Alabama’s NCAA tourney hopes take a hit after 4-game skid
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Alabama's once-flourishing NCAA Tournament hopes lately have taken quite a beating.
A four-game losing streak has left coach Avery Johnson and the Crimson Tide (17-13, 8-9 Southeastern Conference) urgently trying to find a way to salvage the program's first NCAA bid since 2012.
Johnson is still striking a positive tone for a team that just a few weeks ago was celebrating a 28-point romp over No. 16 Tennessee.
''I'm not throwing a chair. I'm not punching a hole in the wall,'' he said after Tuesday night's 73-52 loss to Florida . ''I'm going to go and get in front of the video at some point and figure out what's wrong with our team. Other teams have survived four-game losing streaks.
''The season is not over. We have a lot of season left. We've just got to figure out how to put the pieces together and that's my job.''
The problems started following a high point for a team led by freshman point guard Collin Sexton. Alabama looked awfully strong after routing the Volunteers 78-50 and handling LSU 80-65 .
Since then, the team has dropped two straight at Coleman Coliseum and fallen by double digits on the road against Kentucky and No. 14 Auburn .
Now, the Tide needs a strong finish heading into the regular season finale Saturday at Texas A&M and the SEC Tournament to feel confident about its chances for a tourney bid.
Alabama was 57th in the NCAA's RPI after the Florida game and has been afflicted by inconsistency even before the current skid.
''We're trying to build our resume so that we can eventually make it to the tournament and try to have a chance to get some experiences that some of these other teams like Arkansas and Florida have,'' Johnson said. ''We're not there yet.
''Even as disappointed as we are, or as dejected as we are, you've got to pick yourselves up and get ready to go back to work because nobody feels sorry for you in this league. This league is that good. Nobody feels sorry for you.''
The Tide had plenty of reason for optimism coming into the season, and coming into February for that matter. Alabama had beaten five straight Top 25 teams before falling at rival Auburn.
Johnson, who led Alabama to the NIT in each of his first two seasons, landed the program's highest rated recruiting class and had most of his key players returning. Sexton is projected as a potential NBA lottery pick and has lived up to his billing.
Fellow freshman John Petty is the team's top 3-point shooter and Herbert Jones leads the Tide in steals. Jones's status for the Texas A&M game is unclear after Johnson said he sustained a head injury against Florida.
Center Donta Hall has dominated at times and is a 74-percent shooter from the field. But has made only 2 of 7 shots for seven combined points the past two games.
''Obviously he needs to get open, but we've got to do a better job of getting him the ball,'' Johnson said. ''When he's shooting such a high percentage, I don't care if it is on dunks or jump hooks, we've got to figure out a way to get him the ball more inside.''
Forward Daniel Giddens doesn't claim to have all the answers but he knows well the timetable Alabama is facing.
''We need to find our mojo and get it back, that's all I can tell you,'' Giddens said. ''We have a lot to improve on and we have to do it fast.''
For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-Top25