Jahvon Quinerly's injury isn't why Alabama basketball's season came to predictable end | Goodbread

Chase Goodbread
The Tuscaloosa News

The easy thing to do, in the aftermath of Alabama basketball's first-round ouster from the NCAA Tournament on Friday, would be to rewind it all the way to three minutes in and pin a 78-64 loss to Notre Dame on a cruelly awkward step by Jahvon Quinerly. That was, after all, Alabama's season helplessly yelling in pain under the basket, right? Wasn't that an entire 33-game campaign that limped off the floor with help from assistant coach Bryan Hodgson and trainer Clarke Holter?

It was a brutal and unfair way for any team to bow out of the big dance, losing a key-cog point guard for nearly the entire game with a left knee injury, but to hang a disappointing outcome on that misfortune would be putting too clumsy a bow on a season that slipped away too quietly. Gut-wrenching as Quinerly’s injury was, it can't be said that this team was primed for a tournament run, only to be derailed by one painful tweaked knee on a drive to the basket. 

That would be an insult to Cormac Ryan, for one thing. 

The Notre Dame guard played the game of his life, sharpshooting 3-pointers with or without a hand in his face for a game-high 29 points that was more than 20 points higher than his season average. He did as much or more to win the game as any misfortune did to lose it.

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That also wouldn't explain how the Fighting Irish overcame supposedly tired legs from an overtime play-in game to outlast an Alabama team that, even without Quinerly, featured a deeper bench. 

And it would let Alabama off the hook for shooting itself in the foot as accurately as it shot the basketball. The Crimson Tide threw too many passes into the wrong hands, dribbled the air out of the ball in the half-court set, and fell apart down the stretch. A technical foul on coach Nate Oats, his team down by 10 points with under three minutes to play, completed the unraveling and signaled an imminent outcome.

Beating Notre Dame would've required the kind of team effort, beyond Quinerly's contribution, that Alabama hasn't been able to pull from its toolbelt in weeks. This wasn't Kentucky falling to St. Peter's as a 2-seed to squander what could have been a fabulous tournament run. Alabama, in finishing 19-14, had given no recent indication that it could summon a string of wins against tough competition on neutral floors. 

But let's go ahead and spin it back 37 minutes, because Quinerly deserves that. He’s got a bright future in the game, be it in the NBA or overseas, and it would be a rotten shame if his injury is serious enough to encumber that. His value to the Crimson Tide won't be underestimated here. Only underscored. The Alabama point guard, despite the defensive lapses and cold-streak shooting that made him the frequent face of the Crimson Tide's inconsistent play this season, was its most prolific offensive talent. Its best ball handler, its best passer, its best penetrator, and quick as a hiccup. More than anyone else on the UA roster, the team goes as he goes, or rather, went as he went. His struggles often mirroring the team's was as much evidence of that as his best mirroring its victories. 

We’ll never know what might’ve transpired had Quinerly not been hurt. If his performance in last year’s NCAA Tournament was any indication, he would’ve scored plenty. 

But it can't be said that Alabama would've won with him. 

It can only be affirmed that it was bound to lose without him. 

Reach Chase Goodbread Follow on Twitter @chasegoodbread.

Tuscaloosa News sport columnist Chase Goodbread.