Alabama vs. Central Florida
When: 6 p.m. CT Thursday
Where: CFE Arena, Orlando, Fla.
Records: Alabama 5-1, Central Florida 5-1
Radio: 102.9 FM

The good news for University of Alabama basketball coach Avery Johnson is the Crimson Tide’s playing rotation has grown shorter in the early season.

The bad news is Central Florida center Tacko Fall has not.

The imposing presence of the 7-foot-6 Fall is not the only problem UCF will present for the Crimson Tide in Thursday night’s game in Orlando, but he is hard not to notice at first glance.

“Tacko Fall is a giant,” Johnson said “They is a very, very good defensive team because of his presence in the middle. It’s not just shot-blocking. It’s the way he contests shots. He tries to negate your post-up game which we consider a strength of our team. How we attack him is a big part of our scouting report, and not just offensively. If you let him catch the ball around the basket, he doesn’t even jump, he just dunks the ball.”

Foul trouble limited Fall’s presence in last year’s 65-62 UCF win in Tuscaloosa, a game in which Alabama struggled with perimeter shooting. Collin Sexton, now with the Cleveland Cavaliers, did not score a field goal in that game although he did make seven free throws.

Johnson noted that eight of UCF’s top 10 players are back from last year’s team, making the Knights the preseason media favorites to win the American Athletic Conference. Guard B.J. Taylor leads UCF in scoring at 15.5 points per game, which includes 48 free throw attempts (8.0 per game.)

Johnson said his first concern was seeing the Crimson Tide get off to a good start.

“We can’t be a very good basketball game if we keep starting slowly and turning the ball over,” he said.

“I like our balance on offense overall. I like that we have the potential to be a very good offensive team. Our offense is a little ahead of our defense. We just need to be better at the start.

“We’ve got a nine-man rotation right now and I’m comfortable with it. It’s much less of a juggling act than it has been the last two years.”

Alabama’s two injured players, forward Riley Norris (heart procedure) and freshman post-player Javian Davis-Fleming are both “improving,” according to Johnson. Norris was in uniform for Monday night’s win over Murray State but did not play. Davis-Fleming is still not cleared to play.