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Crimson Tide Men's Basketball creating off season buzz...

on Thursday, June 22, 2017

Crimson Tide Men's Basketball:

The best player during Avery Johnson's first season at Alabama was back on campus, taking stock of the program he left behind last year.

One word came to mind after he watched the Tide during an offseason workout.

said Retin Obasohan. "They look fast. They look athletic. They look sharp."

Obasohan's observations only add to the buzz about basketball that can be heard around town these days, even with summer fast approaching and football at the forefront of everyone's minds.

Yet there is a widespread feeling Johnson and the Tide are about to take a great leap forward in Year 3 of his tenure.

The No. 7 signing class in 2017 is on campus, beginning the process of meshing with the key contributors from this past season -- most notably Braxton Key, Dazon Ingram and Riley Norris.

"I got to watch them work out a couple of times," said former Tide guard Trevor Releford. "It's going to be a good year. I don't want to put any pressure on them or anything like that. But if they keep working this summer, it's going to be a great year."

Releford is not the only one with high expectations. The Tide has caught the eye of Kentucky coach John Calipari, who recently praised Alabama at the SEC spring meetings and suggested that big things are to come for a program that tested the Wildcats this past season.

Of course, Johnson is the most optimistic. The Tide has cobbled together an ambitious non-conference schedule that includes dates with Arizona, Oklahoma and Texas. 

It will also play in the Barclays Center Classic in Brooklyn, N.Y. -- a tournament that should offer exposure for a program aiming to raise its profile.

In formulating the slate, Alabama used analytics to pinpoint a series of matchups that would best position the Tide to land an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament.

"We weren't ready for that our first year," Johnson said Tuesday at his basketball camp. "But I think it's another step in the right direction. We're not playing all top ten teams, but we've tried to sprinkle in some of those games that we think are going to be significant in terms of our whole resume."

Last season, Alabama was denied entry to the Big Dance after finishing 19-15 and suffering bouts of inconsistency. The Tide hasn't participated in the spectacle of March Madness since 2012, when Releford was manning the point.

But the infusion of talent, led by McDonald's All-American guard Collin Sexton, is expected to lead Alabama out of the wilderness.

"I think there is a possibility they will be ready early in the season compared to maybe some of the other freshman classes," Johnson said.

"That's a positive. We don't know if all of them are going to be in a rotation. But they will have an opportunity to be in a rotation. I think they have done a nice job in picking up on all of the terminology that we have shared with them about our system.

"They're young and very energetic. All of our freshmen can play and they all have different strengths. It's a renewed type of energy and it's pretty interesting how that dynamic is playing out on the court."

It's among the reasons why Johnson senses that something is different about Alabama basketball this offseason -- his third since taking the job in 2015.

"The anticipation, the enthusiasm, the excitement," he said. "It's kind of what we have been after."

Well, it's finally here. And it's not going away anytime soon.

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