The story lines didn’t happen by accident. There’s little doubt that Alabama would have never set foot in Richmond in December if Crimson Tide coach Anthony Grant hadn’t felt some
love contractual obligation* for the program that gave him his start. Grant guided the Rams to two NCAA tournaments between 2006-09, which led directly to his big move to the SEC.
So Grant brought his Tide into Richmond, and went home thoroughly beaten. His former team, under the leadership of his replacement Shaka Smart, blitzed the visiting team, winning by a convincing 73-54 margin.
Smart’s “Havoc” defense racked up 11 steals and made shooting an uncomfortable nightmare for the visiting team, holding the Tide to 39% from the floor. Sophomore guard Levi Randolph was the only ‘Bama starter in double figures, barely notching ten points. Freshman Devonta Pollard led the Tide with 13 off the bench.
The Rams got 16 from free-shooting Troy Daniels, who hit 4-11 from deep. Treveon Graham (14) and Rob Brandenberg (10) were the other starters in double figures. Melvin Johnson, a freshman from the Bronx, added 12 in extended reserve minutes.
Alabama extended a three-game skid that brought the team to 6-3 on the season. With injuries striking the team, Grant must get creative to right the ship as quickly as possible – his Tide begins SEC play at No. 12 Missouri on January 8. VCU (7-3) is just beginning a four-game homestand, and will face preseason All-American C.J. McCollum and Lehigh on January 5.
*As pointed out to me by a sharp-eyed CBT commenter below, and by Marcus Shrock of VCURamNation, Anthony Grant is contractually required to schedule VCU as a term of his early exit from Richmond. Whether this means he actually hates VCU or is merely indifferent to the program is not clear at this time. Merry Christmas.
Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.
Tonight’s bubble action. This post will be updated as the games are completed.
Cincinnati at UCF, 7:00 p.m.
Pitt at No. 12 Miami, 7:00 p.m.
No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.
Ole Miss at Florida, 9:00 p.m.
Georgia at No. 22 Kentucky, 9:00 p.m.
Arkansas at Mississippi State, 9:00 p.m.
GAME OF THE NIGHT: No. 10 West Virginia at No. 6 Kansas, 7:00 p.m.
The last time these two teams got together, West Virginia actually knocked off Kansas in Morgantown. It was the third time in the last three seasons that WVU has beaten KU at home. So there’s some revenge at stake here. But there’s also the whole Big 12 title race, which West Virginia currently leads. If the Mountaineers win tonight, they’ll be up by two games on Kansas with the tie breaker and just seven games left to play. The Jayhawks regular season title streak could be over if that happens.
THIS ONE’S GOOD, TOO: No. 8 Michigan State at No. 18 Purdue, 7:00 p.m.
We think the Spartans are back to their early season form after wins over Maryland (at home), Northwestern, Rutgers and Michigan. If Michigan State really wants to prove something to the college basketball world, they will go into West Lafayette tonight and get a win. Denzel Valentine vs. Raphael Davis will be fun.
FIVE THINGS TO WATCH FOR
- Pitt will pay a visit to No. 12 Miami in a game the Panthers could really use a win in. Pitt hasn’t been the most consistent team in the country and without adding a few quality wins they could be looking at the bubble.
- Duquesne will be paying a visit to No. 19 Dayton, who moved into a tie for first place in the Atlantic 10 thanks to VCU’s loss on Saturday.
- Georgia is right there on the bubble, and they will have a chance to try and push themselves into a better spot when they play at No. 22 Kentucky tonight.
- Creighton probably has to win out to have a shot of making the NCAA tournament, and that includes tonight, when they host No. 5 Xavier.
- No. 7 Virginia will be hosting Virginia Tech, who picked off the Wahoos in Blacksburg earlier this year.
THE REST OF THE TOP 25
- No. 1 Villanova at DePaul, 8:30 p.m.
- No. 25 Wichita State at Drake, 8:00 p.m.