TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A couple of hundred fans gathered outside of Coleman Coliseum to welcome the 2021 Southeastern Conference regular-season champion Alabama men's basketball team back home on Saturday night.
They cheered as second-year coach Nate Oats, staff and players exited the bus, sang and celebrated into the night. After 19 years without a conference title, the Crimson Tide's 64-59 defeat of Mississippi State in Starkville was all that the team needed to clinch its eighth regular-season title in program history.
With two games left to go in the regular season, including an add-on game to make up for a previous postponed game due to coronavirus issues, Alabama sits with a record of 19-6. The Crimson Tide will host Auburn next Tuesday before taking a trip to face Georgia in its regular-season finale.
Alabama will then be the 1-seed in the SEC Tournament on March 10. The seeding means the Crimson Tide can skip the first and second rounds, and await the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchup.
Following the win over the Bulldogs, Oats was doused by his players in the locker room. While the coach has iterated over the past week that his team needed to regain its focus and take the season one game at a time, Saturday night was a cause for celebration.
“I got in there and they dumped a bunch of water on me,” Oats said. “They were already celebrating before we got off the floor. They were fired up about it. They knew what was at stake. We didn’t talk about — we were just focused on the game — but they knew.
“They [were] dancing and enjoying it. It’s big. It doesn’t happen very often.”