1. Last season, despite all expectations, the Tide were on the cusp of an NCAA bid for most of the season. Then, Alabama faded down the stretch. There were few bad losses that cost it a chance at the Dance, and then the Tide were whipped by Creighton in the opening round of the NIT. Which was the real Alabama team? Was Alabama playing over its head all year or did the Tide underperform to end the season?
BT: I think Alabama was playing over it’s head during that stretch. Let’s face it, there was not much talent on that team. However, that stretch of great play was an indication of a REAL Avery Johnson team. While the team, however talented, was playing with confidence, we got to see just what Avery Johnson can do. The sputtering end to the season was more a reflection of where the team really should have been.
PS: Alabama was playing over its head, really. Avery Johnson did a fantastic job of trying to mask the team's obvious flaws but it eventually just couldn't hold up. That and the lack of depth on the team really started to wear on them.
CB: A little of both. The former administration did not leave this team with much of a pulse and Coach Avery Johnson was the defibrillator. Unfortunately, it faded down the stretch. However, last year's team showed that they could play with anyone in the SEC... except Kentucky.
JC: Some of both. The team probably finished about where it should based on the talent. Obasohan did his best to be an elite player who could carry a team to a tournament berth, but as great as he was for Alabama, he isn't that type of talent.
RPM: Alabama probably came back to the mean. Basically they ran out of gas and bodies. Lack of depth, as well lack of rebounding, ball handling, FG shooting and FT shooting, cost the team several games. However, being on the cusp, then fading down the stretch was still disappointing.
2. What is your evaluation of Avery Johnson and the program after a full season?
BT: I’ll keep this short and to the point: Avery Johnson has breathed hope into a dead program and put excitement into a numb fanbase. He’s already put Alabama squarely in the race for some of the biggest recruits in the nation over the last year and a half, and as I said above, we saw a glimpse of what a team that buys into his coaching can do during that stretch last season.
PS: Avery's done an outstanding job thus far and the level of excitement is higher than it has been in a long time. This season should be a fun one, and with the kind of recruits Avery has Alabama in play for it should only get better from here. Extreme optimism from this viewpoint.
CB: Outstanding. He took a broken down program and pumped some fun and enthusiasm back into it. One amazing thing he did: HE SIGNED A FULL ALLOTMENT OF 13 PLAYERS! What a concept! Another thing that the last couple of coaches did not do was embrace the alumni. If you went to the Tide Tipoff last Friday Night, you got to see long-time NBA players Gerald Wallace and Mo Williams as part of the festivities. He also had Bama grad Rece Davis and CBS sideline reporter Allie LaForce involved.
JC: The enthusiasm and engagement is certainly improved and they generally played a more exciting brand of basketball. He has also done well on the recruiting trail, and is rumored to be leading for Collin Sexton, who would probably be the best backcourt player we've had in Crimson since Sprewell.
RPM: Avery Johnson has been everything he was advertised to be, and more. The enthusiasm alone has been refreshing. CAJ did more promoting of the program in his first month then CAG did in six years. Being in the discussion for elite recruits is a step forward, but it is time to lock one down. Alabama basketball needs its Julio Jones-type name to get the ball rolling.
Barn is probably cheating...
3. Retin Obasohan is a huge loss for the Tide. Who will Alabama turn to when it needs a shot?
BT: Unfortunately, I don’t see any of the returning players from the end of last season as being someone who can pick up that slack. I think this team’s chances of success really ride on Dazon Ingram. After missing almost all of his freshman season, he should be the most talented player on the team… by a decent margin. If Ingram lives up to his high school hype and what we saw in his first few games at Alabama before breaking his leg, then he will become the go to guy.
PS: This is one of the bigger questions that Alabama has to find an answer. The Tide have been bailed out on multiple occasions over the course of the last few seasons because of a guard playing fantastic basketball and putting the team on his back at times (Trevor Releford in 2014, Levi Randolph in 2015, Retin in 2016). Dazon Ingram and Nick King seem to be the leading candidates for this, but neither one has proven much so far into their collegiate careers, and both still need to develop more consistent jump shots.
CB: Good question. Just like Retin, someone is going to have to emerge to fill that role. Grad-transfer Corban Collins was 57-134 (.425) from three-point land last season. I am excited to see what freshman Braxton Key can do. He made a lot of big shots for Oak Hill Academy including the winning tip-in at the buzzer of the high school national championship game.
JC: That is yet to be determined, though Nick King is supposed to be one of those guys. If he can live up to his vast potential coming out of high school, this team could do some great things. Corban Collins is another guy who will likely take that leadership role in his final season.
RPM: Retin was incredible as a leader and a clutch, go-to guy. This team should allow for a lot more options. Corban Collins is a guy with experience that has become the leader of the team in a short time. Braxton Key is a legitimate top-40 player, and has a great skill set. Ar’mond Davis is a big time shooter coming out of JUCO. Nick King, Riley Norris and Shannon Hale can all bury shots as well. The opposition want be able to force Retin to go one-on-one (or 1 on 3) at the end of the games as they did last year.
4. Justin Coleman was a nice additional ball handler and an exciting spark plug for the Tide off the bench last season. Who is that second ball handler and 6th Man for Alabama this year?
BT: Corban Collins will be that man. The graduate transfer boasted a 2.5 assist-to-turnover ratio and averaged a rather sexy 42.5% three-point shooting percentage. He’ll open the season as the 6th man, but don’t be surprised if it takes very long for him to work his way into becoming the starting point guard.
PS: Dazon will get the majority of minutes at the point, but I'd expect both Corban Collins and Avery Jr. to handle the ball a bunch. Avery Jr. is the one true point guard on the team, so he's probably the most likely to assume Coleman's role.
CB: Avery Johnson Jr. should be a good spark off the bench for his hustle but I am not sure if he is much of a scorer. Depending upon who wins the starting point guard job between Dazon Ingram and Collins, the other will probably be that 6th man. Collins can also play the 2-guard.
JC: One of Collins, Dazon Ingram, or Avery Johnson Jr.
RPM: Other than Justin Coleman having a once in a lifetime shooting game about twice a year, I don’t see this as a big loss: Too small and not strong enough for defense, and lead the NCAA in dribbles (at least it seemed.) Dazon will be the main point guard with help from Corban Collins and Avery Johnson, Jr. Also, Coach Johnson is on record saying Braxton Key will play a lot of point-forward, much like LeBron James does (obviously without the once in a generation talent)