Sleeping With The Enemy: The Crimson Tide Of Alabama

As part of the 2011 BIG EAST-SEC Challenge, your Georgetown fighting Hoyas are in scenic Tuscaloosa, Alabama tonight to take on the 12th ranked Alabama Crimson Tide. As always, we here at THE GLOBAL PHENOMENON are bringing you everything you need to know about Georgetown's next opponent. Special thanks to Roll Bama Roll, the greatest Alabama Crimson Tide spot on the internet, for providing the answers to our hard-hitting questions. For our answers to their questions, click here. Roll Bama Roll, this Coor's Light is for you.

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Alabama has a really solid team this year. Has anyone in Tuscaloosa noticed yet? Or is everyone still very focused on football?

Georgetown has played three home games this year (in a metro area of 5.6 million people), averaging 8,239 fans per game. Alabama has played four home games (in a metro area of less than 200,000 people), averaging 10,629 fans per game. It would seem Alabama has at least as many fans paying attention as Georgetown does.

But your question is well-taken. Alabama is clearly known for football, and interest in the basketball team always picks up, especially among casual fans, after football season ends. When Alabama has good seasons (which hopefully is the case this year) pretty much every SEC home game in our 15,000+ arena is sold out. I expect to see that this season.

More fun with Alabama after The Jump:

Approximately what is the percentage of Crimson Tide fans that would say they'd rather a basketball title over a football title?

I was getting at this in my answer to the first question but I'll spell it out here: Alabama probably has as many or more devoted basketball fans as Georgetown and most Big East schools do. However, the culture surrounding Alabama football is enough to overshadow anything in the state--and I'm not just talking about other sports like basketball. Trust me, I've lived in New York, Boston and now Chicago, and I can promise you that no sports phenomena you people up here can possibly imagine (Yankees-Red Sox, Cubs-White Sox, the Patriots, the Celtics, you name it) comes anywhere even halfway close to matching the intensity and all-encompassing nature of Alabama (or yes, even Auburn) football in the state of Alabama. The point is I don't feel like we care about basketball any less than schools like Georgetown, it's just that next to the specter of Alabama football, which transcends the normal bounds of American sports passion, our basketball support might seem a little tame by comparison.

I won't put a number on it, but if you took a poll of all Alabama fans of all types, very few would probably pick basketball over football if they had to pick only one (although I would be one who would and I know several others who feel the same). That said, there are thousands upon thousands of fans who would be just as thrilled as any fanbase in the country if we were to win a national championship in basketball--and I firmly believe that we can and will in the near future. And hey, who says we have to pick one?

How important is Tony Mitchell to this team's success? How long can you guys last with him injured?

Extremely. He's been the best player on the team this season, and possibly the most important because of his versatility. We only have one starting-caliber player over 6'6", and Mitchell's ability to rebound and defend way above his height is absolutely essential to our success. He is one of the best athletes you will ever see on a college basketball court, and he makes it count by flying all over the place on offense, defense, in transition and on the boards. He stuffs the stat sheet in every way imaginable: points, rebounds, blocks, steals, you name it.

He suffered a sprained ankle early in the Alabama A&M blowout a week ago, but he played against VCU on Sunday night. He was clearly not 100% in that game, but he did play close to his usual amount of minutes. We are lucky in that he almost certainly will play against Georgetown, but the Hoyas are lucky that they likely won't face a full-speed Tony Mitchell, especially because he is a guy who relies so much on his athleticism.

Who do you expect to pick up the slack in Mitchell's absence? Are you excited about any particular freshmen?

Well, Mitchell will likely play on Thursday, but to answer your second question: all of them. Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper, two lanky perimeter players (and four-star recruits) have simply been huge positives for the team all around. For a squad that lacks size as badly as Bama does, being able to put 6'5" and 6'6" guards into the game who are capable of rebounding against and defending against both guards and forwards is huge. Both of those guys just flat out make the team better when they're out there, and both start actually.

Trevor Lacey (a five-star recruit we beat out Calipari for) has been absolutely huge as well. He is essentially our #2 ballhandler, and he can play either the 1 or 2 position seemlessly. He had knee surgery this summer, and hasn't regained all of his quickness yet, but he's already playing big minutes as the team's 6th man and has shown flashes of the great player he can become when he's fully in shape and adjusted to the college game. The other key freshman is big-bodied 6'8" forward Nick Jacobs, who barely played in the opener but has slowly emerged as the go-to post guy off the bench. He's got the body and has shown flashes of the skill necessary to be a very good back-to-the-basket old-school type of college power forward.

What has Anthony Grant done well since he arrived in Tuscaloosa? What can he do better?

Simply put, he's built this program up the right way. He doesn't cut any corners and he demands respect and discipline from his players. It has been a slow process, as we've been limited significantly by a lack of offensive talent the last two years (Grant's first two at UA), but that is changing now with the top-5 ranked recruiting class he's brought in this season, which is why you finally see us breaking out onto the national scene in his third year.

His biggest strength as a coach has been defense. Fans and observers everywhere have heaped praise on his defense, and if there's one thing Alabama fans love, it's defense. Last year we finished ranked in the top 10 in defensive efficiency, and we are ranked in the top 10 already again this season. Most impressively, he already has the freshmen playing at a surprisingly high level on that end of the court, which has allowed us to build up that 7-0 start despite some shaky offensive performances this year.

If there's a weakness, it's probably half-court offense. Again, he hasn't had but about 2-3 really legit SEC-caliber offensive players each of the last two years, but that's changing now. Even with that said, at times we have had a lot of trouble getting good looks in the halfcourt offense, and some of that has to go back to coaching. Alabama fans are completely in love with Anthony Grant, but if there was weakness I'd have to point to that.

