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Alabama's Top 10 Basketball Teams of All Time

Jimmy Stein02/22/22
Article written by:On3 imageJimmy Stein


On3 image
(Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)

Good morning, Alabama fans, and welcome to Crimson and Coffee. Football is always our focus here but each day we will cover the news, notes and analysis across all Crimson Tide sports. Join us each weekday morning to get caught up on everything you might have missed in the world of Alabama football, recruiting, basketball and more. Enjoy your Crimson and Coffee.

It’s only one man’s opinion. I look forward to reading yours on the BCS Message Board. So, just who are Alabama’s Ten Best Basketball Teams of All Time? The list is very strong. Two teams that made it to the Sweet Sixteen did not make this list. Four teams that won the Southeastern Conference regular-season title did not make the list. Two teams that won the SEC Tournament did not make this list. Who did?

10. The 2002 Team

This team was led by Coach Mark Gottfried. They won the SEC regular-season championship, the first team to do so in 15 years. They finished 27-8/12-4. The Tide made a run to the SEC Tournament finals before losing and then won an NCAA tournament game before losing in Round 2. Alabama had earned a No. 2 seed. This Bama team featured Rod Grizzard, Mo Williams and Erwin Dudley.

9. The 1930 Team

I bet you did not know this. Your great grandfather’s team (or, great-great) finished 20-0. They were named the NATIONAL CHAMPIONS by something called the Premo-Porretta Power Poll. They were coached by Hank Crisp, a legendary name on the Tide campus. They played in the Southern Conference and finished 10-0. That’s all I got on this group but it seemed significant. National Champions! Do we have a banner for this?

8. The 1982 Team

This was Coach Wimp Sanderson’s second team and a sign of things to come. Finishing 24-7/12-6, Bama caught fire late. They would go on to win the SEC Tournament (a specialty of Wimp’s) beating Kentucky AT Rupp. How about that? This was prior to the field of 64 … Alabama would beat vaunted St. John’s in their opening NCAA Tournament game before losing to eventual champion North Carolina in the Round of 16. A freshman on that UNC team was a guy named Michael Jordan. Notable Tide players on that team: Ennis Whatley, Bobby Lee Hurt, Mike Davis and Eddie Phillips.

7. The 1990 Team

This team accomplished two major achievements, yet both were somewhat commonplace in the Wimp Era — they won the SEC Tournament and made it to the Sweet Sixteen. They finished 26-9/12-6, good for second place behind conference champion, Georgia. (Georgia?) Again, the Tide won the SEC Tournament (second year in a row) with Alabama then defeating Colorado State and Arizona (!) before losing to Loyola-Marymount in one of the most well-known Tide games of all time. Alabama had a final shot to win that game at that buzzer but, alas … Alabama’s best players were Robert Horry, Melvin Cheatum, Gary Waites, Keith Askins and David Benoit.

6. The 1991 Team

This team’s accomplishments were strikingly similar to the season before but we rank it one inch ahead of the previous season because of the talent on the roster. The record was similar (23-10/12-6) and they would also win the SEC Tournament, by now known as the Wimp Sanderson Invitational. This was a third straight tourney title. And, broken record-like, the Tide advanced to the Sweet Sixteen before losing to Arkansas, just months before the Hogs joined the Southeastern Conference. In addition to the returning Horry and Waites, Alabama added ultra-talented Latrell Sprewell and James “Hollywood” Robinson to the roster. Horry, Sprewell and Robinson would all eventually become first round NBA Draft selections. The Tide defeated Wake Forest in the Round of 32, a team that featured Rodney Rogers and Randolph Childress.

5. The 2004 Team

When I started this exercise, I assumed I would rank this team higher. That was the idea. They are, NCAA Tournament-wise, the most accomplished Alabama Basketball team, ever. They are the only Alabama team to advance beyond the Sweet Sixteen, losing to eventual national champion UConn in the Elite Eight. Yet, the overall record and lack of titles (no SEC regular season or tournament title) drug them down here to the five spot. That said, they are a legit #1 contender for Greatest Bama Basketball Team. You can’t discount the NCAA Tourney run which included a win over Overall Number 1 Seed, Stanford, in the Round of 32, one of the great Tide wins of all time. Only 20-13/8-8 during the regular season and also lost in the second round of the SEC Tournament. Yet, the back-to-back wins in the NCAAs over Stanford and Syracuse in the Big Dance are a seminal moment in Alabama Basketball history. This team was led by Antoine Pettway, Chuck Davis, Earnest Shelton, Jermareo Davidson and Kennedy Winston.

4. The 1956 Team

I would like to introduce you to another team with a legit argument to top this list … known as Alabama’s “Rocket Eight”. This team lit up Foster Auditorium on the regular. They were the very first SEC team to finish with an undefeated record in the conference. This was a 21-3/14-0 ballclub. This team, prior to the 3-point line, prior to the shot clock, AVERAGED 88 points per game, 8 more than our current club does. They beat Adolph Rupp’s Kentucky team 101-77, the first team to ever score 100+ on the Wildcats. And, holy Oscar Tshiebwe! The Tide’s Jerry Harper averaged 23 points and 21 rebounds per game. Yeah, I said AVERAGED!

3. The 2021 Team

Ya’ll might be familiar with this bunch … they played for Alabama just eleven months ago. And they are easily one of the most “decorated” Alabama teams of all time. They won the SEC regular season and the SEC tournament and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. How many Alabama teams have achieved all that? Only two! The other is No. 2 on this list. Nate Oats’ second team in Tuscaloosa was a juggernaut, losing in overtime to Final Four participant UCLA in the Sweet Sixteen. 26-7/16-2, this team destroyed SEC competition. Star Herb Jones was named the SEC Player of the Year AND the Defensive Player of the Year. The Tide was also led by Jaden Shackelford, Josh Primo, Jahvon Quinerly, John Petty and Keon Ellis.

2. The 1987 Team

The only other Alabama team to win the SEC regular season, the SEC Tournament and advance to the Sweet Sixteen is Wimp Sanderson’s 1987 squad. They finished 28-5/16-2 and earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They defeated LSU in the SEC Tournament final. Amazingly, Alabama would advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the third year in a row. The Tide would be upset in the Sweet Sixteen by a Providence team coached by a young Rick Pitino and led by their star guard, Billy Donovan. Yep, that guy. This outstanding Tide team featured Terry Coner, Mark Gottfried, Jim Farmer, Micheal Ansley and Derrick McKey in the starting lineup.

1. The 1976 Team

This bunch, coached by CM Newton, was simply the greatest Tide team of all time. They won the SEC and advanced to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament, losing in a controversial nail-biter to undefeated national champion, Indiana. They didn’t win the SEC Tournament only because there was no SEC Tournament from 1953 to 1978. The Tide finished 23-5/15-3, rising to an AP Poll ranking of 6 prior to and following the NCAA Tournament. That’s right, an Alabama team that finished ranked 6th in the nation. Alabama would lose to the Hoosiers 74-69 after defeating North Carolina in the opening round. (What kind of a freaking draw was that in 1976!?) The Indiana team that barely defeated Alabama (there was a late, very controversial call in this game that didn’t go Bama’s way) is considered one of the great NCAA teams ever and Coach Bobby Knight would later say the best team they played that season, that undefeated season, was Alabama. Leon Douglas and Reggie King along with super defender, Robert Scott, were the headliners.