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Jumbo Package: Avery Johnson makes his case...

...but it is convincing enough if the wins don’t follow?

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">Alabama v Villanova

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

The JP is a little light today.

Most relevant ‘Bama news revolves two things. The first is the cash bonanza in NFL Free Agency — and we are covering that both with headline pieces and with an updated Free Agency hub.

The second and more pressing concern round for Alabama fans is the state of the hoops program, and especially the SEC Basketball Tournament which, for all practical purposes, actually begins today. (Yesterday’s second half Mizzou-UGA was as awful a game of #SECBasketballFever as you could ever dread being exposed to.)

For the first time in his four years in Tuscaloosa, Coach Avery Johnson is beset with widespread negative fan opinion: so much that he took the airwaves yesterday with PAWWWWWL and made an impassioned defense of his program and his tenure:

“We haven’t closed games out,” Johnson said. “And I think that’s a product of too many turnovers. When you have more turnovers than assists and you’re not reading defenses and making the defense pay, you’re going to struggle. Our free throw shooting hasn’t been at a high level. And I’ve just got to do a better job of making sure that our players understand all the small, minute details that can turn into big problems.

“But the last four minutes of games, we’ve gotten beat at the buzzer 2-3 times. We didn’t finish well against LSU or our in-state rival, so we’re right there. Against Kentucky, we finished at a high level, and I can point to South Carolina on the road, we played one of our best games of the year. Almost beat Tennessee -- last-second play, unfortunately, we traveled. We didn’t even get a shot at the basket. So, we’ve shown some potential.

Coach Johnson has vowed not to quit, saying he’s just as engaged in the job as he was on day one. And, interest hasn’t particularly waned in the program either; butts are still occupying seats. Still, CAJ must realize that every question that can be answered with a “no, but...” proposition can be immediately seized upon and also answered “yes, and...”

“Has Coach Johnson gotten the job done this season for which he is paid $2.9 million per year to do?” While his answer is “no, but...,” the logical follow-ups arise which, when reframed, are a similar indictment of his coaching performance: “Has Alabama blown leads down the down the stretch?”

Yes, and... ( ____fill in your own areas of deficiency here.)

Too many people are focusing on the “no, but” portion — the end results of another 15+ loss season facing the Tide. Far fewer are addressing the whys, the underlying questions that lie behing “yes, and...” including, I fear, Coach Johnson.

No one wants to see his tenure be anything other than a success. You could not ask for a better ambassador to the university than Coach Johnson. For instance, he can rightly point out that just five teams have beaten the No. 4 Kentucky Wildcats — LSU, Tennessee, Duke, Seton Hall and, yes, Alabama. Every other one of those teams will be in the NCAA field; and, what’s so tantalizing, is that Alabama very well could too. But, dedicated to fighting for his job as he may be, the first step to get there lies in winning some games.

We know that Alabama is not a particularly proactive athletic department. And, in a year where at least a dozen high profile jobs will be opening up, this probably is not the season to go coach shopping in any event — to say nothing of an $8 million buyout. So, barring mutual interest in him leaving on his own initiative, Johnson will almost certainly receive another year. This offseason he must answer those “yes, and...” questions and get to the root of the Tide’s failures.

But first thing’s first: Win some games...and starting over again tonight with a win would be nice.


No. 4 Alabama softball remains the only perfect team in the land. As they did on Friday, the Crimson Tide fell into an early-inning power outage and were getting skunked by the SIUE Cougars. But, after another rally — and a save from Montana Fouts, ‘Bama was able to remain perfect on the season:

Alabama opened play at the Rainbow Wahine Classic with a hard-fought win over SIUE Wednesday, rallying from a two-run deficit in the fourth inning to win, 6-4.

Alabama (26-0) took the first lead of the game in the top of the second before SIUE (7-8) rallied back with three runs in the bottom of the fourth. The Crimson Tide answered right back with three in the top of the fifth to pull back ahead before adding a pair in the sixth to bring the score to its eventually final tally of 6-4.

Alabama has a pair tonight: Niagara at 6 p.m. CT and SIUE at 8:30 p.m. CT. I’ve not located any television information for it, but they’re very active on social media, including a reasonably-updated Twitter account (@AlabamaSB.)

Fox’s college football coverage team has a decided theme this year: Cheaters.

Urban Meyer will be back on your television screen this fall, but instead of being on a sideline, he’ll be in a studio. Fox announced Monday morning that that Meyer, along with Reggie Bush -- the Heisman Trophy winner the NCAA doesn’t want you to remember -- will be joining Fox this fall as part of its college football studio show. The news was first reported by the New York Post.

Alabama at Ole Miss today — we mean Tennis, of course:

No. 18 Alabama will hit the road to take on No. 10 Mississippi State in Starkville, Miss., at 1 p.m. CT on Thursday, before hosting No. 43 Ole Miss at the Alabama Tennis Stadium on Saturday at 1 p.m. CT.

The Crimson Tide (12-4, 2-2 SEC) is coming off a weekend where it split its road matches by first falling 5-2 at No. 44 Kentucky and then rebounding with a 5-2 win at No. 26 Vanderbilt.

Just 60 yards shy of becoming the all-time leading rusher in Saints history, former Alabama Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram has packed his bags for a different conference altogether:

On Wednesday, the Baltimore Ravens agreed to sign the running back to a three year contract worth $15 million, according to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Ingram was a pending free agent and most league analysts believed that he and the Saints could be able to come to terms on a new contract agreement, but in the end the two sides were unable to find common ground.

The running back will earn an average yearly salary of $5 million, more than the expected $4 million market value that experts in the field had projected he would get.

There honestly could not be a better place for Mark. With a very young quarterback to protect (and one I still have long-term concerns about his ability to be anything special under center — but that’s a question for another day), and in a division noted for inclement weather, his carries are going to be there. Pushing 30, and receiving a 20% bump over market value, the Ravens would be a fool not to take advantage of a back who needs touches to get in rhythm.

The New York Jets are spending like a drunken sailor this offseason. In addition to C.J. Mosley’s eye-popping $85 million deal (for an off-ball ILB, no less), the Jets added amateur hip-hop aficionado and headcase in his own right Le’Veon Bell. The league’s most patient back may have the ability to pick his spot, but it’s still nice to have some quality offensive lineman. Too bad the Jets didn’t get that memo, allowing former ‘Bama offensive lineman James Carpenter to hit the market:

Carpenter will become an unrestricted free agent at 3 p.m. CDT Wednesday, when his current four-year, $19.1 million contract with the New York Jets expires. No monetary details of Carpenter’s new deal with the Falcons has been reported.

Carpenter played every offensive snap of the first 10 games of 2018 at left guard for New York, but he didn’t play at all in the final six games because of a shoulder injury. The injury ended Carpenter’s streak of 58 starts for the Jets -- every game since he signed with New York in free agency in 2015.

Carpenter’s career has been a halting one, largely because of injuries. When he can play, he’s a very serviceable starter. And, moving from RT to LG shows off his versatility. The issue is that the early years, and again last season, were marred by injuries.

Stay healthy, No. 78.

Finally, some big props to Les Machizare, who took to Kodiak, Alaska in his effort to Gump across the continent:

We have a lot more for you today: Meet the New Guys, SEC Basketball primer and open forum, Inside Linebacker spring preview, and more.

Roll Tide