Alabama’s second win against an Associated Press No. 1-ranked team is the latest curveball from college basketball after an opening month filled with unexpected outcomes.
Alabama might not be in the College Football Playoff, but the Crimson Tide hoops team’s win against Houston on Saturday gives them legitimacy as a threat for a basketball championship. If that isn’t a sign of a break in the space-time continuum, nothing is.
The Cougars were heavy preseason favorites to win the AAC, and their first-ranked scoring defense through nine games (47.3 points allowed) shows they are every bit as good as promised. Saturday’s 71-65 win for Alabama gives the Tide a signature win over a first-place team after hindsight shows the first one should come with an asterisk.
Alabama (8-1) previously beat No. 1-ranked North Carolina 103-101 in four overtimes. The Tar Heels (6-4) are unranked. Their early-season placement was based on the team’s Final Four run from a season ago, not their production this season.
Houston (9-1) wasn’t a unanimous No. 1 in the latest AP poll, receiving 37 of 62 first-place votes. The Cougars will drop when the next poll is released on Monday, but it won’t be second-ranked Texas (7-1) on top. The Longhorns lost to Illinois 85-78 in overtime on Dec. 6
The Crimson Tide won’t be No. 1 in the newest ranking, either, and that’s because their only loss came to a team that might have the best case for being No. 1, UConn (11-0).
The Huskies won their meeting with Alabama on Nov. 25, 82-67, and are one of the more balanced teams this season. Through their first 10 games, they were 30th in points per game (82.1) and 15th in points allowed (58.2).
Purdue (10-0) has a stronger resume with wins against Gonzaga and Duke but needed overtime to beat Nebraska (6-5) 65-62 on Saturday. Despite the close call, it’s hard to imagine many teams being able to stop Zach Edey, and all 7-foot 4-inches and 295 pounds of him.
Both of those teams rank behind Virginia (8-0), arguably the best team in the best conference. The Cavaliers haven’t played since Dec. 6 and weren’t sharp in a 55-50 win against James Madison (7-3), which opens the door for an undefeated peer directly below to leap them on Monday.
Of the three teams, ESPN’s Basketball Power Index gives the edge to Connecticut. The Huskies rank eighth, the Boilermakers are 10th and the Cavaliers are 12th.
It’s been a wild start to the season with no clear favorite to cut down the nets when the championship is decided at NRG Stadium in Houston on Apr. 3, 2023. Look to Tuscaloosa becoming a basketball town as the clearest sign of a sport flipped on its head.