Now that Alabama basketball 2nd in the AP and Coaches polls and no lower than 3rd and even 1st in the more important rankings (Pomeroy, BPI, KPI, Sagarin, NET, SOR) could be the 22-23 tide to one of the become Alabama Basketball’s best teams of all time?
So far, the answer to “could” is yes. Whether the ’22-23 Crimson Tide will be one of the best on the Tide of all time is another question, and too early to tell.
As the season wraps up, Crimson Tide Roundball fans can debate which Alabama team has been the best of the Tide so far. On a subjective note, there are six Alabama basketball teams that deserve to be included in such a conversation.
To be clear, trying to classify them is a challenge. Unlike Alabama Football, there are no national championships to count. The multiple trips to the NCAA tournament, Sweet Sixteen have yielded only one Elite Eight finish, and that season also ended in loss.
There are six Alabama basketball teams reviewed below. Many may disagree, but the 2003-04 Elite Eight team is not included. Mark Gottfried’s team had a nice one big dance run, but it lost 13 games that season and finished unranked in the polls.
The six teams are not ranked, but listed chronologically, beginning with the earliest earning date.
Alabama Basketball 1929-30 (20-0)
This team predates the NIT and NCAA tournaments. It was retroactively named a National Champion by the little-known Premo-Perretta Power Poll. No National Championship banner hangs in the rafters of the Crimson Tide for the 1929-30 team.
It won the Southern Conference Championship and had four wins in Atlanta, GA in March. In the conference tournament. The Crimson Tide hit Clemson, Georgia, Tennessee and Duke. The highest scoring Alabama had in the four games was 32 points against Tennessee.
Johnny Dee’s Rocket Eight 1955-56 (21-3)
The Crimson Tide had seven (or fewer, depending on the source) games on campus in the ’55-56 season. The three losses came from two away games against North Carolina and St. John’s and a tournament loss in December against Notre Dame in New Orleans.
The Tide played three games in Montgomery, including a stunning 101-77 win over Kentucky. Although Alabama was the undefeated SEC champion, Kentucky was the only SEC team to go to the NCAA tournament. Dee’s starters on the ’56 team all played as freshmen at varsity, making them ineligible players under NCAA rules.
CM Newton 1975-76 (23-5)
Newton slowly built the Crimson Tide into a winner. His 1974 team was SEC co-champion with Vanderbilt. The 1975 team was co-champion with Kentucky. The ’75-76 team was the absolute SEC champion.
In a 32-team NCAA tournament, Alabama beat a strong North Carolina team 79-64 in the first game of the tournament. Unfortunately, the Tide’s next game was undefeated Indiana. Against the Hoosiers, the Crimson Tide led late but lost 74-69. After going undefeated and winning the national championship, Indiana coach Bobby Knight said Alabama was the best team the Hoosiers faced all season.
Wimp Sanderson 1986-87 (28-5)
Alabama won the SEC regular season championship and was the SEC tournament champion. After back-to-back NCAA tournament victories, the Crimson Tide faced a Rick Pitino-coached Providence team that had little chance of beating Alabama.
Providence, led by the three-point shot from Billy ‘the Kid’ Donovan and Delray Brooks, flared the tide from outside the arc. The Friars shot 68.8% for the game, including 14 of 22 threes, and won 103-82.
Sissy Sanderson 1989-90 (26-9)
The Crimson Tide won the SEC tournament again in 1990, their third tournament championship in four seasons. Alabama would win it again in 1991.
Two NCAA tournament wins drove the Crimson Tide high in the Sweet Sixteen. High hopes collapsed with a 62-60 loss to Loyola-Marymount.
Nate Oats 2020-21 (26-7)
Alabama basketball fans remember the highlights of the season well. The Crimson Tide earned the program’s third “double” with a 16-2, SEC regular season record and an SEC tournament championship through an exciting 80-79 win over LSU.
NCAA tournament victories over Iona and Maryland brought the Crimson Tide to the Sweet Sixteen. UCLA, eventual runners-up in the National Championship, beat the Crimson Tide 88-78 in overtime.
Note: Historical records were obtained from RollTide.com and Sports Reference and are limited to before 1975.
Compared to college basketball’s historic elite teams, Final Four appearances are a far cry from the Crimson Tide. However, this could be the year when big dreams come true.