Chicago Sun-Times

Crimson Tide well positioned to roll


Alabama made a leap into the NCAA Tournament’s top seeds two years ago only to fall short of the Final Four.

This time, the Crimson Tide have risen to the top of the field of 68 with a team that coach Nate Oats believes is better equipped to meet those expectatio­ns.

Alabama (29-5) gets to stay home as the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and the headliner of the South Region bracket after landing the program’s firstever top seed when Sunday’s field of 68 teams was revealed. That came hours after the Tide closed out a second Southeaste­rn Conference Tournament title in three seasons.

Alabama opens play in Birmingham on Thursday, facing the First Four winner between Texas A&MCorpus Christi and Southeast Missouri State.

The Crimson Tide owned a 2 seed in the 2021 tournament taking place in the Indianapol­is bubble due to the pandemic, but fell in the Sweet 16 to Final Four-bound UCLA. Oats figures this year’s team has more offensive punch, versatilit­y, depth and rim protection.

“We’ve tried to build a team that can still win when we don’t shoot it well,” Oats said. “Can we be great on defense, rebound the ball well, take care of the ball? If we do that, even if we shoot poorly, we can generate enough free throws, rim shots to win.”

Alabama is one of four teams to rank in the top 20 of KenPom’s efficiency metrics for offense and defense, joining fellow No. 1 seed Houston, Texas (a 2 seed) and Connecticu­t (a 4 seed). It’s also one of the nation’s most prolific threepoint shooting teams, ranking fourth nationally in attempts per game (29.8) and 11th in makes (10.1).

Yet the success has come with the program dealing with the fallout of being tied to a murder case. Former Tide player Darius Miles and another man have been indicted on capital murder charges for the January shooting death of 23-yearold Jamea Harris.

The case also involves star freshman Brandon Miller, with a police investigat­or testifying last month that Miles texted Miller to bring him his gun that night. Neither Miller nor current player Jaden Bradley, who police said was also at the scene, have been charged and both have continued to play.

 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Alabama and coach Nate Oats have dealt with the controvers­y surroundin­g freshman ace Brandon Miller.
GETTY IMAGES Alabama and coach Nate Oats have dealt with the controvers­y surroundin­g freshman ace Brandon Miller.

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