With 10 regular season games remaining, Alabama basketball must notch up wins quickly to hold on to a chance for an NCAA Tournament bid.
Avery Johnson said it best, summarizing the Alabama basketball loss to Auburn,
They were just a better team tonight. Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth but that’s it. They were better tonight. That doesn’t mean we can’t be better the next time.
Yes, but – the next times (not just against Auburn) are beginning to run out for Alabama basketball. The Alabama Crimson Tide is a poor 3-5 in its last eight games. There is reason for some optimism with the Tide having a somewhat easier schedule in its last 10 regular season games.
Moving on from being embarrassed by Auburn again, in Auburn, is difficult for two reasons. This is Avery Johnson’s fourth season. With good recruiting, coaches can often build sound basketball teams in two seasons and certainly three. In year four, this is an Avery Johnson built team.
Avery’s teams are 0-4 in Auburn. The last three losses have been by 20, 19 and 21 points. Alabama basketball under Avery has beaten Auburn twice at home and blew out the Tigers last season in the SEC Tournament. But Avery’s record against Auburn is 3-5.
Even if the game’s are not really Iron Bowls, Crimson Tide fans demand at least a winning record against Auburn. Still, the juiciest plum at the end of every season is an NCAA Tournament bid. The Tide can earn one again this season.
Getting back to the Big Dance will probably require going 6-4 to finish the regular season and at least one SEC Tournament win. Let’s check out how the experts predict the Tide will finish the regular season. Warren Nolan has the Tide finishing 3-7, beating only Georgia, Florida and Vandy at home. Ken Pomeroy has a more optimistic assessment, with the Tide narrowly winning a few key games.
Few Alabama basketball fans doubt Avery has made progress. He has recruited well. Donta Hall has been developed into a solid player. John Petty is a much improved player in his second season. Alex Reese has shown improvement in his second season. Kira Lewis Jr., sometimes great and sometimes playing like the 17-year old he is, has considerable upside.
Is that enough progress for four seasons? Fans and Greg Byrne may come to a different conclusion. A few months ago, Avery’s contract was reported to include a $9M buyout. That’s a lot of money, even at cash-flush Alabama.
Getting back to the NCAA Tournament this season would solidify Avery’s job security. Missing the Big Dance and losing to Auburn again in Tuscaloosa would make retaining Avery an unpopular decision.
The path to an NCAA bid includes winning the next game, at home against Georgia. A two-win streak is sorely needed and Vandy is vulnerable but the Tide record in Nashville is scary-bad.