After a long, successful string of non-conference games away from home, the Crimson Tide (6-2) make their long-awaited return to Coleman Coliseum on Wednesday night. Welcoming Alabama home will be the Winthrop Eagles, who are sporting an identical 6-2 record this season, though against much lesser competition. Avery Johnson's group is riding high on a current four game winning streak, and they aren't looking to slow down any time soon, even with breakout freshman Dazon Ingram sidelined for the year. The victory over Clemson on Sunday night was yet another quality "W" on the old resume, as Alabama has quietly put together a nice collection of wins in the early portion of the schedule.
Winthrop isn't an elite team by any stretch, but they've displayed some offensive prowess early in the year, and they aren't to be taken lightly. They are certainly far more capable than Southern Miss, who nearly upset the Tide in Hattiesburg a few weeks ago. Head coach Pat Kelsey has kept Winthrop near the top of the Big South the last few seasons, so he's no stranger to winning basketball.
- PG 5'7 Keon Johnson (18.9 PPG, 4.0 RPG, 2.3 APG)
- OG 6'0 Bjorn Broman (8.3 PPG, 2.0 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.8 SPG)
- 3G 6'2 Jimmy Gavin (17.5 PPG, 3.6 RPG, 2.3 APG, 0.5 SPG)
- PF 6'8 Xavier Cooks (13.5 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 1.5 APG, 0.5 SPG, 1.0 BPG)
- C 6'10 Zach Price (5.3 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 0.5 BPG)
- G 6'2 Roderick Perkins (6.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 1.1 APG, 0.6 SPG)
- F 6'5 Josh Davenport (4.5 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 0.9 APG, 0.5 SPG, 0.5 BPG)
- C 6'8 Duby Okeke (6.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 3.5 BPG)
What To Watch For
- Trend Breaking. Avery Johnson has only been the head man here at the Capstone for eight total games, and already he's broken several terrible trends that plagued the program during Anthony Grant's tenure. For one, this team has been able to win games on the road. The previous six years saw Alabama become one of the worst road teams in the country. The Tide had one of the largest home-to-road winning percentage discrepancies in all of college basketball. Part of the reason why Alabama struggled so much to win on the road was because they could not find ways to make the clutch plays when they needed to. That's another old habit that Johnson is putting to rest. The Tide have won the last four games by a combined nine points, including the big one point win in Greenville on Saturday, where Shannon Hale picked off an inbounds play and took it the length of the court for the decisive basket.
- Offensive Rhythm. The Crimson Tide offense still has its fair share of issues with scoring, but it's not because of a schematic disadvantage anymore. Even during the seven minute stretch on Sunday where the Tide failed to make a field goal, the team was getting a lot of good looks. They just couldn't knock down the shots. The off-ball movement has greatly improved, and there have been a number of great passes from Retin Obasohan and Justin Coleman that have led to successful trips.
Three Keys to Victory
- Limit Johnson and Gavin. Winthrop is at their best when Johnson and Gavin are knocking down shots, especially on the perimeter. The Eagles have been pretty good offensively, but that mostly stems from those two guys. The only other consistent scorers on the team are Cooks and Okeke, and they are not nearly as dangerous as the two guards. Bama could have really used Ingram's size advantage to shut down the smaller Johnson, but Coleman and Obasohan are both very capable defenders. Limit those two players, and Winthrop's offense won't have much else to show for.
- Win the Foul Battle. There are two separate reasons why coming out on the right side of the foul margin will be crucial for Alabama. For one, Winthrop doesn't have many capable bodies. As a team that usually only goes three-deep off of the bench, fouls on the Eagles could really help swing the odds heavily in the Tide's direction, as Winthrop will have to start depending on players who aren't accustomed to these types of games to make plays. Also, the main driving force behind their offensive success has been how good they have been from the line. They rank 31st in the country at 74.6%. The last thing Alabama wants to do is send the Eagles to the line and let them get free shots.
- Rebound the Basketball. Alabama beat Clemson on Sunday night because they finally showed up and competed on the glass for rebounds. In fact, the Tide dominated this area against the Tigers. If the Crimson Tide can even come close to duplicating that performance (+14 in total rebounds, +12 in offensive boards), they should be able to cruise to a win in Tuscaloosa.