Alabama Suffers Extremely Painful Sweet Sixteen Exit
It really felt for a while like this year was different for Alabama Basketball. At their peak, the team was without a doubt the best in the nation for large stretches of the season, and it felt like it was beyond capable of making a deep run in the NCAA Tournament. Felt like. Such is the nature of college basketball. Just take a look at the Final Four, for example. Take a look at the fact that for the first time ever, we had an Elite Eight with no #1 seeds in it. The NCAA Tournament is about matchups, and playing your best game for six games in a row.
Sports and sports fandom are both funny in a way. I’m not crazy, I know that nobody feels worse about this loss for Alabama than Nate Oats and the players on the team. But three days removed from Friday, it feels like a loss I will never get over as a fan. After a dreadful first half, Alabama came out on fire to start the second 20 and eventually grabbed a nine-point lead. The Crimson Tide had a chance to step on throats and pull away and simply could not. Sure, there were some questionable calls. But the fact that Alabama had a chance to remove the refs from the game completely and could not means you have no excuse.
To add insult to injury, the Tide shot 3/27 from deep in one of the worst shooting performances of the season, while it felt like down the stretch, the Aztecs couldn’t miss a mid-range if they tried. To further pour salt in the wound, Alabama was able to cut it to a two-point deficit after the game appeared already over and made the unexplainable decision to foul down two with 45 seconds remaining.
This team was so incredibly talented and fun to watch, but that fact only makes this loss more painful. Alabama will never have a team with this much talent again. It will never have a player as spectacular as Brandon Miller again. It’s hard not to ask yourself, if not this year, then when?
If there’s a bright side here, it’s the fact that Nate Oats has raised the standard so much so at Alabama already that a season that had a double-SEC championship and only the 10th Sweet Sixteen appearance in program history is considered to be a disappointment. Alabama will be back in this spot and there will be other opportunities to make it happen. If there’s one thing I’m absolutely sure of, it’s that.
But for now, it stings. And it’s going to sting for a while.