Do you expect to win the SEC title? Do you see Vanderbilt or Florida as your biggest competition?

I wouldn't say we expect to win it. I think we can win it and I expect to compete for it. Kentucky is clearly the SEC favorite, with Florida right behind them. Vanderbilt obviously will be very good too, and Mississippi State may be dangerous. What works in our favor is that all three of those top teams play each other twice, while we play them only once. That will hurt us come tournament selection time (it certainly did last year), but it will help us in competing for the league title.

Considering Grant's quick move from VCU to Alabama, were you surprised Shaka Smart didn't turn VCU's incredible run to the Final Four into a high major coaching job?

Yes, a little. I'm very impressed with him as a coach, and I got to watch his team play in person when I went to the Alabama-VCU game this past weekend while home for Thanksgiving. Other than Alabama under Grant, I haven't seen another team that played as hard and aggressively on defense as they did, and that goes back to coaching. He also has a really good energy on the sideline and his players really respond to it. Who knows if he'll leave or where he'll go if he does, but if I was looking for a coach at a big-time program, I would be happy to have him.

Best Alabama running back of all time - Mark Ingram, Shaun Alexander, Trent Richardson, or Forrest Gump?

I can't pick between the first three, so I'll go with Gump.

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Run Forrest, Run.

Do you expect Alabama to play for the BCS Championship? Will they win in a rematch vs. LSU?

Yes. LSU is deservedly the #1 team. Alabama lost to them in overtime of course, but most observers agree we outplayed them during that game. In Bama's other 11 games, no opponent has gotten within 10 points of the Tide any time during the 4th quarter. In other words Alabama has dominated everyone they've faced except LSU, who we played to a draw before losing a field goal contest in overtime. Oklahoma State, the only team that even has a mathematical chance of catching Bama, lost to Iowa State, the 75th ranked team in the F+/- efficiency ratings. You can throw all the blind resume crap out there you want about the Cowboys beating more ranked teams or whatever, but no one can say with a straight face that Alabama isn't a clearly superior team to OSU, and thankfully the voters seem to agree based on this week's polls. Unless the voters suddenly decide en masse to implement some agenda other than who the best team is in next week's final polls, we're safely in. I am a cautious person, and I have already booked my flight to New Orleans.

And yes. I think Bama and LSU are clearly the two best teams, and I think we are pretty evenly matched. The November 5th game proved that. I like our chances in a rematch.

What are your expectations for this upcoming season? Will anything less than a Sweet 16 appearance be deemed a failure?

Well, as you pointed out in your answer to my first question on our site, you can't judge success merely by a single game in the postseason. Therefore, I won't say any results in March would necessarily make the entire season a failure. For example, it's certainly in the realm of possibility we could win the SEC title, make the Dance as a fairly high (2, 3, or 4 seed) and then fall in a big upset in the first round or a minor upset in the second round. I will say that just from a postseason perspective, sitting here in November with all the optimism in the world, that not making the Sweet 16 would be disappointing, but I could easily adjust those expectations one way or the other based on how the team comes together in January and February.

Overall for the season, I'd say I expect us to at least be in contention for an SEC title, and for us to get at least a decent seed (say, a top-6 seed) so that we at least position ourselves well for a postseason run.

What is the best case scenario for this year's team? What is the worst case scenario?

Best case: we dominate the former SEC West teams like we did a year ago, and beat enough of the former East teams to take advantage of the somewhat favorable schedule and win the SEC championship. In the process, those results, combined with a nice 12-2 or 13-1 non-conference record against a solid string of opponents like Purdue, Wichita State, Georgetown, Dayton, Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech gives us a top-3 seed in the Dance. From there, we take care of business in the opening weekend, and then use our stifling defense to frustrate a team or two with more offensive firepower in the later rounds, where we make a run into the Final Four, where anything can happen.

Worst case: a big team like Georgetown exposes how badly our lack of size hurts us against the big boys. Then teams start learning how to defend us even more effectively and the freshmen on the team never seem to quite gel on the offensive end. The team loses most of its games against true top-25 opponents like Georgetown, Kentucky, Vanderbilt, Florida and maybe even Mississippi State, and loses a couple of ugly games against teams we should beat. We find ourselves limping to tournament time on the bubble again.

Nightmare scenario: Green or Mitchell goes down with injury. Kiss our hopes goodbye.

For a sport that plays second fiddle, the Alabama NBA alumni are pretty impressive. What would your all time starting five be?

Based purely on NBA careers, not their time at Bama.....
PG - Mo Williams
SG - Latrell Spreewell
SG - Robert Horry
SF - Gerald Wallace
PF - Antonio McDyess
6th man: T.R. Dunn

Who is the best scorer on this year's team? Who is the best rebounder? Defender? Passer?

Best scorer: JaMychal Green
Best rebounder: Tony Mitchell
Best defender: Rodney Cooper
Best passer: Trevor Releford

What are your predictions for the game against Georgetown? What is the final score?

I think it will be a hard-fought slugfest between two very good teams. Georgetown's size will give Alabama fits, and second-chance points as well as a lack of Georgetown turnovers will keep Alabama's defense from being able to win the game on its own. Alabama's offense will have to step up more than it has in several other games this season, including the last game against VCU and even more than in the big win over Purdue in Puerto Rico.

My prediction? Since you're asking a Bama homer I have to predict that we knock down just enough shots from outside to stretch the Georgetown defense and open up the lane for Green, Mitchell and Releford. The game stays close throughout, but the big crowd in Coleman carries the Tide on a couple of big runs that make the difference and allows Bama to pull out the win late. Roll Tide!

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