The All Things CW Notes column by Christopher Walsh appears in five parts, most recently in Alabama Crimson Tide. This is it …
The Alabama Crimson Tide basketball team has played 16 games, and with 17 games at least to visit LSU on Saturday is the closest thing we’d call the halfway point of the 2022-23 season.
Alabama is 14-2 overall, and 4-0 in the brutal Southern Conference, which has seven ranked teams this week, and two more teams knocking on the door.
But those four league victories were especially telling, and not just because Alabama took it to a wildly talented Kentucky team that was favored to win the conference title, 78-52.
Alabama opened SEC play with a then impressive 78-67 win. 21 Mississippi State, then dominated Ole Miss at home, 84-62. What the 84-69 win at home to Arkansas might lack in excitement, it more than made up for in quality as the No. 15 Razorbacks are tough, especially at home.
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Alabama was simply too much for Eric Musselman’s team coming off a loss and desperate for a win, just as it has been for any team other than Gonzaga or Connecticut. Moreover, the Crimson Tide has clearly improved since suffering two losses.
Remember in November when everyone thought Alabama’s stifling defense might be their best? And then injured goalkeeper Nemari Burnett?
The Crimson Tide has been adapted.
Brandon Miller was simply amazing, he is the only one in the country who scored 300 points and grabbed 130 rebounds this season. When Arkansas did everything it could to curb him, he didn’t lose his nerve. Find other ways to contribute.
“I think he’s grown up,” Oates said after the game. “In the past, when he couldn’t get a shot — I mean, he didn’t get a shot in the first half — he got a little frustrated. But when they play him like that, he opens the floor for everybody.”
Other freshmen are also getting older.
Meanwhile, goalkeeper Jahvon Quinerly plays with more confidence. Coming out of a knee injury hasn’t been easy, but he makes great contributions on both ends of the field.
“Quinerly really comes in on the defensive end, I’m really happy for him defensively,” Oats said. If you look at the game, he was plus 13 when he was tonight, and he only played 11 minutes because he had an ugly problem. He had four fouls. I thought it was good.”
The statistical key lately has been shifts. The kinds of mistakes that plagued this team in November are now rarely seen.
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Alabama is still getting better. She has talent, drive, and so far, determination, and we haven’t seen her at her best yet.
Thus, the Crimson Tide has made its way to the threshold of history, and has already made some. Alabama became the first team since the 1965-66 season to beat two first-ranked teams (North Carolina on November 27 and Houston on December 10) before New Year’s Day.
But perhaps that was just the beginning for this team.
For example, the program’s record for wins is 28 (1986-1987), when the Crimson Tide had only five losses and went 16-2 in league play. Wimp Sanderson’s team lost in the NCAA Regional Semifinals.
This team’s winning percentage of . 875 is Alabama’s best in the modern era. We have to say that because the 1929-1930 team went 20-0 perfectly. Southern League play finished 10-0, one game ahead of Duke and Kentucky in the standings.
To give an idea of how much the game has changed since then, Alabama’s highest scoring game of the season was 40 points. The NCAA Tournament wasn’t created until 1939, a year after the NIT was founded—and it was considered the biggest event of the 1950s.
The 1933-34 team went 16-2 under coach Hank Crisp (. 889), and the 1955-56 Crimson Tide team coached by Johnny D finished with a score of 21-3 (. 875). That was 67 years ago.
Mark Gottfried’s 2002-03 team reached No. 1 in the AP Top 25 for two weeks in December, but then fell below . 500 in SEC play and ended up unranked in the end.
Alabama’s best finish in the AP Poll was a #5 finish, twice, 1955-56 and then just two years earlier, when the Crimson Tide lost in the Sweet 16 after being a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Alabama has never been a top seed in the NCAA Tournament, as most archers now expect Alabama to be a Sunday pick in two months (March 12). She has been the No. 2 seed three times (1987, 2002, and 2021), but has not successfully advanced outside her region.
The program’s best showing was the Elite Eight in 2004, when it came out of first place at Stanford and then lost to tournament champion Connecticut. It marked one of eight regional semi-final appearances.
This team can change all of that.
He has the potential to be the best Crimson Tide team in history.
take 1: For the first time in the CFP era, the champion did not have to go through the state of Alabama
Take 2: The 2023 College Football Hall of Fame Class is excellent, but it presents a glaring problem
Take 3: Why the Bears’ first pick makes it more likely that Bryce Young will go #1