With the Thanksgiving holiday brings us endless college basketball all day long. Xavier is in the Advocare Invitation down in Orlando, Florida this year and their first matchup is against Alabama at noon. Before the game, we sat down and talked to our good friend Caleb Perry over at Roll Bama Roll about the game. Let's see what he had to say.
1.) Alabama is 2-1 on the young season with the only loss coming to Dayton. How do you feel about this years team?
To be completely honest I'm not exactly sure how to feel about this years team yet. Before last Friday's 105-93 win over a pretty good Lousiana-Lafayette team I would've said that this team just doesn't have the horses to compete this year, I probably still lean towards that conclusion but it will be interesting to see how we fare against someone of Xavier's quality.
2.) Who should Xavier be watching out for on this years team?
I'm going to go with Shannon Hale and Dazon Ingram. Hale is a prototypical 6'8 stretch four who has the ability to beat you a multitude of ways, the problem is sometimes he (and especially former coach Anthony Grant) forgets that he has those abilities and goes missing for minutes on end. For this Alabama team to be good Hale needs to be assertive from beginning to end. Ingram is a 6'6 freshman point guard who possesses more talent than anyone on this roster. He doesn't have much range on his jump shot yet but he is excellent finishing around the rim and using his body to get in the lane to facilitate for others. If Alabama is to pull the upset, these two need to have big games.
3.) Historically, Xavier tends to forget how to play basketball during Thanksgiving Tournaments. Does Alabama have such bad luck?
Alabama is playing basketball for the first time in 6 years, we are slowly recovering from the apocalyptic wasteland that was Grantsketball. But we actually have had some success in recent Thanksgiving tournaments. We won the Puerto Rico Tip Off in the 2011-12 season and followed that up with winning the 2K Classic the following season.
4.) How do people down in Tuscaloosa feel about Avery Johnson?
If people loved Avery Johnson anymore in Tuscaloosa he would be Nick Saban. Avery has marketed the program to students, boosters, alumni, and fans like it never has been before and it payed off in the form of 14,970 fans showing up for the home opener against Kennesaw. Avery has us playing at a high pace which is a huge breath of fresh air after watching Grant's offense which consisted of letting the shot clock run under 5 every possession then heave up a prayer. The biggest question people had about the hire was if a coach who has never coached in college could recruit, well as it stands Alabama has a top 10 recruiting class for 2016 so he answered that question quickly. In short, Avery Johnson made Alabama Basketball fun again.
5.) What are your expectations for this season?
I expect Alabama to take its lumps this season like we saw in Dayton, especially early. We only have four upperclassmen on the entire roster and a new coach so that is to be expected, but I expect Alabama to be a very dangerous team by the time conference play rolls around. Ultimately this teams job is to lay the foundation for the years to come and I think it will be successful in that area.
6.) Last year Xavier beat Alabama in Cincinnati. Now that we're on a neutral court, what is your prediction for this game?
Most of our fanbase won't remember that game ever existed due to it being on SEC Championship Saturday last December. I think it will be a different kind of game, just with the same result. I think Alabama comes out playing well and gives Xavier a challenge for 30-35 minutes, but ultimately the better, more experienced team will pull away late. I'll say Xavier 82 Alabama 75.
Thanks again to Mr. Perry. Hopefully Xavier can finally play well on Thanksgiving day this year.