When Alabama coach Avery Johnson met with his team on Sunday,
he praised his players for their resilience on Saturday in the loss to Auburn
-the Crimson Tide trailed by as much as 14 with three minutes to go before
pulling within three with 27 seconds remaining- but eventually it came time to ask
“So I started the video session yesterday by showing them by
what you said is the positives. How we finished the game, but the bigger
question was why were we down double digits [at all],” Johnson said.
Despite the two-game losing streak, the Crimson Tide (13-9,
6-4 Southeastern conference) still begins the week as the fifth team in the SEC
standings. When the week ends Alabama might not be so lucky.
Johnson divides the SEC season into three-game mini seasons
for his players. The loss to Auburn was the first game in the team’s fourth SEC
mini season, but the rest of the stretch won’t get any easier with a trip to
No. 19 South Carolina (19-4, 9-1) on Tuesday ahead of a home game with No. 15
Kentucky (18-5, 8-2) on Saturday.
“We’ve seen crazier things happen in our league,” Johnson
said. “I just know if we play the right way [on Tuesday night] then we’ll have
a chance to be successful.”
A chance might be more than the Crimson Tide can hope for
against the Wildcats on Saturday. Alabama is currently 1-9 when it allows
opponents to score more than 62 points. Kentucky currently leads the SEC in
points per game (90.2). Sixty-two points would be a new season-low for a
Wildcats team that has failed to score at least 70 points only twice so far.
The Gamecocks however, prefer to play it closer to Alabama’s
speed. They average just over three points more than the Crimson Tide and have
been held to sixty-two points or less in three contests this season.
That’s not to say the team is without offensive playmakers.
Sindarius Thornwell is the No. 3 scorer in the SEC (19.1 ppg).
“He’s a guy that could very well get Player of the Year in
the SEC,” Johnson said. “What their team is doing. I know [Arkansas’ Moses] Kingsley
was voted the preseason conference player of the year, but what Thornwell is
doing right now is incredible.”
Johnson said his team missed an opportunity to move up into
the upper tier of the conference last week. If the Crimson Tide had defeated
Arkansas or Auburn it would have control of fourth place in the conference and
a shot at taking control of third this week. If it had won both then the top
spot in the SEC would be on the table.
Instead, the Crimson Tide will begin the week playing for its
postseason life. In the last three seasons, the last SEC team to receive an at-large
bid to the NCAA Tournament has finished with a minimum of 19 wins, and without a ranked win (Alabama is currently 0-2 against ranked opponents this season) even that
might not be enough.
To reach 19, Alabama would have to sweep the rest of the
regular season following this week or make up for it in the SEC Tournament
where it will likely face Florida, Kentucky or South Carolina almost
Alabama’s unlikely path becomes a little clearer if it can
find a win this week. If not, Alabama’s bubble might pop a little early this
“We [the SEC] don’t get enough credit in the SEC for a
league that is improving,” Johnson said. “Look at Florida, Kentucky and South
Carolina. Right now I’d put those three teams up against anybody in the
Source:: The Crimson White Sports