Grading Avery Johnson’s First Year in Tuscaloosa
On Tuesday night, the Alabama Crimson Tide fell to the Creighton Blue Jays in the opening round of the NIT by a score of 72-54. That loss ended the Tide's 2015-2016 campaign, but now that it's officially over, it's time to analyze this season by the numbers.
First off, it's important to know how many games Alabama played and won. Out of 33 total games, Alabama won 18 of them (54.5 winning percentage). Now, on the surface, this isn't an impressive statistic, but consider the fact that before Avery Johnson took over in Tuscaloosa, the only other coach in Tide basketball history to win 18 or more games in his first season as head coach was Wimp Sanderson. Now granted, Sanderson's first team only played 29 games, but they went 18-11 and 10-8 in SEC play.
During the 2015-2016 season, the Crimson Tide was able to defeat four Top 25 teams throughout the course of the season, the most such wins in Alabama basketball history (Wichita State, Notre Dame, South Carolina, and Texas A&M). In those four victories, Alabama averaged 68.5 points/game (higher than their season average of 66.5) and they gave up only 61.25 points/game (much lower than their season average of 67.9). Also during those wins, the Tide shot 45.8% from the field, again up from their season average of 42.2%.
Head coach Avery Johnson didn't inherit the most talented team in the world, but he was able to open up the talents of senior guard Retin Obasohan, who had only averaged 6.5 points/game before his final season at The Capstone. Johnson was able to take advantage of his athleticism and Obasohan's scoring average jumped up to an incredible 17.6 during the 2015-2016 season. His production is the main reason the Crimson Tide were able to pull out 18 wins, so finding a way to replace that production will be priority #1 for the upcoming season.
Getting this team into realistic conversations of making the NCAA Tournament exceeded most people's expectations for this team this season. Next season, the bar will be set a little higher, as the majority of the team will be back, along with the reappearance of Dazon Ingram, who went down with a season-ending foot injury early in the season. Coming in as freshmen will be a couple of solid players who could contribute immediate, including forwards Braxton Key and Ar'Mond Davis. The lack of quality depth in the post is a concern for Johnson, and he's addressed it accordingly this recruiting season.
Given the expectations, results, and increase in quality of play, I'd give Avery Johnson's first season somewhere in the B+ to A- range, maybe closer to a B+ given the tough ending to the season, as Alabama was only able to win two of their final eight games. The future is bright for Alabama basketball, and Johnson has already told the Tide faithful to buckle up and stay buckled up.