Alabama Basketball earned a gritty home win over Missouri on Tuesday night, with the Crimson Tide pulling away from the physical and upset-minded Tigers late for a 93-75 victory.
With the win, Alabama improved to 12-5 and 4-0 in SEC play, and is building a respectable NCAA Tournament resume. What that resume lacks at the current moment is a signature win. Bama Hoops has lost to all three presently-ranked opponents it has played in 2023-24, though it played them all consecutively in a brutal December stretch. It has beaten just one high-major team outside of conference play (Oregon), and hasn’t exactly played any SEC frontrunners through its 4-0 start in league play.
If Alabama Basketball is a legitimate contender to repeat as SEC champion, it will quickly become apparent over the next week.
Bama will first travel to Knoxville to do battle with no. 6 Tennessee on Saturday afternoon. On paper, this is the toughest league game on the schedule. Tennessee is the highest-ranked team in the SEC, and Alabama gets the Vols on the road in the first of two matchups between the bitter rivals.
Tennessee will bring the toughness that has become synonymous with its program under coach Rick Barnes, and will be a formidable challenge for a Bama Hoops team that has recently shown it can also play with a blue-collar mentality.
The Volunteers are one of few teams that may be even more battle-tested than the Crimson Tide. Like Alabama, Tennessee played a very challenging non-conference schedule, losing three straight games to teams currently ranked in the top-5 in late November. Barnes’ squad has played six ranked teams in total, turning in a 3-3 record.
After this bout with Tennessee, Alabama Basketball will see another fierce rival when it hosts no. 13 Auburn next Wednesday, January 24th. Throughout this season, Auburn has quietly proven to be a very solid and consistent team. Like Alabama, the Tigers have strung together good wins but have yet to beat a bona fide elite opponent. Still, this is a quality team under Bruce Pearl, one that could be in the top-10 by the time it comes to Tuscaloosa.
This is certainly a challenging stretch for Alabama Basketball, but that’s life in the modern day SEC. Weeks like this are the very reason Coach Nate Oats stacks the non-conference schedule with the best opponents he can find.
In a little over a week, we will know a lot more about Bama hoops in 2023-24. At that time, we should also have a clearer picture of the SEC hierarchy going forward.