A new opponent for Alabama Basketball and how tough Nate Oats will make the '24-25 schedule

As Alabama Basketball picks up a December game with Illinois, will the Arizona contest still happen?
Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

As reported by Jon Rothstein on Wednesday Alabama Basketball will add a home-and-home series with Illinois. The first game is expected to take place in Birmingham in December. Illinois, coached by Brad Underwood was 29-9 last season. The Fighting Illini had a strong NCAA Tournament run, beating Morehead, Duquesne, and Iowa State. UConn bumped Illinois from the Big Dance by a score of 77-52. Underwood's team also won the Big Ten Tournament Championship.

The Crimson Tide has been expected to play Arizona in Birmingham in December. Alabama played the Wildcats in Phoenix last season, in what was planned to be a two-game series. Arizona won 87-74.

Will the Arizona game still happen in December? The game could be played in Tuscaloosa instead of Birmingham or, it could be dropped in favor of the Illinois game. Nate Oats, well known for boldness, might decide to play two December games in Birmingham. With fan support for Alabama Basketball exploding, the Legacy Arena would provide a great setting to host both Illinois and Arizona.

Nate Oats and Alabama Basketball Boldness

Nate Oats has long believed in the value of a tough non-conference schedule. He has touted tough early games, including those ending in losses, as building blocks for late-season success. Now that Alabama is more the hunted than the hunter, Oats might adapt his scheduling philosophy.

The Crimson Tide has one confirmed 2024-25 non-conference opponent in the Creighton Bluejays. The game will be Dec. 14 in Tuscaloosa. As recently reported. the Crimson Tide will compete in a Thanksgiving 8-team event in Las Vegas. Other teams included are Houston, Notre Dame, Oregon, Rutgers, San Diego State and Texas A&M.

Last season, the Crimson Tide lost to five of its toughest early-season, non-conference opponents; Ohio State, Clemson, Purdue, Creighton, and Arizona.

What Nate Oats might gauge is how much those losses lowered the Tide's NCAA Tournament seed. With a '24-25 team some are projecting as the nation's best, maybe a somewhat easier non-conference schedule makes sense.