After falling to the hands of his alma mater more than a week ago, Alabama’s men’s basketball head coach Anthony Grant will now face the team that he left to coach the Crimson Tide.
Alabama (6-2) will travel to Richmond, Va., on Saturday, Dec. 15 to play the Virginia Commonwealth Rams (6-3) in the Siegel Center.
Grant said this is just another road game for him and his team, and the Tide must focus on defeating a quality opponent.
“As a coach, my responsibility is to get our team to understand what allows us to have success,” Grant said. “We’ve got to get better as a team, and we’ve got to get prepared for a very tough game on the road. That’s really captured my full attention. That’s where my focus is.”
But Grant also said that once Alabama arrives in Virginia on Saturday, the emotions and memories might start to arise.
“Probably at whatever time we get to the game [I’ll] get something from an emotional standpoint,” Grant said. “You remember certain things once [you] get into town, but right now, to be honest with you, it really hadn’t been a thought.”
This will be a showdown between the two coaches with the highest winning percentages in VCU history. Grant went 76-25 (.752) in three seasons, and current Rams head coach Shaka Smart holds a 90-31 (.744) record.
Despite the Rams’ recent success, the program has never beaten Alabama, who owns a 4-0 advantage in the series; the Tide defeated VCU last season in Tuscaloosa 72-64. But Grant praised Smart’s team for its defensive tenacity.
“Excellent defensive team with the way they play,” he said. “It will be unique to anyone that we’ve played so far this year with the way they combine the pressure on the full court and the half court.”
Grant will have to adjust his lineups due to his roster being plagued with injuries. Junior center Carl Engstrom had surgery to repair his torn ACL and MCL yesterday and will be out for the remainder of the season. Senior guard Andrew Steele had surgery to repair a sports hernia that will sideline him for 4-6 weeks.
The lack of depth for the Tide will force players to contribute more minutes on the hardwood and cover up for the absence of key players such as Engstrom.
“We have 10 scholarship guys, and it’s going to be important to maximize the guys that we have,” Grant said. “Right now, for our team, making that adjustment and understanding who we are is going to be critical for us.”
Grant said that he might have to reach toward the end of the bench and substitute with walk-on players like sophomore forward Dakota Slaughter.
“If an opportunity presents itself, they’ve got to be ready to go in there and impact the game,” he said. “Every able-bodied guy has got to be ready.”
Whoever steps onto the court Saturday for Alabama will be welcomed with the Siegel Center’s electric crowd of 7,617, and Grant has mixed emotions about catching up with them.
“There are a lot of people that I haven’t seen in a long time, and it would be great to see them,” Grant said. “It won’t be good to hear them, but it will be good to see them.”
The game will tipoff at 3 p.m. CT and will be televised on CBS College Sports.