Alabama head basketball coach Avery Johnson knows the Texas A&M program well. The Texas A&M roster is a different matter.
The Aggies will come to Tuscaloosa on Saturday with only a couple of familiar faces from last year’s NCAA Tournament team that was built around the inside power of Robert Williams, DJ Hogg, Tony Trocha-Morelos and Tyler Davis, which adds up to about 1,000 pounds of rebound-grabbing power that has moved on to greener pastures. This year’s A&M team still has a talented lead guard and some quality young players, but it’s a different look.
“We will have some new faces on the scouting report,” Johnson said. “But we know that TJ Starks is one of the best point guards, not just in the SEC, but nationally. We know what Savion Flagg can do. And we know their other players are very talented.”
Starks, a 6-foot-2 sophomore, leads Texas A&M in scoring (14.5 ppg) and assists (3.8 apg) while Flagg, a 6-7 sophomore, is averaging 12 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
Alabama is coming off an 88-79 loss at LSU where a second half rally could not overcome a sluggish start.
“Our shots didn’t fall early and our defense wasn’t very good,” Johnson said. “Offensively, we’ve got to do a better job of making sure the ball doesn’t stick. In the SEC, everybody’s first-pass defense is good so we’ve got to do a better job of making the second and third pass.”
Alabama’s last meeting with Texas A&M was probably the most significant game of the Crimson Tide’s 2017-18 season, with Collin Sexton covering the length of the floor in four seconds to hit a buzzer-beating shot that gave UA a 71-70 win and, almost certainly, an NCAA Tournament spot.
Johnson was asked on Friday if he had anyone on this year’s roster who he would trust to take a similar clutch shot.
“Do you have a cellphone?” Johnson asked the inquiring reporter. “Then let’s call (Texas A&M head coach) Billy Kennedy and tell him what we will do in that situation.
“But without giving him a scouting report, we do have a couple of guys that we have confidence in.”
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.
Texas A&M vs. Alabama
When: Saturday, 2:30 p.m. CT
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Alabama 10-4 (1-1 SEC), Texas A&M (6-7, 0-2 SEC)
TV: SEC Network
Radio: Crimson Tide Sports Network (95.3 FM locally)