December 8, 2007

Scouting report: UA vs. Nicholls State

What: Alabama vs. Nicholls State
Where: Coleman Coliseum, Tuscaloosa
When: Today
Time/TV: noon/CSS
Series record: The two teams have never before played.

The Coach

The Colonels' J.P. Piper is in his fourth season as head coach at Nicholls State. Prior to that, he served for two years as an assistant with the Colonels. Last season, Piper was named the Southland Conference Coach of the Year Award by collegeinsider.com.


Last Season/Last Five Games

The Colonels were 8-22 a season ago, but went 7-9 in conference play after a brutal non-conference schedule that included Mississippi State, Washington, LSU, Texas, Ole Miss, Pepperdine, Auburn and Vanderbilt.

Last Five Games
@ Cal - L, 74-62
@ UC-Davis - L, 69-67
@ St. Mary's - L, 84-63
@ LSU - L, 68-41
@ New Orleans - W, 75-67

Did You Know?

* UA's Richard Hendrix ranks third in the entire NCAA in rebounding at 12.3 per game.

* UA coach Mark Gottfried has won 86 percent of his home games (122-20).

* Nicholls State's non-conference gauntlet includes a trip to No. 1-ranked North Carolina on December 19.

* Nicholls State has three Australian natives in its starting lineup.

All Eyes On…

G Michael Czepil (6-2, 180) - Gottfried might ask the Colonels' leading scorer to put on a free-throw clinic for the Crimson Tide before the game. Czepil has connected on 95 percent of his free-throws this season (18 of 19) while scoring 12 points per game. The Australian is also the team's No. 2 rebounder at 4.0 per game.

Scouting the Colonels

G Justin Payne, Jr. (5-11, 170) - Payne led the team in assists as a sophomore last season with 138. He is not much of a scoring threat but understands his distribution role. He averages 3.0 points per game this season, along with 2.8 assists.

G Adonis Gray (6-4, 200) - Gray provides the Colonels with some size on the wing, scoring 7.5 points per game. Watch for Gray to crash the boards as he leads the Colonels in rebounding (4.4 per game) from a guard spot. Gray's scoring average is down from last season (13.9 per game).

F Ryan Bathie (6-6, 205) - The Colonels' No. 2 scorer averages 11.9 points per game. He is not afraid to shoot from long range, and in fact set a school record with 86 3-pointers a season ago. Bathie is an excellent passer for a forward.

F Dominic Friend (6-7, 250) - By far Nicholls State's biggest post player, watch for Friend to handle much of the defensive duty against Hendrix. He scored a season-high 17 in the Colonels' last game, a win over New Orleans. Friend averages 7.1 points per game.

Bench Report

G Gil Verner (6-1, 180) - Nicholls State's first option off the bench is Verner, who averages just over 16 minutes per game. He is a solid defender but has struggled mightily in the shooting department this season, including 1 for 6 from the free-throw line.

Analysis and Prediction

Based strictly on talent, the game shouldn't be close. But the fact that Nicholls State plays non-conference competition that is way over its head suggests the Colonels will be fearless entering Coleman Coliseum. They have seen better teams than Alabama this season, but haven't beaten any of them.

Nicholls State should provide little defensive resistance inside, which could mean season-highs for Hendrix. As a team, however, UA must seek more consistency both from the free-throw line, where it struggled again in a loss to Georgetown, and in its half-court offense.

Prediction: Alabama 76, Nicholls State 64


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