Men’s basketball returns home to take on Houston


CW / Davida Franklin

Alabama men’s basketball faces South Alabama on Nov. 16, 2021.

Austin Hannon, Staff Reporter

Following its win over No. 5 Gonzaga, the Crimson Tide have moved back into the AP Top 25 at No. 9.

What’s next? A meeting with another top team, the No. 14 Houston Cougars (8-1).

The Crimson Tide (7-1) started 4-0 at home, but haven’t played at Coleman Coliseum since Nov. 19.

“We’re pretty excited about it,” Alabama guard Jaden Shackelford said. “Ready to be back in front of our fans.”

After losing to Iona, there was doubt about this Alabama team, which fell to No. 16 in the poll. But after a convincing win in Seattle over Mark Few’s Bulldogs, the Crimson Tide are ranked the highest that they have been all season.

Alabama has another opportunity to secure a meaningful win, but it won’t be easy.

Houston won’t beat itself. The Cougars rank 15th in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio. The Cougars are also one of the best teams in the country on the defensive end; Houston is ranked second in the nation in points allowed, allowing only 53.4 points per game.

The Cougars are off to an 8-1 start this season and, like Alabama, have played some good teams.

Houston beat Virginia 67-47 to start 3-0. The Cougars then traveled to Las Vegas for the Maui Invitational and, like Alabama, had to learn from a loss.

The Cougars beat Butler to set up a matchup with the Wisconsin Badgers. Houston lost in a close one to the Badgers, who would eventually win the tournament crown. Houston wrapped up its road trip with a 29-point win over Oregon.

Before heading to Tuscaloosa, the Cougars returned home for three games. They didn’t mess around. Houston won its last three games by a combined 140 points.

Now, just two weeks before Christmas, comes a marquee matchup in Tuscaloosa. Saturday’s game will be the first top-15 matchup in Coleman Coliseum since 2007.

Guards lead both teams on the offensive end. Alabama’s Jaden Shackelford is averaging 19.3 points per game. Houston’s Marcus Sasser is averaging 17.7 points per game. 

The game may come down to who else on each side can contribute at a high level. Fellow Alabama guards Jahvon Quinerly and Keon Ellis are also averaging double-digit points. Houston guards Kyler Edwards and Tramon Mark combine for almost 25 points per game. Both Sasser and Ellis also lead their respective teams in steals per game.

Like many of the coaches the Crimson Tide have faced this season, Cougars head coach Kelvin Sampson has quite the resume. He is in his eighth year with the program and has a career record of 667-334. Last year, Sampson led the Cougars to a 28-4 record and an appearance in the Final Four.

“It’s gonna be a tough game,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. “[Houston is] one of the hardest playing teams in the country. Coach Sampson does a great job getting them to play hard. They’ve got a great defensive system there. We’re gonna get tested in different ways than we’ve been tested before.”

The matchup for Alabama and Houston is set for Saturday, Dec. 11, at 9 p.m. CT on ESPN2.

The doors will open at 7:30 p.m. CT so fans can watch the Heisman Trophy presentation. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young is expected to take home the award.