Tuscaloosa, AL – Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa is the site conference foes, as the 19th- ranked Alabama Crimson Tide and the North Florida Ospreys are set to do battle.
Matthew Driscoll's North Florida team played in the Atlantic Sun Tournament Championship a year ago, narrowly missing out on a berth to the NCAA Tournament. The Ospreys are projected to finish third in that league's preseason coaches poll and fourth in the media poll, and the nucleus of this team is back. It is certainly worth mentioning that UNF is 0-8 all-time against Top-25 teams.
There is a good reason why Alabama is the favorite to win the SEC West, as the three top players from a year ago are back in place. Anthony Grant's team is fortunate that is doesn't have to contend for a division title with Kentucky, Florida and Vanderbilt, all three of which are from the SEC East. The Tide won 25 games a year ago and made it all the way to the NIT title game.
Alabama won its only previous meeting with North Florida in 2009.
North Florida's Jerron Granberry is one of the Atlantic Sun's gems, as he averaged 12 ppg last season. The 6-4, 225-pound Granberry started all 34 games in 2010-11 and scored double figures in 23 games. He gives North Florida a versatile scorer who can play both out on the perimeter and on the block. Parker Smith also averaged 12 points per game and was the league's best free throw shooter (86.1 percent), while returning forward Andy Diaz scored 10.6 points and led the team with 5.5 rebounds per outing. It is notable that Smith's 12.0 ppg were the most by any player in the nation that didn't start a single game.
Forward JaMychal Green is a Preseason First-Team All-SEC selection, while Trevor Releford and Tony Mitchell have impressive credentials as well. Green netted 15.5 ppg in 2010-11 to go along with 7.5 rpg, and his 70 blocked shots paced the club as well. Mitchell finished a close second in both scoring (15.2 ppg) and rebounding (7.1 rpg), and his 52.2 percent shooting from the floor was highly impressive. As for Releford, who brings back 11.0 ppg, and the scoring output is in addition to his team-best assist and steal totals. Strong defense was key to Alabama's 25-win campaign a year ago, as the squad limited foes to 59.4 ppg on 38.6 percent shooting from the field. Expect more of the same this time around.