The Alabama basketball season is off to a great start thus far, with the Crimson Tide sitting at 7-1 and their only loss coming in the Phil Knight Invitational to current #4 UCONN. At the invitational, they secured quality wins over Michigan State and UNC. But on Saturday, they face by far their toughest test yet in what will likely be their most difficult game of the season with a true road game against the undefeated and top-ranked Houston Cougars.
Alabama defeated Houston at Coleman Coliseum last season in a thriller, and the Cougars would end up advancing all the way to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament, where their season would end with a close loss to Villanova. After quality regular season wins last year against teams like Houston, Baylor, and Gonzaga, Alabama’s season would sputter and end in disappointment with a first-round exit in March.
This year’s team, however, has a completely new look to them. Increased guard depth is supplied by Ohio transfer Mark Sears as well as talented freshman Jaden Bradley, and the team has much more size and in turn appears to be defending and rebounding at a much better rate than last season. Freshman sensation Brandon Miller brings an excitement to the program on both sides of the ball that they have not seen in a long time.
As for this weekend, the matchup against Houston will show a lot about what kind of team this will end up being. The Tide will likely be big underdogs, and to be frank, I really don’t expect them to win the game. But if they show some fight and show they at least belong on the court with a team like Houston, the confidence will carry over. Don’t forget the factor as well that the Cougars will be looking for revenge after last year’s game ended somewhat controversially.
Alabama should be looking at this game as an opportunity to prove that they are a program that has arrived in college basketball’s upper echelon. If they get smoked, well then they still have a ways to go. But if they could somehow pull it out, it would be the most impressive win of the Nate Oats era so far.