TUSCALOOSA -- Avery Johnson seemed to deflect when asked about the topic shortly after Saturday's dominating 78-50 win over then-No. 15 Tennessee.
With a few days to reflect, Alabama's basketball coach was better able to put his team's fifth win over an Associated Press Top 25 team this year -- setting a program record -- into perspective.
In fact, he used the opportunity to preemptively make Alabama's case for inclusion into this year's NCAA tournament."I think it's a rewards-driven system, (and) I think you should be rewarded if you have that type of record against Top 25 teams," Johnson said Monday. "I think you should be rewarded if you challenge yourself with your non-conference schedule. That's a decision that's at the hands of every basketball team in the country, and we weren't afraid to challenge ourselves in the non-conference, even if we did come up short. I think if people are analyzing team resumes ... our record speaks for itself. We are capable of getting it done."
Alabama's other four Top 25 wins include then-No. 5 Texas A&M, then-No. 17 Auburn, then-No. 12 Oklahoma, and then-No. 23 Florida. The five Top 25 victories also rank second nationally -- tied with Texas Tech -- behind only Oklahoma's six Top-25 wins.
With three weeks left in the regular season, including today's 8 p.m. tip against LSU (14-10, 5-7 SEC), Alabama (16-9, 7-5 SEC) already has put itself in favorable company in regard to returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2012.
Including its non-conference victory over Rhode Island, Alabama has five wins over current Top 25 teams, including Auburn, which it plays on the road next week, No. 18 Tennessee, No. 21 A&M, and No. 23 Oklahoma.
Alabama also leads the SEC with six Quadrant 1 wins and a .667 winning percentage (6-3) in Quadrant 1 games.
Only five teams have more Quadrant 1 victories, which are determined by an opponent's RPI, than the Tide: Villanova (9), Kansas (9), Xavier (8), North Carolina (7) and Virginia (7).
On Saturday @AlabamaMBB made HISTORY‼️— Alabama Men’s Basketball (@AlabamaMBB) February 12, 2018
5th win over AP Top 25 opponent
Most wins over ranked opponents in a single season in program history
T-2nd in D-I for most wins over Top 25 teams#RollTide#BuckleUp pic.twitter.com/cTkEATGFHn
"It means a lot, but I feel like we need to get more, just keep going, keep progressing," Tide junior forward Donta Hall said Monday. "We just have to get more consistent. As long as we get more consistent, we'll be fine."
Alabama has lost to Central Florida, Vanderbilt and Georgia, along with Ole Miss, Missouri and Mississippi State. Despite those setbacks, it appears Alabama has learned its lesson.
"It starts with practice honestly, just being consistent at practice (leads to) being consistent in the game," Hall said. "The energy has been better, ... everybody's more focused in practice. ... It's a big difference."
This article is written by Alex Byington from The Decatur Daily, Ala. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.