In Anthony Grant's tenure at Alabama, the Crimson Tide hold a 102-72 record. At a school that seems to breed excellence throughout the majority of their athletic programs (gymnastics, softball, golf, football), you'd think Grant would be on the hot seat. And as we all well know, if you're thinking that, you're right.
It's said that Grant plays a brand of basketball as boring as a high school team that holds the ball without a shot clock. It's said that Grant is unable to recruit guys that can shoot from the perimeter. It's said that Grant teams always stick with big competition but never pull through. It's said that -- okay, enough.
Monday night, Alabama faced off against No. 14 Iowa State led by former NBA star Fred Hoiberg in the CBE Hall of fame Classic. The Cyclones, who lost in the Sweet Sixteen last year to the eventual national champion Connecticut Huskies, came into the game winning against a capable Georgia State team and Oakland. Returning starters such as Naz Long and Georges Niang, though, credited the opinion that this game would be a tough one for the Tide. And although it resulted in exactly that, what's said about Grant should be taken into greater consideration. This, in my opinion, was the most positive and best game I've seen an Alabama team play basketball under his campaign.
"You've got to give them credit," said Grant post game. "Iowa State is an awfully talented basketball team and they made plays when they needed to make plays. (Niang) was virtually unstoppable tonight."
Alabama hung in it from start to finish with the much-needed contributions on the offensive end from seniors Rodney Cooper and Levi Randolph. Both scored in double digits -- Randolph with 18 and Cooper with 27 -- but in the end it wasn't enough as Niang and his 28 points knocked off the Tide, 84-74.
Alabama hung with another big opponent and lost against another big opponent, but this time, lay off Grant. Please, that's all I'm asking.
In the past, Alabama's sloppiness and lack of effort down the stretch gives you a reason to blame Grant. Tonight, there was none of that. From the tipoff to the final buzzer, the Tide fought and fought well. Alabama hit 10 three-pointers tonight, the first time in 8 games dating back to last year. Alabama also committed just 9 turnovers and had contributions from freshman Riley Norris and Justin Coleman. The confidence of this team was different than those of Grant's team in the past. Be it Ricky Tarrant or the loss of Releford or even the progression of Jimmie Taylor and Shannon Hale, this team gives Alabama hope. Yes, hope under Grant.
It's a start, one that every coach and every team must have and the game Tuesday against Maryland will attest to the improvement I think I see in this program. Will they continue to move the ball on offense? Will they continue to hit shots? Will Cooper become the consistent scorer they need him to be?
Will Alabama rise up behind Arkansas and rise the ranks in an SEC drowned in question marks?
Maybe. And if so, your Bama fan negativity is not permitted, sorry.