Credit: Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports
The Alabama Crimson Tide men’s basketball season came to a sudden halt on Tuesday night. In front of one of the largest crowds at Coleman Coliseum this season and with the ESPN televising the event to a national audience, all eyes saw the Crimson Tide falter against Maryland Terrapins 58-57.
It’s merely coincidence, but also quite symbolic that Trevor Lacey shot and missed the buzzer-beater that eliminated the Tide from the NIT, when it was Lacey that made the game winning three-point shot over the South Dakota State Jackrabbits to begin the season. What happened between these two games, however, produced more questions than answers.
The game against Maryland was the Crimson Tide’s entire season summed up in 40 minutes of basketball. Against the Terrapins, there were too many turnovers, easy inside shots missed, and opportunities to turn the game around thrown away.
That’s not to say Maryland wasn’t a pushover of a team. The Terps came in with decent record and a resume that includes two wins over NCAA No. 2 seed Duke. They were also double- and sometimes triple-teaming Alabama players on defense, while consistently making shots on the offensive glass. Still, Alabama could have taken control of the game and instead fell flat and under-performed.
Probably one of the most frustrating aspects of the game and the season, however, was summed up on a tweet that was a highlight on my timeline:
Now, it’s not fair to completely bag this season as a disappointing one. There were some highlights. Alabama did win the 2K Classic to start off the season and won their first six games overall. Alabama beat Texas A&M and Kentucky on second-half runs coming out of the locker room. You also can’t forget Alabama’s first win over Vanderbilt in Memorial Coliseum in 23 years. And there was Trevor Releford’s half-court, buzzer-beating three-pointer to take the season-finale game against Georgia.
But with the highlights, there were some major negatives that eventually doomed Alabama to falling short of making the NCAA tournament. How could we ever forget a very cold December where Alabama saw only 1 win and bad home losses to Mercer and Tulane? Not to mention a second-half collapse in the loss to Auburn and a three-overtime game against LSU that went south for the Crimson Tide.
As Alabama prepares for the offseason and the recruiting trail, some are asking whether Anthony Grant the right coach for Alabama. Fans are still very divided on the issue, with many saying next season is the defining moment for Grant. Some think that he doesn’t even deserve another chance and should be let go. But what happens if Anthony Grant leaves for another school? Some have speculated that he may be courted for the Minnesota job, which would move up any potential coaching search at the Capstone.
Whether or not Grant stays, is let go or even leaves, Alabama basketball fans are starting to wonder whether Alabama will ever become a consistent team that can win the games they are supposed to win and make runs in the NCAA tournament. When Grant was hired, that was what many thought would happen.
Grant is an excellent coach. His work at VCU and his virtual apprenticeship under Billy Donovan at Florida shows he’s got potential to be a fantastic coach. But his record at Alabama is summed up by two NIT appearances and that one NCAA appearance.
Will Alabama basketball ever be what it’s fans want it to be? Can Alabama get top talent to play basketball in Tuscaloosa? Can the Crimson Tide find players who work well and have good chemistry? If Grant isn’t the right coach to take this team to the best it can be, who is? And finally, a question that has only until recently come up: How will newly-hired Athletic Director Bill Battle embrace the sport?
Something needs to change. Alabama basketball simply cannot be stuck in neutral any longer.
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