Alabama Basketball Still on Pace for Storybook Season
The Alabama men's basketball team fell to the Oklahoma Sooners in blowout fashion on Saturday. The Sooners dominated the game from start to finish, punishing the Crimson Tide with physicality and a scorching hot offensive performance.
With the 93-69 loss, Alabama (18-3, 8-0) lost its No. 2 ranking in the AP Poll, dropping back to fourth place behind rival Tennessee.
This was the Tide's first loss since a December 17th contest in Birmingham against Gonzaga and its only unranked loss to date. Unlike the first two losses however, the outcome of the Oklahoma game was never really in doubt.
Despite the blowout loss that occurred on the heels of an unexpectedly close home game with Mississippi State, the Tide still sits in prime position to achieve all the goals that lie ahead of the team
First, Alabama remains unbeaten in conference play which will almost assuredly reach over 20 wins and controls its own destiny for the SEC regular season, tournament and March Madness.
In addition, the Tide are still currently projected as a No. 1 seed in most experts bracket forecasts.
Every year, there are teams that dominate the regular season that get bounced in the first or second round by a veteran-heavy mid-major squad in the Big Dance. Many times, a team that would not have even been in March Madness without a conference tournament.
Couple that with the fact no team has gone unbeaten since 1976 Indiana and it's understandable why a few hiccups will happen along the way.
Luckily for Alabama, a stacked non-conference schedule and resume will work wonders in the eyes of the selection committee in March. Handle business at home, win a few tough matchups on the road, and get hot at the right time to advance through the dance.
With the Tide's quick-strike offense and offensive rebounding ability, all of this is certainly obtainable. Alabama looked its best the first three weeks of conference play, winning every SEC contest up until Wednesday's Mississippi State game, by double digits.
Youthfulness caught up to the Tide in Norman on Saturday, but veteran leadership from former Ohio Bobcats guard Mark Sears and the rehabbing Jahvon Quinerly will be crucial down the stretch and into March.
Given all that Alabama has already accomplished, the Oklahoma game can become a measly blip on the radar with a win over Vanderbilt on Tuesday night.
Fans should expect a big bounce-back game in Coleman Coliseum this week, which would extinguish the newly birthed flames surrounding the team's status.
In basketball, it's not always about how you start out of the gate, as fans have seen with teams such as Creighton (13-8) and UConn (16-6) in the Big East already thus far.
Computer programs such as KenPom and SonyMoore love the Blue Jays and Huskies, despite their midseason fall from the top ranks. While a big run down the stretch could be possible, each of these teams have badly damaged their seeding prospects over the last few weeks by pilling up losses.
Statistics show that the national champion is often one of the higher seeded and consistent teams in the bracket, although a sleeping giant like 2021-22 North Carolina or 2013-14 Kentucky can heat up at the right time to make a run to the national championship game.
For Alabama, a program that has not gone to three-straight NCAA Tournaments since the five-year stretch of early 2000's success under Mark Gotfried, what Oats is doing in Tuscaloosa is nothing short of incredible. The Tide has both an SEC regular season and SEC Tournament championship under Oats, in addition to a Sweet 16 appearance.
Alabama will look to advance as far as the Elite Eight, for the first time since the 2003-04 season with Brandon Miller, Noah Clowney and Sears leading the way.
Saturday was a less-than-ideal outcome for the Tide, but it happened to be its only January loss to date. Ironically enough, Alabama is averaging one loss per month, as the Tide fell to UConn in November and Gonzaga in December.
If the Tide continues that trend into March, a No. 1 seed is just about a formality.
Before we cast too many stones at Alabama for its embarrassing loss in Norman Saturday, let's also remember the team has been dealing with some unfortunate outside circumstances the past few weeks.
Given the hardships surrounding the program and the short rest heading into Saturday's game, it's easy to see it was not the Tide's day.
Everything Alabama hopes to achieve this season is still on the table which strengthens confidence that the Tide will be dialed in for the next few games.
With a No. 5 rating in KenPom, a No. 4 NET ranking, a No. 4 AP Poll rank and the No. 2 overall spot in Joe Lunardi's 'Bracketology,' all this proves is that Saturday was not a clear indicator of the Tide's true self.
It is not often a team like Alabama, which is rated the best offensively by ShotQuality, will shoot 27.3% from beyond the arc and 37.9% from the field, in addition to 61.9% from the charity stripe.
The starters for the Tide combined to score just 35 points with Miller and Sears only netting 11 points each.
Coupled with the three-point woes were a lackluster defensive effort, due in large part to the inability to score early on.
Alabama had not let a team score 70+ since the loss to Gonzaga and is 1-3 on the season when allowing 80+ in regulation.
A few more plays on defense and some better luck should turn this around in due time.
ShotQuality, a highly driven data analysis program that predicts college basketball, expected the Tide to win in Norman on Saturday despite losing by 24. This means that based on the shots taken by both Alabama and Oklahoma, the Tide would win in 65% of simulations.
As anyone who watched the game could see, everything went right for the Sooners and wrong for the Tide. Sure, the box score may not look pretty, but it was just a single game and one with plenty of quirkiness to it.
Alabama is going to be just fine.
In the words of Bob Marley, "Don't worry about a thing, 'Cause every little thing gonna be all right."
Tonight's game will be broadcast on Tide 100.9 FM at 7:30 p.m. CT.