Alabama Basketball: A year of Tide Hoops tells a story

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

There is an Alabama basketball story to be told. As with many stories about sports, it is a point-in-time piece, rather than an ending. The absence of finality makes it no less compelling.

A few days ago, Alabama Basketball transfer guard, Mark Sears declared Alabama is a basketball school. The remark received some pushback driven by a misperception Sears was commenting negatively on the Alabama Football program. Clearly, that was not Sears’ contention.

Alabama can be a football school and a basketball school. It can be and is also a noteworthy school for other sports. A too-narrow perspective on just football serves no one.

A worthwhile question is whether the Crimson Tide’s current basketball success will be lasting. Going back to when Mark Gottfried limped through his last seasons, the Crimson Tide has not performed at a high level season after season.

Anthony Grant had three successive 20-plus win seasons, but only one NCAA Tournament, with a Big Dance, opening game loss. His six-season record in Tuscaloosa was 117-85, and a 57.9% win rate. Grant’s best season was 2020-2011 when the Crimson Tide was 25-12.

Avery Johnson’s win percentage was lower; 54.7% over four seasons. Under Avery, Alabama made just one NCAA Tournament, with a win over Virginia Tech and a loss to Villanova.

Not since 2005-2006 has the Crimson Tide been a frequent Big Dance participant. While the Crimson Tide has reached some high levels of success in the past 20-plus seasons, it has never been lasting. Going back to the 2001-02 season, the Crimson Tide has finished a season ranked in the AP Poll just three times. Simply, there have been too few peaks and too many valleys.

It might be Nate Oats has changed the peaks and valleys story. So far, the 2022-23 season suggests he has.

A few days beyond a year ago, the Crimson Tide traveled to Seattle to play Gonzaga. Practically, it was a home game for the Bulldogs. They were ranked No. 3, following a 31-1, 2020-21 season that ended with a National Championship game loss to Baylor.

Alabama was given no chance to win in Seattle. The Crimson Tide gained a surprise win, in impressive fashion. Roles are not exactly reversed going into Saturday’s game in Birmingham. Alabama is the favorite, but not nearly as much as Gonzaga was last year.

An Alabama Basketball Win

The Crimson Tide should win on Saturday. Although Gonzaga beat Kentucky by 16 points, the Bulldogs are probably not as good as last season. Mark Few’s team has losses to Texas, Purdue and Baylor. Like the Crimson Tide, Gonzaga has beaten Michigan State. The favored, young Alabama team cannot afford to underestimate the Zags.

Avoiding a Sugar Bowl letdown. dark. Next

Whether Alabama wins or loses on Saturday, questions will remain – how far has Nate Oats taken the Tide Hoops program, and is an elite level of success sustainable? A hunch is yes and yes.