in the Championship Game.
After that, Alabama went on the road and took undefeated and now 11th ranked Cincinnati down to the wire before losing on a buzzer beating shot. How can you go from playing that well against a quality opponent to losing to a team like Mercer?
Following that loss to the Bearcats, Alabama played consecutive sloppy basketball games against Dayton and VCU and lost both. They were able to rebound, barely, by beating Texas Tech by four points on Wednesday, and then basically hit rock bottom today with that embarrassing loss.
There are no excuses for today’s loss. None. I get that the team is down to eight scholarship players with Carl Engstrom lost for the season and Andrew Steele out of a few more weeks, but this kind of loss shouldn’t happen.
Blame the players all you want, but some of the blame has to land squarely on the shoulders of Anthony Grant. I say that as one of Grant’s biggest supporters since he stepped foot on campus. Regardless of the circumstances, you can’t lose games to Mercer at home in your fourth year as the head coach. It’s inexcusable.
It’s inexcusable for a team not to be playing hard every single game. If losses like this continue to pile up, Grant’s seat will start to get warmer and warmer in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama’s struggles on offense seem to get worse each year Grant is coaching. They play sound defense, but they are constantly out of rhythm on offense and far too often they get in offensive funks where they go eight minutes or so without a field goal. You aren’t going to have much success in this day and age of college basketball without having consistency on the offensive end.
I still have faith in Grant, and I think he is a good coach, but that faith has definitely been tested so far this season. I don’t think, no matter what happens the rest of the way, that Grant’s job should be on the line this season. But, after today’s loss to Mercer the season certainly looks lost and the calendar hasn’t even flipped to 2013 yet.
The good news for the Crimson Tide is that the rest of the SEC is pretty lousy, so if they are able to figure things out between now and SEC play, there are wins to be had this season. But if they continue to play like they did this afternoon, they won’t win many games this year.
The lack of size on the interior looks to be a huge issue as the season continues to progress. They don’t have the bodies to bang around inside with teams, and that will almost certainly cost them some games this year.
This team may not have what it takes to make the Big Dance this season, but in the very least I want to see this team playing as hard as they can every single game. No more lackluster efforts; no more games where Grant is questioning whether the team came to play for forty-minutes. Things have to change, and they have to change right now.
Alabama has eight days before they play again with Tulane coming to Tuscaloosa on December 30th. Anthony Grant has to reevaluate what needs to be done for this team to be successful, and we better see a different team next Sunday in Coleman Coliseum, or this truly will be a lost season and we can go ahead and start counting down the days to football season.
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