This Alabama basketball team has advantage in Sweet 16 that others didn't | Goodbread
Indiana, North Carolina, N.C. State.
The list of schools that have knocked Alabama basketball out of the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 reads like a list of national champions. And perhaps it should, because after beating Alabama 74-69 in 1976, the Hoosiers went on to win a national crown for legendary coach Bobby Knight. UNC dispatched the Crimson Tide by the same score in the 1982 Sweet 16 and also didn't look back, taking down Georgetown to win it all a couple of weeks later.
UConn ended the deepest NCAA Tournament run in Alabama history − its only Elite Eight showing − and then won a national championship in 2004 with a victory over Georgia Tech. It goes on − Kentucky, Arkansas, UCLA. All programs with national titles that have sent Alabama home in the Sweet 16, even if those three didn't happen to win a crown in the same year.
Many of the top teams in Alabama history have been ousted by some of the sport's bluest bluebloods. But this year's team, two wins away from the first Final Four in program history, can't say the same of its obstacles.
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That's not to say the Crimson Tide's path to the Final Four is easy. Friday's opponent, San Diego State, is one of the top defensive teams in the country and is fully capable of holding Alabama to the lower-scoring affair the Aztecs will no doubt want. SDSU is also loaded with senior experience, much more than Alabama's youthful squad, which has been known to be good for an upset or two in the NCAA tourney.
But with Arizona, Baylor and Virginia − seeds 2 through 4 − all ousted from the South Region already, coach Nate Oats couldn't have asked for a better setup. Awaiting the Alabama-SDSU winner are sixth-seeded Creighton and No. 15-seed Princeton, which has sent plenty of brackets to the trash can already.
Meanwhile, the Midwest Region has gone mostly according to plan, with teams seeded Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 5 all advancing, and in the West, three seeds among the top four also remain alive. Alabama is playing through the region that has seen the most upheaval.
And with that comes higher expectations.
It became evident fairly quickly this season that Alabama likely had the most talented team in school history. The pro careers that spring forth from this gifted collection, starting with star freshman Brandon Miller being an NBA lottery pick this summer, should validate that in time.
But talent is only one factor when it comes to judging the best team in school history. For the moment, that's still the 2003-04 team that toppled No. 1-seeded Stanford, then knocked off a gifted Syracuse team that featured the unstoppable post play of Hakim Warrick, before ultimately succumbing to UConn in the Elite Eight.
Coach Nate Oats' team hasn’t had as tough a road, and deserved that easier path by earning a No. 1 seed. But it will take two more wins and a Final Four appearance for it to earn the program's best-ever stamp.
Anything less will be remembered with could haves and should haves.
Reach Chase Goodbread at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @chasegoodbread.
This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Alabama basketball, Brandon Miller seek Tide's second Sweet 16 win