One month into the Avery Johnson, Alabama couldn't have asked for a much better start to the season. 

The Crimson Tide has already climbed into the top 20 in the RPI rankings after a 7-2 start to the year. With top 50 wins over Wichita State and Notre Dame, Alabama now has the third-highest RPI in the SEC behind Florida (6th) and Kentucky (9th).

That's a far cry from where the experts expected Avery Johnson to be this early in his college coaching career. The media predicted that Alabama would finish 13th in the conference with only Mississippi State being worse. With a solid Oregon team coming to Birmingham on Monday night, Alabama basketball has a chance to finish out one of its most successful non-conference runs in a few years.

Should it find a way to earn a victory over the Ducks, the Crimson Tide would likely finish the calendar year with a 9-2 record with two wins over the ACC, one over the Pac-12, and another against a top-50 Wichita State team. The only two losses would be against teams that currently rank 1st (Xavier) and 5th (Dayton) in the RPI rankings.

Even without a win inside Legacy Arena on Monday, Alabama would still have itself in a position to be in the NCAA conversation with a top-5 finish in the SEC. There's a long way to go, but fans have to be excited about heading into the new year with tournament hopes still intact.