By Chris DePew
Feb. 23, 2019
Where to watch: Vanderbilt (9-17, 0-13 SEC – #125 Pomeroy Rating) at Alabama (15-11, 6-7 – #60) – Today 5 p.m. Central, Coleman Coliseum, ESPNU
Who to watch: Kira Lewis. The freshman from Meridanville is coming off of his lowest-scoring college game, but he only has to think back two weeks to feel more confident going against the Commodores. In the 77-67 Bama win in Nashville, Lewis had too much speed for any Vandy player to keep up, finishing with 18 points along with four assists. Amazingly the Crimson Tide is 6-2 when he scores under 10 points, but the days of multiple players picking up the scoring slack is a bittersweet memory right now. Better to have Lewis’ point production locked in than gamble on everyone else hitting their marks simultaneously.
What to watch for: Is Avery Johnson’s heart even in this anymore? The grumblings that began last year when his most talented team at the Capstone nearly missed the NCAA tournament have blossomed into a very loud chorus in the face of three consecutive brutal losses. Truthfully it would probably take a complete collapse for athletic director Greg Byrne to unilaterally pull the plug on the Johnson era, if for no other reason than the hit to the budget that would come from a buyout. But even if he were given another chance next season, how interested would Johnson be in going through with it? His son will be done with the team sometime next month, and he has no other real ties to Tuscaloosa. He would have to live through an offseason full of doubts and hard questions about whether he can turn things around. And Johnson almost certainly be expected to overhaul his coaching staff, with potential candidates fully aware they would have no job security. It’s been an open secret that he’s put out feelers with his hometown New Orleans Pelicans for any openings on the bench or in the front office. If things don’t turn around in the last five games, or perhaps even if they do, it isn’t hard to picture Johnson and Byrne mutually agreeing on a reduced buyout and a fresh start for both sides.
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