Alabama Crimson Tide mascot “Big Al” preforms in the second half against the Grand Canyon Antelopes at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena. Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The state of Alabama is known for two things: bad politics and football.

I grew up in a state that is known for its football tradition. This is a state that produced the likes of Bear Bryant and Bo Jackson. My state has dominated the college football world, especially over the past two decades. While the Alabama Crimson Tide dominated the world of college football, the Auburn Tigers were no slouches. Between 2009 and 2021, one of those two schools played for the national title 11 times.

However, basketball has been making its mark in the state as well. Alabama had four teams in the 2024 NCAA Men’s Tournament teams this year: Alabama, Auburn, the Samford Bulldogs, and UAB Blazers. Three out of those four won their conference tournament and one, Alabama, is going to the Sweet 16.

Growing up, I was not only an Alabama football fan, but also an Alabama basketball fan. I know how much Alabama and Auburn basketball fans were starving to have good basketball again.

We had that with Wimp Sanderson and Sonny Smith. Wimp and Sonny brought basketball to a new level in Alabama and they recruited some of the best players in the country. But then, things fell off.

Bama, Auburn, and UAB all went through several changes at head coach, but now it seems they’ve figured it out.

Bruce Pearl was the perfect fit for Auburn after he left the Tennessee Volunteers. He elevated the program to levels they had never been before. The Tigers made the Final Four five years ago, no other major men’s college basketball program in this state has done that since. The furthest any men’s team had made it to was the Elite Eight. When Auburn stepped up their game in basketball, Alabama knew it had to keep pace.

Alabama had hired former NBA head coach Avery Johnson, and although Johnson got the Tide to the first round of the NCAA Tournament, an embarrassing first-round NIT loss at home to Northfolk State the next season meant it was time to move on.  After that loss, Alabama decided to go after University of Buffalo head coach Nate Oats, who wasn’t widely known at the time. He is now, however.

Oats has led the Tide to two out of the last three SEC titles, (both regular season and SEC Tournament) and has led Alabama to the Sweet 16 in back-to-back seasons, which hasn’t happened in over 30 years.

Oats and Pearl are hot commodities but they seem to be happy where they are. Plus, both schools being good in basketball has made the rivalry almost as intense as the football one (Almost…).

Next, it was UAB’s turn and they finally found a fit with Andy Kennedy. Kennedy was a star player for the Blazers back in the 1990s and coached at Ole Miss, but he has now helped turn UAB around too.

The next great coach from Alabama may be Bucky McMillan. Samford almost became the Cinderella in the tournament when they nearly took out the Kansas Jayhawks. Don’t be surprised if McMillan gets a major gig in the next few years.

The state of college basketball in the state of Alabama is looking pretty good.

About Stacey Mickles

Stacey is a 1995 graduate of the University of Alabama who has previously worked for other publications such as Sportskeeda and Saturday Down South.