Alabama had the makings of an NCAA tournament team after a 23-win season in 2012-13. The Crimson Tide, however, failed to secure an NCAA tourney bid. But with his top seven scorers returning and a few talented incoming freshmen on the way, Anthony Grant had the tools for a solid SEC squad with postseason potential in 2013-14.
And then, it all fell apart.
Trevor Lacey transferred to NC State. Devonta Pollard left the team following a bizarre kidnapping case.
Grant also lost big man Moussa Gueye.
And now Trevor Releford, a senior, is left to carry a greater burden.
He’s handling it well as his team prepares to face UCLA on Saturday in Los Angeles. And he’s not doing it alone. Levi Randolph and Nick Jacobs have been vital, too. Sophomore Retin Obasohan has been a bright spot for the program.
But Alabama could have excelled with Lacey, Gueye and Pollard, a former McDonald’s All American, in the mix. Instead, Grant’s program is 5-6. Four of those losses were by five points or less. One or two players could have made a difference.
Alabama is just one example of a program that has been damaged by unfortunate circumstances. And the team is also an example of the fragility within college basketball.
One injury (see the shoulder surgery that sidelined Providence standout Kris Dunn for the season), one transfer (ask Texas), one off-court issue (Notre Dame recently lost Jerian Grant due to academic problems), one decision to turn pro (Maryland misses Alex Len) and everything can change.
The most difficult component to maintain in college basketball is continuity. And that principle encompasses more than the exaggerated transfer epidemic. So many mishaps can shatter stability that coaches and players attempt to build.
And that’s when challenges, such as the one that Alabama is facing this season, arise.
A few months ago, Bama was a program with a chance to elevate its national profile.
That might happen in the coming weeks. Grant has veterans and some young talent that continues to mature.
But the team’s ceiling is lower now, proof that things at this level can change quickly.