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Basketball World Beware, Alabama Basketball Chasing History: All Things CW

The Crimson Tide may have a proud basketball tradition, but Nate Oats' latest team could end up being the best in program history as it starts to eye March Madness.

The All Things CW notes column by Christopher Walsh appears in five parts, with the latest on the Alabama Crimson Tide. This is ...

Take 4

The Alabama Crimson Tide basketball team has played 16 games, and with a minimum of 17 to go Saturday's visit by LSU is the closest thing we get to call the midway point of the 2022-23 season. 

Alabama is 14-2 overall, and 4-0 in the brutal Southeastern Conference, which has seven ranked teams this week, and two more on knocking on the door. 

But those four league wins were especially telling, and not just because Alabama took it to a very talented Kentucky team that was favored to win the conference title, 78-52. 

Alabama opened SEC play with an impressive 78-67 victory at then-No. 21 Mississippi State, and then dominated Ole Miss at home, 84-62. What the 84-69 win at Arkansas may have lacked in pizazz, it more than made up for in quality as the No. 15 Razorbacks are tough, especially at home.

Arkansas had won 17 straight game there, dating back to Jan. 4 last year (against Vanderbilt) and overall was 175-68 (.720) against SEC opponents in Bud Walton Arena. 

Alabama was simply too much for Eric Musselman's squad that was coming off a loss and desperate for a win, just like it has been for any team not named Gonzaga or Connecticut. Moreover, the Crimson Tide has obviously improved since suffering its two losses. 

Remember in November when everyone thought that Alabama's suffocating defense might be its best asset? And then guard Nimari Burnett got hurt?

The Crimson Tide adapted. 

Brandon Miller has simply been outstanding, the only freshmen in the country that has scored 300 points and recorded 130 rebounds this season. When Arkansas did everything it could to limit him, he didn't lose his cool. He found other ways to contribute. 

"I think he’s grown up," Alabama coach Nate Oats said after the game. "In the past, when he couldn’t get a shot – I mean, he didn’t get a shot attempt in the first half – he’d get a little frustrated. But when they’re gonna play him like that, it opens the floor up for everybody else."

The other freshmen are growing up as well. 

Meanwhile, guard Jahvon Quinerly is playing with more confidence. Coming off a knee injury hasn't been easily, but he's making big-time contributions on both ends of the court.  

"Quinerly is really coming along on the defensive end, I’m really happy for him defensively,: Oats said. "If you look at the game, he’s a plus-13 when he was in tonight, and he only played 11 minutes because he had foul trouble. He had four fouls. I thought he was good."

The statistical key of late has been turnovers. The kinds of mistakes that plagued this team in November are now rarely seen. 

Alabama is still getting better. It has talent, drive and, so far, determination, and we haven't seen it at it's best yet. 

Consequently, the Crimson Tide has played its way to the doorstep of history, and has already made some. Alabama became the first team since the 1965-66 season to beat two teams ranked No. 1 (North Carolina on Nov. 27 and Houston on Dec. 10) before New Year’s Day.

But that may have been just a beginning for this team. 

For example, the program record for wins is 28 (1986-87), when the Crimson Tide only took five losses and went 16-2 in league play. Wimp Sanderson's squad lost in an NCAA regional semifinal. 

This team's winning percentage of .875 is Alabama's best in the modern era. We have to say that because the 1929-30 squad went a perfect 20-0. It finished Southern League play 10-0, one game ahead of Duke and Kentucky in the standings.  

To give an idea of how much the game has changed since then, Alabama's season high for scoring that season was 40 points. The NCAA Tournament wasn't created until 1939, a year after the NIT was founded — and was considered the bigger event into the 1950s. 

The 1933-34 team went 16-2 under Hank Crisp (.889), and the 1955-56 Crimson Tide coached by Johnny Dee finished 21-3 (.875). That was 67 years ago.  

Mark Gottfried's team in 2002-03 did hit No. 1 in the AP Top 25 for two weeks in December, but then went below .500 in SEC play and ended up unranked at the end. 

Alabama's best finish in the AP poll was No. 5, twice, 1955-56 and then just a couple of years ago, when the Crimson Tide lost in the Sweet 16 after being a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Alabama has never been a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, which is where most bracketologists now project Alabama to be on Selection Sunday in two months (March 12). It's been a No. 2 seed three times ( 1987, 2002 and 2021), but has never successfully advanced out of its regional. 

The program's best showing was the Elite Eight in 2004, when it knocked off No. 1 Stanford and then lost to tournament champion Connecticut. That marked one of its eight regional-semifinal appearances. 

This team could change all that. 

It has the potential to be the best Crimson Tide team in history.

See Also:

Take 1: For First Time in CFP era, Champion Didn't Have to go Through Alabama

Take 2: 2023 College Football Hall of Fame Class Stellar, but Shows Glaring Problem

Take 3Why Bears Having First Pick Makes it More Likely Bryce Young Goes No. 1