Posted on June 18, 2017, by Travis Pulver
Ask anyone who the favorite to win the national title in college football next season is and most fans will say Alabama. They have only been winning it or contending for it for the last decade. But if you ask those same fans about Alabama’s basketball team, and they’ll probably say something like,” Oh—Alabama has a basketball team?”
The answer to that is, of course, yes—and next season they could even be pretty good—maybe even a contender (maybe).
Unlike their football counterparts, the Alabama basketball team does not have a history of success. It has never won a national championship and won its last conference championship in 2002. Alabama has only made it as far as the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament (2004).
In fact, they haven’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2012 (lost in first round). The last two seasons they couldn’t even make it past the first round of the NIT. Last year, they finished with a 19-15 record in head coach Avery Johnson’s second season.
These guys are going to be a contender next season? As surprising as it may sound—yes.
Alabama was one of those teams you probably didn’t watch. That is, you didn’t watch them unless the game you wanted to see was coming on next. But they were better than a 19-15 record would indicate. They beat South Carolina twice and even gave Kentucky a run for their money in the SEC Tournament semifinals.
To be fair, they lost plenty of games against unimpressive teams. Teams on the rise are going to do that from time to time.
One of the good things about not being a traditional powerhouse is that players tend to return rather than enter the draft early. Last year’s star players, Braxton Key and Dazon Ingram, will be back for their sophomore seasons. Daniel Giddens, the one-time jewel of Ohio State’s 2015 class, is expected to make an impact at center.
They’ll be joined by a recruiting class that includes one of the top players in the nation in Collin Sexton.
How good is Sexton? He averaged 34 points, 8.3 assists, eight rebounds and 3.3 steals per 40 minutes during the FIBA U17 World Championships last year. For his efforts, he was named MVP. Sexton was also one of the stars of the 2017 McDonald’s All-American Game and the Nike Hoop Summit.
But can Avery Johnson have these guys ready to roll with the perennial contenders? Can they take on Kentucky, Duke, and Louisville who are 10-1 favorites to win it all next season? What about North Carolina, Gonzaga, Kansas, or Villanova (12-1)? What about the non-perennial contenders like Indiana (20-1), West Virginia (25-1), Baylor (50-1), or Oregon (60-1)?
Vegas is willing to say they may have a shot but not a great one. Odds on Alabama winning it all next year opened at +5000 (win $5000 on a $100 bet). They can now be found ranging from +5800 to +6600.
So, yeah, the odds may be a little long. But that doesn’t mean they can’t give the usual suspects a run for their money.