The University of Alabama basketball team, Version 1.0, is off to a good start. The question for Crimson Tide fans is how Version 2.0 — the one with the team’s leading scorer from the 2016-17 team — will fare.
Sophomore forward Braxton Key, who had surgery for a torn meniscus in his right knee just before the Crimson Tide’s first exhibition game in October, dressed for last Saturday’s game at Arizona but did not play. However, Crimson Tide head coach Avery Johnson said after the game that he was confident that Key could be in the Alabama lineup when it faces Mercer on Dec. 19 in Huntsville’s Rocket City Classic. (A release from RCC officials on Monday said that less than 400 tickets remain for that game at the Von Braun Civic Center.)
Without Key, Alabama is currently 7-3 with a No. 19 RPI and a No. 39 ranking in the Ken Pomeroy College Basketball Rankings.
In Key’s absence, freshman guard Collin Sexton leads Alabama in scoring (21.8 ppg). Sexton is also third in the NCAA in fouls drawn per 40 minutes (9.4). Junior forward Donta Hall has made 75 percent (51 of 68) of his field goal attempts, sixth-best in the NCAA among players who have attempted 50 shots or more.
The Crimson Tide made a season-best 24 of 28 foul shots at Arizona, raising their season percentage from the line to 65.3, good for 296th in the country. Amazingly, Alabama’s opponents have been worse at the line, making just 60.9 percent of their attempts. That makes Alabama’s “free throw defense” No. 3 in the NCAA statistics.