Alabama basketball finally realizes its potential

Kentucky has really tried.

Alabama coach Nate Oats was keen to compliment his team’s breathtaking opponent on Tuesday night, as if the UK were some kind of bad luck that had been lining up at the DMV for six hours.

“Lots of credit in Kentucky,” Oats said. “Obviously, they’re struggling. Thanks to them for competing as hard as they did.

The UK has left its titles and reputation at home, however. Good luck finding them.

Can’t you just feel the love? It’s so pure.

And delicious.

The Alabama No.9 played very well both in offense and defense against the Wildcats, Oats continued, but the Crimson Tide still beat the UK 70-59. Big Blue is an emotion in Kentucky these days more than an alternate nickname for the SEC powerhouse which has more wins in program history than any other team in the country. Young, hand-strapped Kentucky are now 5-10 overall and 4-4 in the SEC.

Alabama’s latest home win sent sports journalists scrambling for the record books. The Tomes of Knowledge tell us that this is the first time that Alabama has taken two from Kentucky in a season since the invention of the World Wide Web (1989).

Don’t be shocked. The Crimson Tide is finally realizing its full potential. Some have tried to tell you that Alabama basketball has better days ahead. It just took a little longer than expected.

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At this point in the display of images from my mind, I imagine Oats walking into an empty Coleman Coliseum and muttering “What about those apples?” Like Matt Damon’s character in “Good Will Hunting”. It’s Oats’ second season at Tuscaloosa, and former Detroit County Airport High School coach Wayne is proving he can forge winners at every level.

Alabama basketball has now won 10 in a row, which is a bit unbelievable. This is the next Pistons for Oats, right?

We could waste time and inches here in this space joking about how this all looks weird and upside down, and that Alabama basketball is entering a golden era, or we could just get down to business. After all, we predicted it from Alabama months ago.

Alabama currently has the best basketball team in the SEC thanks to a combination of things but mostly for these reasons: Herb Jones and John Petty are excellent senior leaders, Alabama has length on the wings for put the defensive kibosh on teams late in the game and, coming in Tuesday, the Crimson Tide led the SEC in just about every stat that matters.

No kidding either.

Alabama raged off an 8-0 start in the SEC leading the league in all of those conference-only categories: attempts (243) and scores (528), three-point attempts (106), three-point marks (252) and three-point percentage (0.421), rebounds (329), assists (126), steals (76) and points (694).

And then Alabama won on a bad night against Kentucky and Oats attributed the victory to Alabama’s team culture. Good teams win on lousy nights. Great teams, however, know that winning the hard way is better than any record breaking blowout.

“We said we were going to win the game on defense,” Oats said. “Our attack was really in trouble. “

We already knew Alabama was tough as a tire iron because Herb Jones demands it every night, but the Crimson Tide put that fact into place with this ugly try-hards win. Oats called Jones the country’s top defenseman in the coach’s post-game Zoom session, and I won’t be the hacker to disagree with that assessment.

Jones had gauze hanging from his left nostril from a bloody nose earlier as he finished the game with free throws. Its normal appearance, in other words.

It’s impossible for me to love a player more than this guy. He puts his body in danger every time. Humble Herb, One-Hand Herb, Keith Askins reincarnated, whatever we call him, he’s writing a legacy this season that will last a long time in Tuscaloosa and in the courts around Alabama.

In many years, Jones’ commemorative Alabama bobblehead will come with all kinds of first aid and gym dirt.

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“I can’t say enough about Jones,” Oats said.

Don’t try me, Coach.

As Oats bragged after the game, Jones was one rebound and two assists away from a triple-double (13-9-8) despite a back pain.

Alabama (14-3 overall and 9-0 in the SEC) now has Oklahoma’s No.24 (10-4, 6-3) on the road this weekend, and Oats mentioned that a non-conference victory on Saturday could help resume construction in March. The Sooners beat No.5 Texas 80-79 on Tuesday. No one is quite set to crown the No.1 seed Alabama yet, but the conversation for a high placement in the NCAA tournament is approaching with a few more wins.

In the end, this one against Kentucky probably won’t matter as much as a second dub against Auburn. The ‘Cats gave him a good effort, however.

Joseph Goodman is a columnist for the Alabama Media Group. He’s on Twitter @JoeGoodmanJr.

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