Stuart McNair

Alabama will be at Mississippi State for SEC basketball opener

Alabama heads to Starkville where Tide has won last three against Bulldogs

Alabama opens Southeastern Conference men’s basketball play Tuesday, but Crimson Tide phyche is still stuck on football with Bama preparing for the national championship game next Monday. Alabama Basketball Coach Avery Johnson is aware of the situation. He began his Monday press briefing with congratulations to Coach Nick Saban’s team on its achievements to date and wishes for “all the luck in the world” for the future.

Johnson probably won’t give the football situation much more thought, though. Alabama basketball has an important SEC opener at Mississippi State at 7:30 p.m. CST Tuesday.
The Crimson Tide is 7-5 and coming off back-to-back wins to wrap up non-conference play. Mississippi State is 9-3 and finished pre-SEC competition with three consecutive wins.

Tuesday’s game will be televised on SEC Network.

Alabama has won six of its last eight SEC openers and has also won its last three games at Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, part of Bama winning six of the last seven games in the series.

Johnson said the Tide has had “two pretty good days of practice.” His laundry list of areas in which Alabama is trying to improve included “consistency” in various areas.

He also said that grades for the past two games had been “decent,” and that the things that need correcting are correctible.

Johnson also complimented his team for taking more ownership and providing more leadership for the team.

As for the Bulldogs, Johnson said Mississippi State is “young, but explosive,” and complimented MSU Coach Ben Howland.

Alabama’s starting lineup has changed through the preseason, but indicated the lineup the last two games might be in use again Tuesday. That’s Dazon Ingram and Avery Johnson, Jr., at guards, Brandon Key and Riley Norris at forwards, and Donta Hall at center.

The coach said he is down to a group of eight or nine who will provide the starters and substitution rotation going forward.

Johnson said his squad “has the potential to be a good defensive team” and is “encouraging” on offense. He noted that some of his players play bigger than their size, giving Bama the opportunity for mismatches. He also said the Tide is improving in rebounding.

Bottom line: “We have a chance to be a pretty good team.”
Bama may or may not have guard Corban Collins back for Mississippi State, but Johnson said he would definitely be back for Saturday’s SEC home-opener against Vanderbilt. Collins, who had started every game, was injured against Clemson and has been out the past two games.


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