Eye test may be more important than standings for Alabama Hoops

Alabama v Kentucky
Alabama v Kentucky / Justin Casterline/GettyImages

Tonight’s matchup between Alabama and Tennessee has generated a lot of buzz, due in part to the fact that the Tide and the Vols are tied atop the SEC standings

A false assumption, however, is that the winner of this game will clinch the SEC regular season championship. Both teams will still have two games remaining, including road games against tough opponents.

Bama will play at Florida and host Arkansas, while Tennessee will travel to South Carolina and host Kentucky. Given that South Carolina earned its 12th conference win by beating Florida on Saturday, Tennessee could be playing back-to-back games with SEC title implications. 

Sure, an SEC championship would be nice. It would be the third in the last four years for Nate Oats and Alabama Basketball, an impressive stretch of dominance in one of college basketball’s most competitive leagues. But the regular season title is not necessarily the top priority for this Bama team. A win over Tennessee tonight would give Alabama immeasurable value in terms of resume, optics, and confidence heading into the postseason. 

Alabama has to prove to itself, as well as the cynical public, that it can beat good teams. One could argue that a close home win over Auburn back in January is still Bama’s only victory over a legitimate top-15 team. Teams like Oregon, Florida, and South Carolina have been good, but there are still question marks about the true value of those wins.

Even as Alabama has led the SEC for much of this season, similar questions have been attributed to the Tide’s legitimacy as a contender. Losses to Purdue, Creighton, and Arizona out of conference were missed opportunities on Alabama’s resume, though the Tide was competitive.

In league play, blowout losses at Auburn, at Tennessee, and at Kentucky have become major stains on Alabama's reputation as an elite team.

As much value as another conference championship would bring to the program, a win tonight would serve to benefit the current Alabama basketball team in another way. Beating Tennessee, even at home, would add some punch to the Tide’s resume and prove that it belongs in those conversations regarding the true contenders in the sport.