It's been insanely difficult for Alabama to prepare for this game because, not only did they get a horrible seed in the NIT (not that they deserved better, but the other 3 SEC teams got home games), but they got shipped 1500 miles away from home, and were told that they had to be there to play in less than 48 hours.
Doesn't really seem fair.
But, that's the hand you're dealt when you lose six of your last eight games and don't have a healthy point guard or center. Aside from that, the Tide has struggled on the road this season in every way imaginable. We've been blown out from the start (Arkansas, Vandy). We've been blown out late (Mississippi State, Auburn, Notre Dame). We've been close but no cigar (Florida, Ole Miss, and Tennessee), and we've actually won two road games - at LSU and at NC State.
UMass is better than LSU and NC State, but not as good as Tennessee, Florida, and maybe Ole Miss. 6'8" Stephane Lasme and 6'9" Rashaun Freeman are both beasts under the basket, and will give Davidson and Hendrix fits all night. Their perimeter play is pretty good, but not sensational.
This is a Travis Ford coached team. Yes, the former Kentucky guard. He's a hell of a player, a Rick Pitino disciple who will do big things. The difference is that this team doesn't like to press as much, partly because their big men are not as fast and can't keep up with the fast pace.
The guys over at the tidesports message boards have put in their predictions for the game tonight, so I'll just use a few of theirs:
"UMass by 18. Then the season will over and we can get back to football."
"Umass 84, Bama 69.... Bama will probably go up like 25-14 in the 1st half, Umass will call timeout, go on major run to end the half. Score at the half 37-31 Umass. 2nd half opens, Umass starts on a run to take about a 13 point lead, CMG puts in some subs/full court pressure, bama climbs to within 4 points, but doesnt get any closer. Its Called Mark Gottfried Basketball. RTR I really hope we do win."
"umass by 20 or so"
"Bama wins in overtime..79-75..You saw it here first.."
"I'll stick with my usual...Bama loses by 15"
So that's one fan that thinks we'll win compared to four that think we'll get destroyed and one that doesn't even care. My how the mighty have fallen.
And this team was ranked #4 in the country at one point.
---------------------------- Finebaum chimes in about how the drumbeat for change is growing louder in Tuscaloosa. The hiring of Nick Saban automatically raises expectations in the entire athletic department. In other words, as little as this game matters, it's still important towards next year.
¶ 9:32 AM