No. 1 Alabama At No. 10 Tennessee: Is Tide On Its Way To 1st Final Four Ever?

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The Alabama basketball team has a chance to better the football team in the current academic year. That almost never happens.

The Crimson Tide football team did not reach the College Football Playoff Final Four as it finished No. 5 in the final CFP regular season rankings last season. Alabama’s basketball team, meanwhile, is ranked No. 1 in the two major polls (Associated Press media, USA TODAY coaches) for the first time in history as of Monday. Could a top seed in the NCAA Tournament and a Final Four berth be coming soon?

Alabama has won six national championships in football since 2009 under coach Nick Saban. Alabama has never won a national title in basketball.

“It’s nice to be No. 1,” Alabama basketball coach Nate Oats said. “It’s recognition. That’s it. Coach Saban says, ‘It’s rat poison.’ We’ve got to keep our guys locked in. But they’ve put themselves in a good spot. People recognize we’re one of the better programs in the country right now.”

Alabama Playing For NCAA Tournament Seeding

If Alabama (22-3, 12-0 SEC) stays at or near No. 1 through the SEC Tournament (March 8-12 in Nashville), it will likely receive a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament. The Tide plays at No. 10 Tennessee (19-6, 8-4) on Wednesday (7 p.m., ESPN2).

Alabama forward Brandon Miller (left) and teammate Nimari Burnett defend a shot from Auburn’s Chris Moore on Saturday at Auburn during Alabama’s 77-69 win. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)

“Theoretically, you can get the easiest path to the Final Four with a No. 1 seed,” Oats said. “There’s meaning to that.”

Especially since Alabama has never been to the Final Four despite the legendary status of former coaches C.M. Newton and Wimp Sanderson along with 11 SEC regular season titles and eight SEC Tournament crowns. The closest Alabama got was one Elite Eight in 2004 when the No. 8 seed Tide and coach Mark Gottfried lost 87-71 to No. 2 seed Connecticut. Oats’ 2020-21 team won the SEC regular-season championship.

The last time Alabama was No. 1 in the AP poll was December of 2002 under Gottfried. It quickly fell and eventually lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament as a No. 10 seed to No. 7 seed Indiana and finished 17-12.

Alabama Enters Tennessee On A Roll

This Alabama team is one win away from its most wins in school history through 26 games. The Tide beat Auburn, 77-69, on the road Saturday before a packed and raucous house for its fourth straight win, dropping the formerly ranked Tigers to 17-8 and 7-5.

“I know it was their Super Bowl, so it was nice to come win over here,” Oats said. “It’s great. It’s what makes college basketball different than the NBA. You’re not going to get this passion out of the fan base in an NBA game.”

Auburn became the first school from the state of Alabama to reach the Final Four just four years ago.


Alabama has continued to win despite the distraction of a former player from this year’s team awaiting a preliminary hearing on a capital murder charge.

Darius Miles, 21, was removed from the team last month after being charged with capital murder on Jan. 15 along with non-player Michael Lynn Davis, 20. They are charged in the murder of 23-year-old Jamea Jonae Harris, who was visiting her cousin and boyfriend in Tuscaloosa. Miles and Davis’ preliminary hearing is set for Feb. 21.

“The fans should be proud of this team we’ve put on the floor,” Oats said. “It (being No. 1) is nice to use in recruiting. It’s nice to use with your fan base. But as far as being rated No. 1 meaning you’re able to beat Tennessee – nothing. We’re probably going to get the best version of Tennessee that anybody has gotten all year.”

Tennessee was No. 6 at this time last week before back-to-back, one-point losses on 3-pointers at the buzzer – 66-65 at Vanderbilt on Feb. 8 and 86-85 to Missouri on Saturday.

Alabama And Tennessee Both Have Final Four Capability

Alabama and Tennessee together have nine wins over top 25 teams. The Tide beat No. 1 North Carolina and Houston, No. 12 Michigan State, No. 15 Arkansas and No. 21 Mississippi State. Tennessee beat No. 3 Kansas, No. 10 Texas, No. 13 Maryland and No. 25 Auburn.

This Alabama-Tennessee game has been circled on the calendar for several weeks now.

Tennessee coach Rick Barnes has lost his last two games on three-pointers at the buzzer. (Getty Images).

“I’m going to ask if I can take off and go see this game,” LSU radio analyst and former coach John Brady said after Tennessee won 77-56 at LSU on Jan. 21.

Brady also saw Alabama beat LSU, 106-66, in Tuscaloosa on Jan. 14. LSU lost its 13th straight on Tuesday night at Georgia, 62-61, and is last in the SEC at 1-12 and 12-14 overall.

“There is a handful of teams that I’ve seen in person and watched on TV that could go to the Final Four,” said Brady, who took LSU to the Final Four in 2006. “And Alabama is definitely one of those, and Tennessee, depending on the draw, is the same way.”

Tennessee also has never reached a Final Four despite its winning tradition under Ray Mears and Bruce Pearl, 10 SEC regular season titles and five SEC Tournament crowns. The closest the Volunteers got was one Elite Eight in 2010 under Pearl when the No. 6 seed Vols lost to No. 5 seed Michigan, 70-69, on a free throw in the final seconds. Tennessee coach Rick Barnes won the 2018 SEC regular season title and the SEC Tournament crown last season.

“Tennessee could be a Sweet 16, Elite Eight,” Brady said. “Then it’s a matter of match-ups and not getting anybody injured.”

Alabama Center Charles Bediako Questionable

Alabama center Charles Bediako is questionable after injuring his knee at Auburn. Bediako averages 5.6 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.6 blocked shots a game.

Alabama 6-foot-9 freshman forward Brandon Miller leads the SEC in scoring with 18.8 points a game, and Tennessee sophomore guard Zakai Zeigler is No. 2 in the conference in assists with 5.4 a game.

The game will match the nation’s No. 6 scoring offense in Alabama at 83.4 points a game vs. the No. 3 scoring defense in Tennessee at 56.3 points allowed a game.

Alabama Is Not Afraid To Shoot

“Certainly, Alabama does it in a flashier way – how it shoots the three, and they run up and down the floor more than Tennessee,” Brady said. “But I prefer the style Tennessee plays. Great in half-court defense. They give you one shot. They’ll take the break if they have it.”

Alabama is No. 4 in the nation in three-point attempts at 29.5 a game and No. 7 in three-pointers made at 10.4. Alabama is No. 1 in the nation in rebounding with 44.4 a game, while Tennessee is No. 9 with 39.9.

“Alabama is the most explosive team I’ve seen,” Brady said. “And Nate Oats, he doesn’t talk much about bad shots. It’s either a three or a layup. But I like both teams.”

Written by Glenn Guilbeau

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