Those who play the “look ahead” game are aware that Alabama is beginning a very tough three-game stretch, taking on 13th ranked Texas A&M in Tuscaloosa Wednesday, then going on the road to face Florida and Southeastern Conference leader LSU in the next two games.
Asked about that challenge, Alabama Coach Avery Johnson was shaking his head before the question was finished. “Our challenge is today’s practice,” he said Tuesday afternoon. “After that it will be the first five minutes of the Texas A&M game.”
Alabama (13-9 overall, 4-6 in SEC games) hosts Texas A&M (1-5, 7-3) at 6 p.m. CST Wednesday in Coleman Coliseum. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.
Alabama has won back-to-back SEC games for the first time this year, coming off a road victory against Mississippi State and a home win over Missouri, while the Aggies have lost back-to-back games for the first time this season, falling to Vanderbilt on the road and South Carolina in College Station.
Johnson said that Texas A&M is “an outstanding team,” pointing out that the Aggies have been ranked as high as fifth in the nation this year. “They have one of the best nine-man rotations. They have six guys who can make three-pointers.
“We have to defend our home court and continue our upward trend.”
The status of 6-8 forward Shannon Hale, who has been sidelined a couple of times this year with injury, is still questionable, a game-time decision. Johnson said Hale would have to go through a tough practice Tuesday and then show that he has recovered satisfactorily on Wednesday. Hale averages 11.3 points per game, second only to Retin Obasohan, who averages 16 ppg.
Obasohan was last week’s SEC Player of the Week, the second time this year he has earned that honor.
In addition to Obasohan, Alabama is expected to start 6-7 Riley Norris (8.6 points, 4.6 rebounds per game), 6-6 Arthur Edwards (10 ppg, 4.1 repg), 6-9 Michael Kessens (4.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg), and 6-10, 248-pound Jimmie Taylor 5.8 ppg, 5.3 rpg).
Texas A&M starts four seniors and a freshman. The seniors are 6-7, 220-pound Jalen Jones (16 points, 7.2 rebounds per game), 6-7, 212-pound Danuel House (15.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg), 6-5, 186-pound Alex Caruso (8.3 ppg, 5.2 assists per game), and 6-1, 184-pound Anthony Collins (4.9 ppg, 4.5 assists). The freshman is 6-10, 265-pound Tyler Davis (11 ppg, 5.6 rpg).
The most notable connection between the Aggies and Bama is that Avery Johnson, Jr., a guard who is sitting out a redshirt season this year in order to play for his father next year, was on the A&M squad last year, appearing in 13 games.
Earlier Coach Johnson had joked that Avery, Jr., would help in scouting the Aggies. On Tuesday he downplayed that, pointing out that even if “you have a tip,” that “Jalen Jones and Danuel House are studs. You play them one way and they do something else.” He called Caruso “the John Stockton of the SEC,” a guy who makes all sorts of key plays.
Also “connected” is that Texas A&M’s strength and conditioning coach is Darby Rich, who played for Bama 1988-92.
Another connection is that Johnson and Texas A&M Coach Billy Kennedy played in the same Catholic high school league in New Orleans…and so did Florida Coach Mike White, Bama’s next opponent.
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This is the only regular season meeting this year between Bama and A&M. Alabama has an all-time record of 9-4 against the Aggies, including winning both in Tuscaloosa and at College Station last year. The Tide has a 4-1 record in the series in games played in Coleman Coliseum.