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Bama Running Away With The West

Anthony Grant needs to go ahead and clean off some space on his mantel to make room for the SEC Coach of the Year Award.  In just his second season in Tuscaloosa, Grant’s Crimson Tide is running away with the SEC West — in and of itself not the greatest feat — and running straight toward an NCAA Tournament at-large bid — which is equal parts impressive and surprising.

Alabama won 67-56 on the road at Baton Rouge last night.  The win pushed Bama’s league record to 9-2, matching Florida’s top mark in the East.  The loss was LSU’s ninth in a row.

“Any road win is a good win,” Grant said after the game.  “LSU came out with great energy and give them credit.  I thought they came out and they hit first tonight… and kind of knocked us back a little bit, but I thought our guys responded well.” 

Indeed they did.  After a 1-for-10 start from the floor, Alabama erased a 9-2 Tiger lead and won the rest of the contest 65-47.  The win guaranteed the Tide its first winning SEC record in five seasons.  Alabama can actually clinch the West Division against Arkansas at Coleman Coliseum on Saturday… with four league games left to be played.

Once again, defense was the key for Grant’s team last night.  LSU shot 42% from the floor and scored just 56 points, which is right about what Bama gives up on a per game basis.

Clearly the Tide players have bought into Grant’s high-pressure, defense-first system.  That type of trust in a coach is how teams recover from bad starts on the road.  And it’s also what makes teams like Alabama so dangerous come tournament time.

Teams that make a living off of offense can go cold.  In a tournament, one bad shooting night can mean death (ask Kentucky fans about last year’s Elite Eight loss).  But defense doesn’t go cold.  As long as the players give effort, Alabama’s defense should continue to be a challenge for opponents.  And so far, there’s no sign of Bama’s players letting up in the effort department. 

The Tide believe in their coach.  No wonder.  He’s about to be named the SEC’s Coach of the Year.

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