Alabama Basketball: Tide has big opportunity, big challenge in SEC opener


Alabama basketball needs a win, a big win and it has an opportunity with No. 5 ranked TAMU Aggies heading to T-Town for an SEC opener.

Alabama basketball, big games and T-Town. All three go together but forgive the current players if they are unaware. The oldest Tide player, Riley Norris was four years old when Alabama basketball knocked off the No. 5 ranked Kentucky Wildcats in Tuscaloosa.

Speaking of big wins in Tuscaloosa, in 1994 Alabama basketball opened SEC play hosting No. 1 ranked Arkansas. The Tide won. Current Tide players will need to consult the media guide for knowledge of that big victory. None of them were born yet.

Alabama basketball needs a big win in the worst way. At 8-4 and fresh from a 66-50 spanking by the Texas Longhorns in Birmingham, the Tide needs a turnaround win. It also needs a resume-building win and taking down the Aggies would be one. Almost as acute, many in the Alabama basketball fanbase need a reason to ‘buckle-up’ again.

The Aggies are 11-1, the lone loss coming against Arizona. Based on, the Aggies have a current RPI of seven. They are projected to have a top 10 RPI by season’s end. In case Alabama basketball fans have forgotten, Aggies coach, Billy Kennedy was the 2016 SEC Coach of the Year.

Billy Kennedy has built the Aggies into a national program

In seven seasons, Kennedy has built a top basketball program in College Station. The Aggies can score but defense is also a strong point. TAMU is tops among SEC teams in field goal percentage defense and three-point shooting defense. Led by sophomore center, Robert Williams the Aggies are also tough on the boards. The six-foot-nine Williams and six-foot-ten, Tyler Davis together average almost 19 rebounds per game.

It will require the Tide’s best performance of the season to beat the Aggies. In the Tide’s favor, two of TAMU’s top three scorers will not play. Admon Gilder is injured and D.J. Hogg is suspended for the game. If the Tide can hold its own on the glass and minimize turnovers, it will have a chance.

On Friday, Avery Johnson reassured fans Braxton Key is nearing game condition.

"He has addressed his conditioning issues and worked on it. He’s been the first guy in the building and the last to leave the last couple of days… I think you’ll see him start to improve in our game against Texas A&M."

Avery not concerned about playing rotation

Some Alabama basketball fans have hoped Avery would turn to a smaller playing rotation. At this point, he does not seem so inclined.

"I think you guys (reporters) are fascinated on the word ‘rotation’. We have 10 or 11 players we are all excited about, and if we need to go deep in the rotation and play 11 guys – I’m comfortable with 8 or 9, but if we can’t, everyone we put on the court can play."

Mark us down as big Avery fans. Even so, his perspective on playing rotation is not reassuring. We would love to be proven wrong, but so far we have not seen 11 guys showing they can play fundamentally sound basketball. Talent is on the roster in abundance but in a few losses, that talent has not led to execution.

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The Tide and the Aggies tipoff at 5:00 PM CST. The game can be seen on ESPN 2. The teams will meet again in March in College Station.