Through the first half of the 2023-24 season, Alabama Basketball has yet to notch a signature win. The Crimson Tide has beaten up on teams it should beat, but has consistenly struggled against top competition.
Most recently, Bama fell by 20 points on the road at Tennessee for its first SEC loss. It has a golden opportunity to neutralize that Quadrant I loss when a top-10 Auburn team comes to town on Wednesday.
The Tigers, now ranked no. 8 in this week’s AP Poll, are riding an 11-game winning streak heading into this rivalry bout. Auburn sits atop the SEC standings with a 5-0 conference record, trailed closely by Alabama, Kentucky, and Tennessee, all of whom are 4-1.
Tennessee already has the tie-breaker over Alabama Basketball (at least until it comes to Tuscaloosa), but a win over Auburn would keep the Tide in prime position to contend for a second-straight SEC regular season crown.
Perhaps just as important as the SEC standings, Bama hoops needs a big win to establish some momentum. Alabama has looked impressive at times, but it has yet to beat a ranked opponent. Taking down a top-10 rival in Coleman Coliseum would do wonders for the morale and confidence of the program, both within the building and throughout the fan base.
Unlike Alabama Basketball, Auburn did not exactly play a tough non-conference schedule. To give Bruce Pearl’s Tigers credit, they did open the season against a good team in Baylor and were competitive in a losing effort. Also on Auburn’s resume are lopsided wins over Virginia Tech, USC and Indiana out of conference, as well as a baffling road loss to Appalachian State.
In SEC play, Auburn has blowout wins over Ole Miss and Arkansas, and a double-digit victory over Texas A&M. Impressively, the Tigers have won all five of their conference games by at least 11 points.
It’s not exactly a top-10 resume in terms of quality of wins, but, like Alabama, Auburn has mostly taken care of business against inferior competition on its way to a 16-2 overall record.
As the rankings currently stand, Alabama Basketball has just four more opportunities against ranked opponents. This includes a home-and-home with Auburn, a rematch with Tennessee, and a tough late-February matchup at Kentucky.
Bama Hoops would do well to add a quality win this week against Auburn. It would be significant with respect to the SEC title race, and would add some legitimacy to Bama’s NCAA tournament resume.
Even without these larger scale factors in play, it’s just always nice to beat Bruce Pearl and Auburn.