Alabama Basketball: Target on the Tide’s back

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

Alabama basketball is ranked as the no. 1 team in the country for the first time in 20 years. The Crimson Tide, who have been considered the class of the SEC for much of the season, are now the standard nationally.

With the top spot comes even more pressure, as every team Alabama plays with a ‘1’ in front of its name will try even more desperately to knock off the Tide. Away games will be particularly difficult. When the no. 1 team in the land comes to town, it tends to bring out rabid fans in droves. Everyone wants to be in attendance if their school pulls off the big upset.

Alabama basketball is no stranger to hostile road environments. The Crimson Tide is 8-1 in true away games this season, and has built a good portion of its impressive resume on the road.

Bama’s road conquests include a win at Houston, who joins Alabama on the 1-seed line. The Tide also notched double-digit road wins over Mississippi State and Arkansas, who were both ranked at the time. In the last two weeks, Alabama has won hard-fought games at LSU and at Auburn.

The difficult road games will only continue, beginning with a trip to Knoxville tonight. Down the line, Alabama closes the regular season playing in College Station against Texas A&M. The Aggies and the Vols currently sit in second and third place in the SEC, respectively. Both would love to knock off the top-ranked Crimson Tide on their home floors, as they have both done in football over the past two seasons.

Bama hoops also has a lot of familiarity with facing top-ranked teams in its own right. Earlier in the year, Alabama hung its hat on two wins over the no. 1 team in the nation in a span of two weeks.

Nate Oats’ team first played North Carolina in the Phil Knight Invitational in Portland over Thanksgiving weekend. In what turned into an instant classic, Bama outlasted UNC 103-101 in quadruple overtime. North Carolina is now a bubble team and has proven that it was a paper tiger, but the Tar Heels showed last year that they are a high-ceiling team.

The more impressive notch on Alabama’s belt came in its aforementioned win at Houston. The Cougars, ranked no. 1, fell to the Crimson Tide on their own floor in early December. Since then, Houston has only validated the value of that win. The 23-2 Cougars have only lost one other game all season, and are currently ranked second in the nation right behind Bama.

How will Alabama basketball respond with an even bigger target now on its back? That remains to be seen, but I have a lot of confidence in this team. It has excellent leadership, and has carried itself with maturity and mental toughness all year.

Previewing Tennessee. dark. Next

Tonight’s game at Tennessee will provide another glimpse into the DNA of this team.