Alabama basketball moves to AP No. 1 for first time in 20 years

Mathey Gibson, Staff Reporter

There’s a new king atop the mountain, at least for now. 

On Monday, previously third-ranked Alabama found itself in uncharted waters —supplanting Purdue University and the University of Houston to grab the No. 1 spot in this week’s AP men’s basketball poll. 

Purdue, led by Naismith Player of the Year frontrunner Zach Edey, dropped to No. 3 following a weekend loss to the Northwestern Wildcats, their second falter to a conference opponent in three games. 

While Houston received 22 first-place votes, it was not enough to topple the Crimson Tide, who defeated Kelvin Sampson’s squad 71-65 on Dec. 10 in Houston – a deciding factor in the voter’s eyes. 

“It’s great recognition for our guys,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. “They’ve worked hard. They’ve put themselves in a good spot where people in the country recognize that we’re one of the better teams, one of the better programs in the country right now.” 

While Oats was appreciative of the newfound acclaim, the fourth-year head coach pushed back on the ranking’s significance to the team itself. 

“It’s nice to be [number] one. It really doesn’t mean anything, though,” Oats said. “It doesn’t help you win an SEC championship. It’s recognition, that’s it. Coach Saban says it’s rat poison. We’ve got to keep our guys locked in. The real task at hand today is how do we prepare for Tennessee, who’s going be more than ready to go after losing two games on buzzer-beaters. We’re probably going get the best version of Tennessee that anybody’s gotten all year after those two losses.” 

After defeating Auburn 77-69 on Saturday at Neville Arena, the Crimson Tide is set to hit the road once more, this time battling border-state rival Tennessee – a matchup that could ultimately help decide the SEC regular-season. 

“It’s nice to use in recruiting, it’s nice to use with your fan base,” Oats said. “The fans should be proud of the team that we’ve put on the floor, they should proud of our guys, they should be supporting our guys at a high level. That stuff’s all great. But as far as being rated No. 1, having to do it beating Tennessee – nothing.” 

Tipoff for No. 1 Alabama and No. 10 Tennessee is set for Wednesday, Feb. 15, at 6 p.m. CT on ESPN2.   

Questions or comments? Email Blake Byler (Sports Editor) at [email protected]