Author’s note: This article was completed just prior to the commencement of the February 20, 2021 games for South Alabama and UAB.
Amidst all of the great games, matchups, conference title chases, and other fun aspects of the college basketball season, we are now less than a month away from March Madness 2021. The tournament is set to be played starting on March 18 and culminating in the Final Four in Indianapolis. A handful of teams from Alabama could find themselves playing NCAA tournament basketball. Fans in the Yellowhammer State have a lot to get excited about as Selection Sunday draws ever closer.
The Alabama Crimson Tide are virtual locks for a berth in the Big Dance, and are not far from clinching the SEC regular season championship. After their most recent game, an 82-78 victory over Vanderbilt, they moved to 13-1 in league play. At 18-5 overall, they are also ranked No. 8 nationally. They are projected as a 2-seed come tournament time. The Tide’s biggest strength is their three-point shooting. If the beyond-the-arc shot keeps falling, there are few who can stop Nate Oats’s Alabama team, which has enjoyed a dramatic turnaround this season.
Another Alabama team to burst onto the scene of late is UAB, whose 17-4 overall record is the best in Conference USA. Andy Kennedy, who is in his first season coaching the team, has gotten them rolling. They had a tough stretch in early February, however, losing two conference road games. They won their most recent game as of this writing. They boast a 14-1 home record, which has played a huge part in making them the only team with double-digit conference wins in the C-USA. They are now in the unforgiving territory known as the college basketball bubble, and are on the outside looking in at the moment. Nevertheless, they have the tools to run the table in the conference, and if they can do that, they will go dancing. The C-USA tournament championship is still very much within the grasp of this talented team, and Cinderella potential exists as well if they find themselves playing in Indiana.
One team to watch for in the Sun Belt is South Alabama. They sit atop that conference’s eastern division and have won seven games in a row as of this writing. No one ever knows what to expect when conference tournaments roll around, but getting hot at the right time is invaluable in this sport. An at-large bid is not a likely possibility for the Jaguars, but if they can maintain the consistency that they have played with over the last several games and turn it into a conference tournament title, they could join one or more in-state counterparts in the Big Dance.
March Madness is not ever devoid of speculation or excitement. This is always true in February, when it is right around the corner, but fans are sure to enjoy the build-up to the tournament quite a bit more this year given that the tournament did not happen in 2020. The state of Alabama will likely be well represented when the tourney finally tips off and these teams will be able to make noise when that time comes.