College Basketball Futures: Is Alabama Worth a Bet to Win the National Championship?
James Gilbert/Getty Images. Pictured: Keon Ellis.
Every March, there’s one team that stresses us out as we try to place it in our brackets — a team that could make a run to the Final Four or lose in the first round. Last year, for me, that team was Texas.
Texas posted six top-25 wins — including a season sweep of Kansas — and won the Big 12 Tournament title. It matched imposing length and athleticism with perimeter shooting and steady veteran leadership from point guard Matt Coleman.
The Longhorns even drew a favorable region with Michigan as a No. 1 seed without Isaiah Livers. Alas, instead of making a Final Four appearance, the Longhorns were bounced in the first round by Abilene Christian.
This year, that team may be Alabama.
The Crimson Tide were a preseason top-15 team, and at times, has looked like it and more. Alabama has six Quad 1 wins, including top-25 wins over Gonzaga, Baylor, Houston, LSU, and Tennessee, along with a win over Miami. It also lost to rival Auburn by four points at home in the first meeting.
Close losses to its arch-rival won’t make the Crimson Tide faithful feel better. Neither will losses to Iona, Davidson, Missouri, Mississippi State, and Georgia.
Iona and Davidson are both 18-3, so those losses don’t look as bad as the season has progressed. However, you would still expect Alabama to win both of those games.
Alabama welcomes No. 5 Kentucky to Coleman Coliseum on Saturday. However, based on how things have gone for the Crimson Tide this season, it may be more likely to beat Kentucky than Ole Miss next Wednesday.
Overall, Alabama is 14-8 and 4-5 in the SEC. It appears to be safely in the NCAA Tournament field at the moment, as it ranks No. 22 in the NCAA Net Rankings. It’s also a five seed, according to Bracket Matrix.
The question is: Cam the Crimson Tide win it all?
Alabama’s offense will give it a chance. It ranks 10th nationally in scoring offense (81.4), eighth in adjusted offensive efficiency, and 35th in offensive rating. Should Alabama continue advancing, its frenetic pace — it ranks 18th in adjusted tempo — will be difficult to prepare for on short notice.
When the 3s are falling, Alabama can play with anyone. The Tide rank ninth nationally in 3-point attempts and take nearly 30 per game. Guard Jaden Shackelford takes 8.4 3s per game and makes 37.3% of them.
However, outside of him the efficiency is not always there. The Crimson Tide are 289th in 3-point percentage at 31.4%.
Alabama also doesn’t have much size outside of 7-footer center Charles Bediako. The Tide do out-rebound opponents by 3.8 boards per game, so it doesn’t hurt them there. However, they’re 264th in 2-point percentage defense and can be attacked in the paint.
Alabama’s defense has been a trouble spot all season. It’s 325th in scoring defense (76 PPG) 75th in adjusted defensive efficiency, and 288th in defensive rating. Typically, national champions are top-20 in both adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. Alabama has the offense but its defense is lacking.
However, the Crimson Tide have value in the market. Alabama is 55-1 to win the national title on FanDuel, and it’s 50-1 on DraftKings. Comparatively, it’s 35-1 on BetMGM.
Alabama has wins over three of last year’s Final Four participants — Baylor, Gonzaga, and Houston. Each of those teams is capable of getting back to the Final Four, and the Tide have proven they can beat them.
I would take Alabama at 55-1 to win the national championship all day. The Tide are certainly capable of getting hot and going on a run in March.
If you use a unit system, I would recommend between .1 and 0.25u, as it still is a longshot future. If you like Alabama to reach the Final Four but think it ends there, FanDuel also has the Crimson Tide at 14-1 to make the Final Four.