A good friend gave some advice. Don’t ever fall in love with Alabama basketball, he said; it has a way of breaking your heart. However, after some big conference wins this year, maybe there’s something to look forward to with Crimson Tide hoops.
Early this season the Tide showed a lot of promise, winning all four of their games in the 2K Classic. Their buzzer-beater win over South Dakota State and their 2K Classic Championship win over Big East Villinova were part of a 6-0 run for the Tide in November.
But after the Crimson Tide went 1-5 in Decemeber – with their only win coming against Texas Tech – there wasn’t much reason to think this season was going to be what fans have been longing for since Anthony Grant was hired. In fact, some Alabama fans have begun to wonder if Grant is the right person for the job.
Now the SEC season has started and it seems that a switch has been flipped.
Alabama played very well with then No. 10 Missouri Tigers, but could not finish. They then took down Tennessee in a thriller, winning 68-65. Then a trip to Starkville saw the Tide crush Mississippi State Bulldogs by a count of 75-43.
SEC newcomer Texas A&M then traveled to Tuscaloosa, where the Tide struggled in the first half, scoring 15 points in the first 20 minutes, including a ten-minute stall where Alabama didn’t even get a shot off.
It was after halftime when it seemed a match was lit, and the Crimson Tide score 15 points in four minutes and the Tide won on a Trevor Lacey jump shot with eight seconds left.
On Tuesday night Alabama hosted powerhouse Kentucky. The Tide seemed out of synch, and the Wildcats pulled out to a nine-point lead at the half. Once again, the Tide came out of the locker room charging, going on a 9-2 run to start the second half and holding on for the 59-55 victory.
Alabama doesn’t look like the NCAA tournament team many fans dream of, but it does indicate that Anthony Grant is making strides that are helping carry this team to that next level. The four straight wins have shown us at least that this team has a will to fight and win games, which is something that has been lacking in recent years.
If Alabama wins against Tennessee this weekend, they could find themselves back in the hunt. But it may take a miracle run through the SEC schedule or a win in the SEC Tournament to get the Tide to the Big Dance.
Alabama still has fundamental problems this year and that has carried into the conference season. Turnovers are still an issue, with Alabama averaging 11 per game in conference. Shooting has been very poor at times, and the Tide defense has many scratching their heads. But they continue to win in the SEC. And a team with that kind of success is a team that is looking on the up and up.
Alabama still has a long season left on their schedule. The two top teams in the SEC, Florida and Ole Miss, don’t come until late in the season, so the Tide will go through February with a relatively easy schedule.
Alabama basketball may break our hearts this season, but not all hope is lost. Perhaps this season will be an exciting look into the future of Crimson Tide basketball.
As just as the great Nick Saban says: “It’s all part of the process.”
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