Alabama Basketball: Avery Johnson must get his team on track quickly


Alabama basketball fans are losing confidence in Avery Johnson. The most recent loss to Georgia State might become a tipping point for the program.

Alabama basketball fans would do well to remember basketball is a tournament sport. Perennially competitive college basketball programs can shake off weak Decembers with strong Februarys and Marches. Every team making the NCAA Tournament field gets a reset.

Alabama basketball is not a perennially competitive program because it does not frequently make it to the Big Dance.  Which means the Crimson Tide cannot squander away wins, ever, even in December. On Tuesday night in Tuscaloosa, Alabama basketball squandered away a win. Avery Johnson bears the full responsibility for the loss.

Losing to a decent Georgia State team, 83-80 is not a complete disaster. Georgia State came into the game with a 5-3 record, including a blowout win over Georgia and another solid win over St, Bonaventure. The Panthers were 24-11 last season and made it to the NCAA Tournament first round.

Still, Tuesday night was a game the Crimson Tide should have won. Four years into the tenure of any coach, home games your team is supposed to win, cannot be lost. Worse, is how the game was lost. Alabama basketball led Georgia Southern by 21 points at halftime. The Tide shot 59.2 percent in the first half and dominated the glass, 23-12. In the second half, the Crimson Tide shot 29.2 percent and was out-rebounded 25-18. Despite those horrific numbers, the Tide would have won anyway – except in the last 20 minutes, it was 12-21 from the foul line.

It was like Alabama basketball fielded two different teams in each half. In a way, it did. Avery Johnson clearly saw the game as an opportunity to try some different lineup combinations. Riley Norris was finally available so with his inclusion the Tide used 10 players. But player rotation was not the reason the Tide lost.

It was also not a case of every player performing poorly. Kira Lewis, Dazon Ingram and Donta Hall produced some good numbers. Alex Reese and Tevin Mack added nine and 12 points, though Mack was 1-5 outside the arc. What the Tide lacked, particularly in the second half was intensity. It was evident more on defense but both ends of the court suffered. And once control of the game began slipping away, it appeared neither Avery or the players knew how to get it back.

Bottom line is it was a very bad loss. As to the future, things can get worse quickly. Arizona is next and if the Tide repeats Tuesday’s performance it could be a blowout loss to a rebuilding Arizona team. Then the Tide gets Liberty in Huntsville. Liberty is 7-2 and the new NCAA ranking metric has them as No. 41 in Division 1. Alabama basketball went into the Georgia State game at No. 111.

Alabama basketball must play better quickly or the Tide could go into SEC play without a winning record. And the SEC is very, very good again this season. Two teams Tide fans detest, Tennessee and Auburn might be better than Kentucky.

This is not where Alabama basketball fans expected to be in Avery’s fourth season. He is a man of character and represents the University well. He is a great recruiter. No one wants him to fail. But his team must be much better than it showed on Tuesday night. Quickly better!

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Avery Johnson achieved an important milestone last season, getting the Tide into the Big Dance and winning a game. It was only the fourth Tide NCAA Tourney win this century. We hope he can do it again.