Things are looking up for Green, Alabama

The fortunes of Alabama and JaMychal Green have certainly taken
a turn for the better.

The Crimson Tide has used a three-game winning streak to fortify
its once-fading NCAA tournament hopes going into Wednesday night’s
game against Auburn. Green, meanwhile, is expected to return to the
starting lineup and will be the lone senior honored before his
finale at Coleman Coliseum, a big turnaround for a player recently
exiled for four games.

With winnable end-of-season games against the Tigers (14-14,
4-10 Southeastern Conference) and Mississippi, an RPI of 25 and a
potential bye in the SEC tournament, Green and the Tide (19-9, 8-6)
are feeling pretty good about their NCAA standing.

”I still feel like we’re in good position,” Green said.

Double-digit wins over Tennessee and Mississippi State and a
road victory over Arkansas have helped turn the talk in Tuscaloosa
from a string of suspensions to the prospect of making the NCAA
field for the first time in six years.

”It’d be pretty big,” said Green, who came off the bench
against the Bulldogs. ”I’ve never been there. It’d be a great
experience for everybody on the team. It’s just the way I want to
go out.”

He returned against Mississippi State from a four-game
suspension – No. 3 of his career – for violating team rules. A
player who ranks among the top 13 on Alabama’s career lists in
points, rebounds, blocked shots and steals but also has that
checkered past still has a chance to improve his legacy if he helps
the Tide end that NCAA drought.

”I think Mike is very grateful that he’s got this opportunity
to finish his career out, to go through Senior Night and to enjoy
whatever time we have left with his teammates,” Grant said. ”The
one thing when I first came in that Mike talked about was his pride
in being from Alabama and wanting to represent to the University of
Alabama and bring back the tradition of postseason
participation.

”If you look at the course of his career, you can say what you
want, but I think he’s helped us in terms of getting the program
back on track.”

It might not be a lock now, but the Tide’s chances of playing in
the NCAA tournament seem a lot better than they did after
back-to-back losses to LSU and Florida, when Green was out.

He and Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele – who both missed one
game – were all suspended a few hours before the LSU game. Tony
Mitchell is suspended for the remainder of the season and was
already gone before Alabama’s 68-59 win at Auburn.

”Alabama seems to be playing their best basketball this time of
the year, which as a coach is what you want,” Tigers coach Tony
Barbee said.

That’s partly because of four freshmen gaining confidence in
playing increased roles and some strong shooting.

Alabama has topped 50 percent in shooting overall and from
3-point range in each of the past two games. That’s a welcome sight
for the league’s worst shooting team from beyond the arc.

Then there’s the youngsters.

Levi Randolph is fresh from an 18-point, seven-rebound,
four-assist effort against Mississippi State. Nick Jacobs scored 14
against Arkansas and Trevor Lacey 18 against the Volunteers. Before
that, Rodney Cooper poured in 28 against LSU.

Green said the key has been ”team chemistry and
confidence.”

”Our freshmen have been doing a good job of holding it down
while I was gone,” he said. ”Now that I’m back, I see how their
confidence has changed. They’re more comfortable on the court.
They’re not freshmen any more. They’re upperclassmen.”

The absence of he and Mitchell – typically the go-to scorers –
has perhaps helped the Tide in another way: By allowing players
like Steele, Cooper and Randolph to get more involved in the
offense and increase the number of scoring threats.

”I think that’s the mark of a good team,” Grant said. ”Any
time you have a variety of guys that can step up, I think that’s
the mark of a team that’s going to be a tough team to beat.”