Alabama isn’t accustomed to making the NCAA tournament. The Crimson Tide has done it just once since the 2006 campaign (2012), and many doubt a trip to the dance is on the horizon for this Alabama team.
It’s a little too early to rule Alabama out.
Avery Johnson led his team to an 18-15 record last season and is eager to see what he can accomplish in his second season as the head coach.
Practice started earlier this month, and the players appear to be in much better shape thanks to an offseason workout program that underwent a serious makeover.
“Our offseason program was one that needed to be seriously evaluated. We did it,” Johnson said on rolltide.com. “I like some of the things I experienced in our evaluation, and there were others that we needed to tweak and improve upon. We think we got that done.”
Offseason workouts can go a long way in determining the success or failure of a team during the season. While no one is thinking Alabama will dominate the Southeastern Conference in any way, shape or form, the Crimson Tide should be an improved team, perhaps one that ends up with 20 wins.
Getting to that mark will take some work. Alabama lost four of its best players from last season’s team, including Retin Obasohan, who averaged nearly 18 points per game.
The good news is that Dazon Ingram is back. He could very well be the key to whether Alabama takes a step forward this season.
Ingram is only a sophomore and had his freshman season cut short because of a foot injury. The talented young guard was putting up 7.7 points and grabbing 5.9 rebounds per game before getting sidelined in December.
He might have ended up as one of the best scorers in the SEC, had he been given an opportunity to play a full season. He’s expected to fulfill that potential this season as long as he stays healthy, and it will be a shock if he isn’t one of the best scoring threats in the conference.
The fact that he can rebound is a bonus. Ingram was actually leading the team in rebounding when he went down with his injury, and his knack for winning battles in the paint will provide added opportunities to score.
Ingram’s presence should help Alabama on the offensive end of the floor. The team struggled to score at times last season, posting under 60 points seven times, including in its final two games. It lost 85-59 to Kentucky in the SEC Tournament and then fell 72-54 to Creighton in the NIT.
Alabama ended up last in the conference in scoring (66.5) and shot only 42.2 percent from the field. That has to change if the Crimson Tide is going to contend for an NCAA berth. Ingram will play a big part in making that happen.
Beyond the stats, it’s worth noting that Ingram’s background is full of successes. He was Mr. Basketball in Alabama as a senior, after averaging 19 double-doubles and two triple-doubles that season.
Ingram probably won’t repeat that at the college level, and he certainly can’t lead a team all by himself, especially in a conference that presents more than its share of challenges night in and night out.
However, Ingram can make enough of an impact to help a strong and talented Alabama team take a big step forward in its second season under Johnson.
Ultimately, it might just turn out to be a big enough step to get the Crimson Tide into the NCAA tournament.