DESTIN, Fl. — The University of Alabama men’s basketball team is finalizing a deal for a home-and-home series with Arizona over the next two seasons, head coach Avery Johnson confirmed on Wednesday. The Tuscaloosa News learned of the series earlier in the day on Wednesday.
The Crimson Tide would travel to Tucson this season and the Wildcats would return to Tuscaloosa in the following season, if the deal is completed.
“We’ve always discussed about how we need to improve our nonconference schedule and how we need to have some high-level teams come on our campus,” Johnson said. “So with that discussion, we started calling a lot of the top teams around the country trying to schedule games. Fortunately Arizona is a team that is a well-respected team. We haven’t finalized a deal yet but we’re deep in discussions.”
Arizona finished last season 32-5 and won the Pac 12 tournament. The Wildcats also advanced to the Sweet Sixteen in the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats could begin the 2017-18 season as the No. 1 team in the nation.
The Crimson Tide has already announced non-conference games with Memphis, Minnesota, Brigham Young, Texas and Central Florida. UA will also host Oklahoma as part of the SEC/Big XII challenge in January.
“We’re really excited about that,” Johnson said. “We know we’re going to have to prepare much better and continue to recruit at a high level to play teams like that.”
UA director of athletics Greg Byrne previously held the same position at Arizona.
“Obviously Greg helped us,” Johnson said. “He’s really serious about helping and continuing to grow our basketball brand. He was a major part of that negotiation.”
Women’s basketball finalizing nonconference schedule
The first season in Coleman Coliseum for the women’s basketball program brought with it a jolt of life in recruiting, head coach Kristy Curry said.
“I’d have to say the move to Coleman has impacted it in a way that’s hard to express,” she said. “It’s been a big impact in recruiting, that women’s basketball at Alabama is important.”
UA finished the year 15-6 at home in Coleman Coliseum this season after playing in Foster Auditorium in previous years. The move across campus isn’t all-encompassing for the program, though. The women’s basketball coaching offices are still in Foster.
There are no plans to move to Coleman full-time, Curry said. There are still advantages to be had by staying in Foster.
“I know there are basic talks about the future of Coleman Coliseum,” she said. “I will say this: We love Foster. That’s our home on a daily basis. To have a facility that our kids can access 24/7 to get shots up, work on their game, it really means a lot. We’re happy with that being our home every day. As far as any talks in future, I think they’re looking at the overall plan for Coleman at some point to see where we all need to be.”
Calipari likes Alabama’s backcourt
The talent in Tuscaloosa is starting to turn heads among league basketball coaches. Kentucky coach John Calipari listed Alabama as one of the teams with excitement building in the SEC entering this season.
“Alabama now, they’ve got two legitimate guards and in college basketball that means you have a chance to win every game,” Calipari said. “That doesn’t mean you’re winning every game, it means you have a chance to win every game.”
Calipari is likely referring to freshmen Collin Sexton and John Petty, both of whom arrived on campus this week. Avery Johnson didn’t do anything to damper enthusiasm during his time with the media. Asked about comparing Petty to Dominique Wilkins, he picked out another hall of famer.
“I would say more of Clyde Drexler,” Johnson said. “A slasher, still can shoot, can pass the ball. He’s an underrated passer and decision-maker and as I alluded to earlier, that’s what we need.”
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