If things have gone well for a college basketball team, that team doesn’t have to find motivation in March.
Motivation will find you.
Alabama and LSU will be a perfect example in their Saturday morning matchup in Coleman Coliseum. The stakes are high for both sides, so much so the respective coaches don’t even have to mention what’s at stake. For Alabama, there is the chance to add a marquee home win against the No. 13 ranked Tigers as the Crimson Tide tries to secure a second straight trip to the NCAA Tournament. LSU’s NCAA spot is secure but the Tigers are currently the leaders in the race for the No. 1 seed in the Southeastern Conference and a share or an outright win of the SEC regular-season title.
Alabama coach Avery Johnson said his team’s focus was squarely on LSU, which won the first meeting between the two teams 88-79 in Baton Rouge on January 8, and not on bracketology.
“We haven’t even talked about (the postseason) recently,” Johnson said at his Friday press conference. “We talked about it maybe three or four weeks ago. But recently, it’s been all about the preparation. We just don’t want to have any extra pressure on the guys’ shoulders. We had a ton of pressure on us for the Vanderbilt game because that’s a no-win situation for us. If we lose, it’s a four-game losing streak and if we win, we were supposed to win.
“I think our focus has been really good since then (and) we haven’t really talked about NET ratings and tournaments. They won’t hear that come out of our mouth. They’ll hear about what we need to be successful against LSU on both ends of the floor.”
LSU coach Will Wade echoed the sentiment at his Friday press conference.
“At this point, you want to be playing for something,” Wade said. “That’s not pressure, that’s opportunity. We were predicted sixth (in the SEC.) I don’t think anyone thought we would be in this situation. So this is good. We’ve got nothing but opportunity in front of us. I said this last year but it’s true — pressure is a privilege.”
In roster news, LSU had another positive as Wade indicated that Tiger point guard and leading scorer Tremont Waters — who missed LSU’s last two games due to an undisclosed malady — should be available for the game against Alabama.
For the Crimson Tide, guard Dazon Ingram, who suffered a deep thigh bruise in the second half of Alabama’s win over South Carolina and could not return to the game, would be “a game-time decision,” according to Johnson.
Alabama will host its Senior Day ceremonies prior to Saturday’s tip-off, although the four seniors will have one more Coleman Coliseum game as the Crimson Tide hosts Auburn on Tuesday night. This year’s four-member senior class has been especially popular with fans and includes three players from the state of Alabama — Donta Hall from Luverne, Riley Norris from Albertville and Lawson Schaffer from Cullman — as well as Avery Johnson Jr., the son of the Crimson Tide head coach.
Fans are encouraged to be in their seats by 10:30 a.m. CT.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.