University of Alabama

Alabama coach not interested in talking about NCAA bubble

MARQ BURNETT sports@ledger-enquirer.com

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Coming off its 63-62 win over No. 15 Texas A&M on Wednesday, Alabama basketball has garnered some national attention.

With the Crimson Tide earning its fourth win over a top-25 opponent this season, ESPN analyst Dick Vitale tweeted that Alabama is a “hoops program on the rise.”

ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi added the Tide to the NCAA tournament bubble conversation in his “Next Out” group.

But with seven games left in the season and the SEC tournament, Tide coach Avery Johnson wasn’t interested in talking about that kind of bubble.

“The only bubble talk that we’re going to talk about especially today is the managers have to make sure that I get my bubble gum,” Johnson said Friday. “When I go on the practice court everyday, I get the same bubble gum, the same flavor. That’s the bubble we want to talk about. Long way to go, and a lot of basketball left.”

While Johnson didn’t want to discuss the outside praise his team has received, it’s worth noting that Alabama (14-9, 5-6 in SEC) has been trending up in recent weeks.

After losing five of six games to start SEC play, Alabama has won four of its last five SEC games, including the win over the Aggies who were once ranked No. 5 in the country.

The Tide has won its last three contest, the team’s longest streak in conference play this year.

“We’re definitely not overconfident,” Johnson said of the team’s confidence level during this streak. “We understand we don’t have much margin for error. But our spirit inside the locker room is good. It’s an unselfish spirit where players want to take care of their teammates. Guys want to help each other on both ends of the floor. There’s better communication.”

Early on the season, Johnson quipped that this team preferred texting and that it would be nice if they could do that on the court. Now, Johnson has noticed that the group is “talking more and communicating more” on the court. He credited the growth to the “spirit and fiber of what’s happening in our locker room.”

Alabama hopes to continue its winning ways on Saturday when the team travels to Gainesville for a matchup with the Florida Gators (16-8, 7-4 in SEC) at4:30 p.m. on the SEC Network.

Florida has won 11 consecutive games in the series with Alabama’s last win coming on March 13, 2008 in the SEC tournament.

Tide forward Riley Norris know what each team has done in the past won’t matter when tip off comes on Saturday. Norris said it’s all about maintaining that “one game at a time” mentality.

“That’s the big key in us getting the three wins in a row,” Norris said. “We just looked at the one game like we have to win this game. Then move on to the next one, and the next one and they started rattling off. Early in the year, we kind of just were taking games a little bit for granted. We were looking at the big picture. Right now we’re focused and looked in, and I think we have a great mentality.”

Contact Anniston Star Sports Writer Marq Burnett at mburnett@annistonstar.com. On Twitter: @Marq_Burnett.

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