Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

How the 2024 Alabama men’s basketball team finally got it right to make first Final Four

CW / David Gray
Alabama fell to San Diego State in the Sweet 16 during last year’s tournament.

In recent memory, the Alabama Crimson Tide men’s basketball team has fallen short of the promised land year after year. A Final Four appearance has eluded the team since the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985.  

This year, the streak is finally over. Here is a look at the team’s closest runs and how they shape up next to the magical run that the Crimson Tide is on this season. 

The 2024 NCAA Tournament berth for Alabama was the program’s 25th and just the second time that the Crimson Tide has made it to the Elite Eight or further. Before this season, 2004 was the last time Alabama appeared in the tournament with eight teams remaining. That year, the Crimson Tide finished with a .500 record in SEC play and sneaked into the tournament as an 8-seed.  

In the first round, Alabama faced 9-seed Southern Illinois and squeaked out a 1-point victory. In the second round, the Crimson Tide took on the top-seeded Stanford Cardinal, resulting in a massive upset in favor of Alabama to secure its spot in the Sweet 16.  

The Crimson Tide then rolled to victory over 5-seed Syracuse, clinching its first Elite Eight appearance in program history. All good things would end, though, as the Cinderella run stopped versus 2-seed UConn.  

Following the 2004 campaign, the Crimson Tide won just one tournament game between 2004 and 2017. In 2018, with future NBA star Colin Sexton leading the Crimson Tide in scoring, Alabama finally won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time in 14 years, versus 8-seed Virginia Tech.  

Unfortunately, the Crimson Tide was bounced in the round of 32, getting trounced by Villanova, the top seed and the eventual national champions.  

The tide began to turn in 2019 when Alabama hired Nate Oats to be its head coach, hoping to bring Crimson Tide basketball back to the forefront of the sports world.  

“The football program has set the standard of excellence around here at the highest possible level you can set for anything. We’re going to work our tails off every day to get this thing rolling in that direction,” Oats said during his introductory press conference. 

After a shaky first season, the Crimson Tide exploded in 2020. Alabama not only made the NCAA Tournament, but it won the SEC regular-season (first time since 2002) and tournament (first since 1991) championships.  

A loss as a 2-seed in the Sweet 16 was a step in the right direction for Alabama, but the goal of the Final Four was still left unachieved.  

“Let’s not forget this feeling. We’re a lot better team than this. You got to be great every night in March,” Oats said following the team’s loss to UCLA in the 2021 Sweet 16. 

The following year yielded disappointment for the Crimson Tide, as the team ended the season riding a four-game losing streak, including in the first round of the NCAA Tournament versus Notre Dame.  

The following season looked like the year that Alabama would get over the hump and at least return to the Elite Eight. With a future top-three NBA draft pick in Brandon Miller and a team loaded with talent, Alabama looked unstoppable for the better part of the season. The Crimson Tide coasted to an SEC regular-season title and the SEC Tournament championship. This earned the team the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, making Alabama the popular pick to cut down the nets in April.  

The Crimson Tide opened the tournament with back-to-back dominant wins over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Maryland. When it finally came time to punch its ticket to the Elite Eight for the first time in 19 years, though, the Crimson Tide fell short, getting stunned by 5-seed San Diego State.  

“It’s just one of those deals where I’m going to go back to the drawing board, see what I can get better at. … We’re doing pretty good things at Alabama and we’re going to continue to get better,” Oats said following the loss. 

“Getting better,” however, seemed easier said than done. Alabama lost a lot of talent to both the transfer portal and the NBA draft, leading many to count out the Crimson Tide before the 2023-24 season even began.  

Alabama finished the 2024 regular season losing three of its last four, including a blowout loss to Florida in the Crimson Tide’s first game of the SEC Tournament. All hope looked lost headed into the Big Dance, but anything is possible in March. With back-to-back gutsy wins to kick off the NCAA Tournament, the Crimson Tide was rolling. Alabama was once again in the Sweet 16 with seemingly insurmountable odds against 1-seed North Carolina, but the Crimson Tide found a way to pull off a huge upset versus the Atlantic Coast Conference regular-season champions, clinching its first Elite Eight berth since 2004.  

In the Elite Eight, Alabama was tasked with taking down a team that it had lost to on its home floor just four months prior to advance to the program’s first-ever Final Four. The 6-seed Clemson Tigers were also looking to punch their ticket to a school-first Final Four appearance. In the end, Alabama finished the job and earned the right to play UConn with a trip to the national championship at stake.  

“Man, I couldn’t be more proud of a group of guys. We challenged them at the beginning of this tournament that we’re going to have to pick up our defense. Our defense got significantly better, and they’ve just been all about winning,” Oats said following the victory. 

More to Discover