Alabama Basketball: Can Tide Become ‘Bracket Busters’ in Tournament?


The Alabama basketball team enters the NCAA Tournament as a No. 9 seed and have a matchup with No. 8 seed Virginia Tech on Thursday in Pittsburgh.

After getting an NCAA Tournament bid for the first time since 2012, the Alabama basketball team is looking to make some noise.  What better way to do that than to ‘bust’ tournament brackets on the opening weekend?

As a 15 loss, No.9 seed, not many are projecting the Tide to get past their first game.  The 8-vs-9 matchup is usually the most unpredictable game in each region because the teams are so evenly matched.

However, if they do, they will get a matchup with East Region No. 1 seed, Villanova.

Although the Hokies are currently favorited over the Tide, Alabama possesses the physical advantages.  Virginia Tech is greatly undersized and only have one player who’s taller than 6-foot-6, a 6-foot-10 Kerry Blackshear Jr.

So, the Hokies obviously lack reliable rim protection.  In fact, no player on their team even averages one block per game and as a team, they average just two blocks per game.

Rim protection is definitely a must when facing a team like Alabama.  The Tide, led by Collin Sexton and Donta Hall, score most of their points in the paint.  Hall, who still is listed as day-to-day following a concussion against Auburn, can really be a problem for the Hokies.

The x-factor in this game, and during their possible tournament run, is obviously Sexton.  He plays fast and attacks the rim so well that announcers have called him the Russell Westbrook of college basketball.

This should be yet another area of concern for a team that has very little rim protection.

An area of concern for the Tide, however, is the shooting of Virginia Tech.  Alabama has struggled with up-tempo teams that shoot the ball well.  That shooting has helped them beat highly seeded teams like North Carolina, Clemson, and Virginia.

The Tide have shown that they can play at a faster pace like other teams.  However, it has also resulted in a higher turnover rate.  Alabama must set the pace to limit turnovers and keep the Hokies out of rhythm.

Can 2018 Tide be ‘Bracket Busters’ like the 2004 Team?

The Stanford Cardinal were one of the favorites to win the 2004 NCAA Tournament.  Led by eventual lottery pick Josh Childress, Stanford cruised to a 29-1 record and the No. 1 seed in the West Regional.

Expected to stroll through the tournament untested until a possible showdown in the Elite 8 with UConn, Stanford had no worries.  However, Alabama, led by Kennedy Winston, had other plans.

The Tide were the No. 8 seed and had just come off a victory against No. 9 seed Southern Illinois.  On paper, Alabama was clearly overmatched against such an experienced Stanford squad and being bracket busters was out of the question.

Stanford had just won the regular and postseason Pac-10 (now Pac-12) championship.  Alabama, on the other hand, held an 8-8 record in conference play and lost in the second round of the SEC Tournament.

However, behind Kennedy Winston’s 21 points, Alabama completed the improbable upset.  An upset that seemed like it may not happen after Earnest Shelton missed two free-throws with Alabama up by three with 5.6 seconds remaining.

Shelton, an 85 percent free-throw shooter, definitely worried Tide fans with those misses.  Luckily that worry subsided after a last second, scarily wide open, three clanked off the rim as the buzzer sounded.

The game announcer dubbed Alabama basketball ‘the Giant Killers’.  Alabama would go on to easily beat Syracuse in the Sweet 16 and earn its first-ever bid in the Elite 8.  However, that’s where the Tide would lose to eventual champion UConn.

Does the 2018 squad have a run like that, or better, in them?  They undoubtedly have the talent. So, should the Tide win Thursday, this conversation definitely deserves to be revisited.

Next: Alabama Basketball: Tide can beat Va. Tech without Donta Hall

Alabama faces off against No. 8 seed Virginia Tech Thursday at 8:20 PM (CST) on TNT. The winner will play the Villanova vs Radford winner on Saturday.