Last season, Alabama’s starting lineup resembled a rough draft.
It was constantly being amended, tweaked and massaged as head coach Avery Johnson searched for the right combination on any given night.
But as the Crimson Tide readies to play its seventh game at UCF on Thursday at 6 p.m., Johnson has refrained from shuffling the deck. The same five players — Kira Lewis Jr., John Petty, Herbert Jones, Donta Hall and Galin Smith — have taken the floor for each of the six opening tips.
They are part of a nine-man rotation that has remained fixed.
“I am comfortable with it,” Johnson said. “It’s not nearly as much of a juggling act as it’s been in the first three years….We didn’t have a lot of confidence early in the season in the first couple of years and we didn’t have the type of depth and skill we have had in Year 4.”
Johnson still makes adjustments, moving the players he deploys to different spots on the floor to create a variety of looks that allows Alabama to go small or play big.
But the personnel he has relied most upon has stayed static.
As a result, Tevin Mack — the ballyhooed transfer from Texas — has continually come off the bench since the games began earlier this month.
“We don’t really control the playing time,” said Mack, who is averaging 8.5 points per game. “Players don’t. I think it’s more of a coach thing. I think they have got to keep getting trust in me is what it is. I haven’t played in a long time.”
Mack is referring to last season, when he remained idle after enrolling at Alabama in 2017.
Since he regained his eligibility, six Alabama players have averaged more minutes than Mack, who has shown flashes as a scorer. But in order for him to get on the court more regularly, Mack needs to work on other aspects of his game, according to Johnson.
“I just think it’s him just understanding there are two sides to the floor and [whether] he continues to improve defensively,” Johnson asserted.
Johnson didn’t rule out the possibility Mack or any of the other reserves could crack the starting five, explaining, “It’s a long season.”
But Johnson doesn’t seem eager to pull the trigger on any changes, which hasn’t been the norm for a coach who has never hesitated to make revisions in the past.
Rainer Sabin is an Alabama beat writer for the Alabama Media Group. Follow him on Twitter @RainerSabin