Quick hits: Alabama basketball

The University of Alabama (17-9, 6-6) made a slight move ahead in the RPI rankings this week, jumping ahead one spot to No. 35 overall. ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi has the Tide as a No. 10 seed in the NCAA tournament, facing San Diego State out of the East bracket. Alabama was a No. 7 seed at the start of the month in Lunardi’s predictions.

On Monday’s SEC teleconference, Alabama coach Anthony Grant discussed where his team stands with just four games remaining in the regular season.

Here’s what he and other coaches around the SEC had to say as it relates to the Crimson Tide:

Anthony Grant, Alabama:

On where JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell stand heading into Thursday’s game at Arkansas: “I don’t anticipate them being available.”

On Arkansas: “I’ve been very impressed with their team. The first time we played them, in a lot ways they out-played us in the game. We were fortunate to come out with a close win. Obviously, going to their place -- one of the toughest in our league to play -- they’ve played outstanding at home. Coming off a tough loss, Coach (Mike) Anderson will have his kids ready to play.”

On the improvement of Moussa Gueye and Carl Engstrom: “I thought the last game those guys really made contributions.”

On Trevor Lacey: “I think Trevor is a guy that played the two and the one. The other day he got a chance to start at the point because of Trevor Releford, as we mentioned, took a shot to the head and had to go through some concussion tests and missed some time in practice leading up to the game. I thought he did a great job at both positions, running the team and being aggressive. At the two-guard spot, he made good decisions. I think he’s a guy that’s versatile, that can play multiple and in our style of play we try to take advantage of all of his strengths.

“I think he was very aggressive. That was the thing I thought he did the best. It was good to see him mix his game up. Obviously, he’s a guy that’s known for his ability to shoot the basketball. He’s struggled with consistency in terms of shooting. It was good to see him be as aggressive as he was. He got 12 free throws in the game the other day because I thought he attacked. He was aggressive and did a good job of penetrating and keeping his head up and seeing what the defense gave him. He’s a freshman that’s learning college basketball, learning what his role is and how he can go out and impact winning. I thought it was a good step for him.”

On how the team is coping with the suspended players: “I think our guys have moved on and tried to get better with each practice and are going to prepare as best we can for the opponent in front of us.

“It gives other guys an opportunity to step up and play bigger roles than they had before and some other guys to take that next step in terms of what they have to provide our team from a leadership standpoint.

Mike Anderson, Arkansas

On getting ready for Alabama: “They have some good players. With guys not being around it gives opportunities for other guys to step up. I’ve been really impressed with (Rodney) Cooper who’s had an opportunity to really step up and really shine. Moussa (Gueye), I had an opportunity to see him in junior college. I know he had some injuries, but his presence -- he had six blocked shots. So now the young guys really get to shoulder the burden and they’ve done well. Of course, when you have Trevor (Releford) running the show, you have a chance. ... They’ve held the ship together.”

Billy Donovan, Florida

On Alabama’s frontcourt: “They have great size, even without Green and Mitchell not being there. They have a presence at the basket. I think those guys will continue to get better and improve. I think with the suspensions, like anything else, their frontcourt has changed their roles. They’re probably getting more accustomed and adjusted to their roles. But they can block shots and alter shots at the basket. They’re physical and play really hard, and they have three of them. The kid from Sweden (Carl Engstrom), (Nick) Jacobs is in there and (Moussa) Gueye is in there. They’ve got a lot of guys depth-wise.”

Cuonzo Martin, Tennessee

On Alabama’s frontcourt: “I thought they were solid. I thought more importantly Grant did a great job of having those two guys ready to play. Their guards played extremely well. I thought they were good in what they provided and how they provided blocking shots and playing hard and being physical.”

Mark Fox, Georgia

On the logjam in the middle of the league, fighting for the No. 4 spot Alabama currently occupies: “I think that there are a lot of teams in this league -- the margin of difference between the lot of us is not that big. Kentucky has obviously shown they’re a notch above everybody although Vandy played them right to the wire about a week ago. But there are a lot of teams in the middle of this league that are really, really similar, not meaning how they play but the level of their team is similar. It’s kind of the breaks of the season that might dictate that: who stays the healthiest, who has a shot go in or two, who gets a whistle go their way.”

John Calipari, Kentucky

On the strength of the SEC: “I think we have five teams that will be in. If somebody crazy -- one of those other teams -- wins the tournament, we’ll have six. Now people have to finish the year. They have to play it out. People can fall flat on their face and lose this thing and you’ve got no one to blame but yourself. What our league has done non-conference and playing each other, we have five teams in. ... Adding the teams that we’re adding, A&M and Missouri, I think we start saying ‘OK, we’re going after eight and nine bids.’ I think our league is as strong as any.”

Quote of the day

“This isn’t football. You can drop games in February and still be fine,” said UK coach John Calipari