TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — On Monday afternoon, Alabama men’s basketball was announced to be ranked in both polls for the first time since 2017.
The Crimson Tide is No. 16 in the latest Ferris Mowers Coaches Poll, while the team sits at No. 18 in the AP Top 25. Alabama has won seven-consecutive games, topped off with road wins at Tennessee, Auburn and Kentucky and a strong home performance against Arkansas.
Minutes before hopping on a plane with his team to head to Baton Rouge for Tuesday night’s game at LSU, Alabama coach Nate Oats said that to him, it is important that his team not get distracted by the latest rankings.
“This is things that I keep telling them: ‘I’m going to be coaching for a long time but you guys get a one-time chance to play college basketball,’” Oats said. “So, they’re doing a real good job of it now so to get recognized they can 20 years from now talk about where they were ranked and all that but for right now — today — it really doesn’t mean anything. It just means that we’ve been playing pretty good but shoot that can all go out the window in one game.
“We’ve just gotta keep doing what we’ve been doing and keep focused on the task at hand [and] not — it’s really a distraction if you think about it for more than about 5-10 seconds. So keep the distractions away and just keep working — doing what we’ve been doing here.”
And Oats is absolutely right. Despite the Crimson Tide’s recent success, it will have its hands full on Tuesday night. LSU is currently 10th in the nation in scoring offense — first in the SEC. While Alabama has quickly developed one of the best defenses in the country, the loss of grad-student forward Jordan Bruner due to a torn meniscus will be crucial against the Tigers’ bigs.
That being said, for now the Crimson Tide is happy that they are getting recognition on a national scale. Junior guard Keon Ellis said that while it is nice to receive praise from the polls, his and his team’s job is far from over.
“I think it’s good that we’re getting recognized nationally,” Ellis said. “It hasn’t been too much of a focal point for our team. We just go in every night, just play our game — just win. Everything will take care of itself, but I don’t think the team is really thinking too much of it. It’s good that we’re ranked but you know as fast as we got ranked it can get taken away from us next game if we lose.
“So don’t really think too much about it just come out and play like we’ve been playing and just keep going up.”
Also on Monday, Alabama senior guard John Petty Jr. was named both the SEC Men’s Basketball Player of the Week as well as the NCAA Player of the Week. Both honors come after Petty accounted for 23 points at Kentucky last Tuesday, followed by 17 points against Arkansas on Saturday.
Oats is glad that Petty is getting national attention along with the team.
“Congratulations to Petty — he got National Player of the Week from a few different [institutions]. I think it’s great for him,” Oats said. “He’s been about the right stuff since Christmas really. Since our winning streak started he’s been playing great.
“It’s good for the guys. For them to get recognition is great.”