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.
Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.
The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.
Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.
That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.
Another marquee, early season event is on the books for the college basketball season as four potential tournament teams will be squaring off at the Toyota Center in Houston on Dec. 17th.
The highlight of the double-header, which has been dubbed the Lone Star Shootout, will probably end up being Arizona vs. Texas A&M. The Wildcats are a Pac-12 contender and a borderline top 10 team as we enter the season, and while the Aggies will have work to do replacing the seniors they lost off of last season’s roster, they’re a borderline top 25 team.
The other matchup will feature a pair of former Southwest Conference rivals facing off in Texas and Arkansas. Texas will be talented but young while Arkansas may actually have the best player on the floor in Moses Kingsley. What will make this matchup interesting is that both Mike Anderson and Shaka Smart are known for being coaches that prefer a full court pressing system.
“We are extremely excited about the opportunity to play in front of our fans at the Toyota Center in Houston,” Texas head coach Shaka Smart said in a statement. “It is one of the most important areas in this state as it relates to our recruiting and fan base.
Five-star shooting guard Lonnie Walker is coming off of a very good summer as he trimmed his list to five schools on Thursday night.
The 6-foot-4 native of Reading, Pennsylvania is still considering Arizona, Kentucky, Miami, Syracuse and Villanova, he announced on Twitter.
Regarded as the No. 26 overall prospect in the Class of 2017, Walker played with Team Final in the Nike EYBL this spring and summer as he averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game. Walker shot 45 percent from the field, 39 percent from three-point range and 72 percent from the free-throw line.
An efficient scorer who is learning to drive with both hands, Walker is very talented and the type of guard who might also be able to handle a bit as well.
Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim has drawn attention for some recent comments about former Orange star Carmelo Anthony.
After Anthony captured his record third gold medal with USA Basketball, his former college coach told Mike Waters of the Syracuse Post-Standard that Anthony didn’t have a great chance at winning an NBA title.
“He’s unlikely to win an NBA title,” Boeheim said of Anthony. “He’s never been on a team that even had a remote chance of winning an NBA title.”
Boeheim maintains that he was speaking of Melo’s legacy being about more than an NBA title and that he’s one of the game’s greats thanks to other accomplishments like the Syracuse title and gold medals. On SportsCenter, Boeheim made sure to stress where those comments were coming from, while also making sure his kids would stop being mad at him.
It’s much easier to understand where Boeheim is coming from in this instance and it clears up something that will probably go away now.
The Big Ten released its 2016-17 conference schedule on Thursday as the conference season begins on Dec. 27 with a four-game set.
Conference play will conclude on March 5th before the 20th annual Big Ten Tournament is played at the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. from March 8-12.
Some notable games include Penn State hosting Michigan State at the Palestra on Jan. 7.
You can view the full Big Ten schedule here.