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Avery Johnson won as a player and coach in the NBA. He's on the upswing in Tuscaloosa.

Alabama basketball: Avery Johnson would like you to know he’s not satisfied

Welcome to The Rammer Jammer, SEC Country’s daily Alabama athletics recap. Today, we look at Avery Johnson’s goals, Bill Battle’s legacy and Amari Cooper’s book club.

Alabama’s basketball team has won four of its last five games, gone 3-1 in the SEC and beat LSU and a Mississippi State team that played Kentucky tough on the road. Given the recent history of Alabama basketball, that’s a pretty good stretch. To some, anyway.

“We’re not on a roll. Not to me,” coach Avery Johnson said, incredulously, when asked if that string of relative success would lead to overconfidence against conference punching bag Missouri on Wednesday.

The question isn’t unreasonable and neither is the answer. Alabama’s had more success than it’s been used to, lately, and a young team could begin to start feeling itself after a few good games. But to Johnson, former NBA Coach of the Year and Western Conference champion — not to mention an NBA champion as a player — three wins in the SEC ain’t nothing.

Johnson wasn’t hired to make Alabama decent to watch again or make them respectable in the conference. He was hired to bring the team to the NCAA tournament, and deep into it. He wasn’t hired to, say, make Alabama the top-ranked team in the country for a week and then lose to Kent State in the NCAA tournament. He was hired to fill the rafters of Coleman Coliseum with Elite Eight or Final Four banners, finally.

Basketball is second priority at Alabama, by far — enough so that several Alabama students I spoke with this week essentially described Wednesday’s game as the season opener. After a decade of mediocrity, it’s tough to consider a high ceiling or even expectations of contention for Alabama’s basketball program. But Alabama’s basketball history is impressive (as the 30th anniversary SEC Championship reunion scheduled for Wednesday shows), as is its coach’s, and it deserves the pressure to succeed.

When Johnson was hired, I wrote that he ‘has seen the promised land for Alabama basketball.‘ He, at least, knows he hasn’t made it yet.


Seatbelt check

So, what to expect from the actual basketball game?

Missouri (5-11, 0-4) has been truly bad this season. It’s lost its last eight games, including a blowout loss to Arkansas last week. The Tigers’ offense is … acceptable, usually getting their 70 points, but they regularly give up 70 points on defense. Alabama averages a plus-six point differential, while Mizzou’s positive point-differential doesn’t break a point and is buoyed by a 99-44 win in the season opener. Missouri doesn’t rebound well on offense and takes terrible shots. Alabama specializes in forcing teams to take contested jumpers, so this has low-scoring written all over it.

Alabama should make it 4-1 in the SEC. The game tips off at 7 p.m ET on ESPNU.

Built by Bama

  • Amari Cooper is running a book club! Cooper remains one of the smartest people I’ve ever interviewed, and I’d bet his book club will be rewarding.
  • Alabama ‘dominates‘ the list of top 5o NFL prospects.

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