Alabama basketball’s unprecedented success garners ranking, substantial optimism

Entering the 2020-21 college basketball season, there was a wealth of potential with regard to the Alabama Crimson Tide. Entering their second year under Nate Oats, the Tide also returned such experienced players as John Petty Jr., Herb Jones, and more. They also brought in some high-profile recruits and transfers, notably Josh Primo by way of Toronto, Canada and Jordan Bruner via the Ivy League’s Yale Bulldogs. Jahvon Quinerly would also be eligible to play following his absence last season after transferring in from Villanova. The Tide has been living up to their potential of late, as they are on an eight-game winning streak that has also included their best conference start in decades. As of this writing, they boast a 12-3 record along with an unblemished 7-0 mark in SEC play. They are also currently ranked No. 18 in the AP poll, their first ranking since 2017 and highest such ranking since their December 11, 2011 matchup against Detroit. 

Alabama’s most recent outing was an earth-shattering 30 point road victory over LSU (10-3). They entered the Pete Maravich Assembly Center playing ranked in the AP poll for the first time since their December 2017 game against UCF. They scored 60 during the first half and buried shots from beyond the arc without pause, racing out to a huge lead very quickly. Among the Crimson Tide’s most prolific shooters during the game were John Petty, Josh Primo, and Jahvon Quinerly. Alabama broke their own SEC record for made threes in a single game with 23, showcasing the best of their biggest strength. When the final buzzer sounded, the Tide had scored 105 points, with Petty leading all scorers with 24. Even senior leader Herb Jones, who has not been known for launching up perimeter shots throughout his career, got in on the fun, as he made a three of his own. 

Another major statement from the Tide, and one which garnered national attention, was their 71-63 road upset over Tennessee. The Volunteers, who came in at No. 6 in the most recent AP rankings, were undefeated heading into the game but were stunned by Alabama, fresh off of back-to-back wins at the time and playing with more poise and confidence as each challenge had passed. Oats’s team also secured their first win at Auburn Arena since February 17, 2015, a period of almost six years. With that 94-90 effort, the Tide held off their arch-rivals, led by a ferocious effort from the debuting Sharife Cooper, and continued their great SEC start. Tossing aside any notion of complacency, Alabama then dismantled Kentucky 85-65 for their first win at Rupp Arena since 2006, ending the mightily-struggling Wildcats’ three game win streak in the process. That road triumph marked Bama’s tenth win of the season. Convincing home wins against Florida (6-4) and Arkansas (10-4; 31-point margin of victory), as well as late-December victories against ETSU and Ole Miss, are the other contests the Tide has achieved victory in to round out this win streak. 

Three of Bama’s next four games are at home; those foes are Mississippi State, Kentucky, and LSU respectively. The road game in that mix is an intriguing Big 12/SEC Challenge date in Norman against the Oklahoma Sooners. The Tide, who were also victorious in last year’s Big 12/SEC challenge, picked up one of their most memorable out-of-conference wins in recent years when they knocked off the Trae Young-led Sooners in a raucous Coleman Coliseum in 2018. From there, it is an all-conference slate until the end of the regular season, which will come on March 2 when Auburn visits Tuscaloosa.

With this historic start, there is sure to be much discussion about Alabama’s ceiling; recent performances, combined with the team’s growing confidence, indicate that it is quite high. There is a very real possibility that fans could see the Crimson Tide in the top 10 if they can win their next couple of games. They have turned a lot of heads at the conference and national levels, and while it naturally remains to be seen whether a possible deep run in March is in the cards, things are looking better for Alabama basketball than they have in some time.  

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