JaMychal Green had a bad day Saturday, being yanked from the starting lineup and, therefore, fingered for the “entitled basketball” that Alabama coach Anthony Grant cited after an inexcusable loss at South Carolina on Thursday.
Then Green had a good day, overcoming an early technical foul and grumbles from the hardly capacity sellout crowd to “put him on the bench, coach.” He finished with 14 points, a team-high eight rebounds and a key personal spurt down the stretch when the Crimson Tide needed it most.
It was a good day.
It was the day Alabama and Green had to have, because this Alabama team’s tide of promise was rolling away faster than folks around here can say NIT.
But let’s be real, because the team Alabama beat Saturday is a team Alabama should beat at home, and the Tide suddenly needs a lot more days like this to put this season back on course to expectations.
Remember, this was the Alabama team that needed to carry forth the momentum from last season’s run to the NIT finals.
With top new talent like Trevor Lacey mixed in with veterans, this was the NCAA Tournament-or-bust team.
Coming into Saturday, the Tide looked more on the way to bust. The four consecutive SEC losses meant that the Tide had to win its final 10 league games just tie last season’s 12-4 league record, and even that wasn’t good enough to make the NCAA field.
Even if Alabama finishes 12-4, there won’t be a victory over Kentucky in that mix. The Wildcats avenged last season’s loss during Alabama’s four-game losing streak.
As of this writing, Alabama’s RPI stands at No. 37, according to realtimerpi.com, and the Tide’s best victory came against No. 25 Wichita State in Puerto Rico.
The Tide’s next best win came Saturday, against No. 54 Arkansas, and one should know a few things about Arkansas.
The Razorbacks’ 15-6 record includes an 0-5 record on an opponents’ home floor.
Arkansas led 56-55 Saturday until Green’s jumper put the Tide up for good with 4:08 to play. Before that, the Razorbacks’ latest lead on an opponent’s home floor this season ended at 10:22 of the first half at Ole Miss.
Arkansas’ only other second-half lead away from Bud Walton Arena ended at 18:32 against Houston, in the Southwest Showcase in Verizon Arena at North Little Rock.
Injuries to Marshawn Powell and Marvell Waithe have depleted the Razorbacks, leaving them with eight healthy scholarship players.
The truth about Alabama’s good day Saturday? It wasn’t a horrible day, which it would have been with a loss.
A not-horrible day got a better because Green overcame his early turnovers and technical to show signs that he got the message of his benching. The team’s leading scorer and rebounder wound up playing 27 minutes and beating his season averages.
As for what it all means for the rest of the season, well, ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket had Alabama as a No. 8 seed. That was Monday, and his next update will factor in the loss at South Carolina.
Alabama’s margin for error hasn’t changed, and the best chance for a quality win comes Feb. 14 at home against RPI No. 26 Florida. The Tide can also gain a split with No. 33 Mississippi State.
So, it was good to see Alabama seemingly get over “entitled basketball” for a day Saturday. The Tide still must to play much more enlightened basketball down the stretch.
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.