Three months after putting out a list of the Top 25 teams in Alabama, my first place pick UAB is the only team with a shot at an at-large bid to represent the state in the NCAA tournament. While any team could make the Division 1 tourney by winning their conference championship, Troy (Sun Belt) seems to be the only state team with a good shot as one of 13-5 teams atop the Sun Belt, while South Alabama (USA) and Alabama State (SWAC) have an outside shot of the auto bid.
A few months later, the two changes I’d definitely make are that I have again underestimated Troy by putting them at No. 6. I’d move them up to No. 3 at 18-11 and having gone into Auburn and won. Of course, the main fun of that initial email at the end of November was ranking all of the NAIA, Division 2 and Division 3 schools along with the Division 1 schools. After that post, Auburn-Montgomery (AUM) avenged early season losses against Spring Hill and the University of Mobile, so they probably pop back ahead of Mobile into the Top 10.
However, Alabama-Huntsville (UAH), the home of the tragic shooting by a professor, is clearly the best non-Division 1 team in the state as my 9th place pick. They could be as good as a rebuilding Division 1 Alabama State team to be the 8th best team in the state, but with no common opponents it’s hard to see.
Anyway, would love any feedback from anyone on any of the teams, particularly the non-Division 1 schools where info is sometimes harder to find.
Here is the original post from the end of November:
ALABAMA’S TOP 25 COLLEGE HOOPS TEAMS
NOVEMBER, 2009 - Having seen my Auburn Tigers fall just short in the Iron Bowl, I hoped to at least get a little revenge with my basketball alma mater Marquette facing the Tide on the basketball court today. However, the young Marquette team shocked #15 Michigan to get to the title game in the Old Spice tournament today against Florida State (ESPN2, today at 6:30 p.m. CST) right after Alabama plays Michigan at 4 p.m. CST in the consolation game with a chance for a third win against a BCS conference team.
A win would be a chance for Alabama to challenge UAB for state basketball supremacy with Auburn and their new arena not far behind. I’ve never seen any attempt to rank all of the state’s basketball programs – so here goes my ranking of the Top 25 basketball programs in Alabama:
Top 25 Alabama College Basketball teams - as of November
1, UAB (Birmingham) – Still the best team in the state, and with Memphis losing John Calipari to Kentucky, UAB finally has a chance to win Conference USA. Had a scare from Samford, but blew out Troy and Jacksonville State.
2, University of Alabama (Tuscaloosa) – The Anthony Grant era gives Bama a real chance at reaching new heights, and with upset wins over Providence (Big East) and Baylor (Big 12), a win at 4 p.m. today against #15 Michigan would put them well ahead of schedule.
3, Auburn University (Auburn) – The recruits are lining up to play in the new arena next year, and the near miss against NC State from the ACC showed the potential for the Tigers to make another run this year.
4, University of South Alabama (Mobile) – After an uncharacteristically bad 2008-09, USA will be back competing for the Sun Belt Conference.
5, Samford University (Birmingham) – Despite a slow start, I put them ahead of Troy based on their near upset of UAB , losing by 3 compared to the 18-point win UAB had over Troy. They can compete in the Southern Conference.
6, Troy University (Troy) – They will battle to try to match last year’s breakthrough season and once again battle USA and the rest of the Sunbelt for an NCAA berth. FEBRUARY NOTE – I’D MOVE TROY TO NO. 3 IN THE STATE TODAY.
7, Jacksonville State University (Jacksonville) – Almost upset Georgia and beat Western Alabama by 29 points, so hope to compete in the Ohio Valley.
8, Alabama State University (Montgomery) –The gap between them an the top NAIA teams in the state (e.g. beat AUM by 9 last year) as well as top Division 2 teams (e.g. beat West Alabama by just 12) will be even tighter this year, as they lost key players from the team that won the SWAC and was the only Alabama team in the NCAA Division 1 tournament last year.
9, University of Alabama in Huntsville (Huntsville) – Several Division 2 teams in the state are very close to Division 1 teams and probably better than a rebuilding D1 Alabama A&M team, but I’ll give the nod for the No. 9 spot to Huntsville who has looked the best of the three Gulf South Conference teams with a 3-1 start.
10, University of Mobile (Mobile) – I’m going out on a limb rating Mobile of the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference as the 10th best team in the state after they didn’t even get a vote for the NAIA preseason Top 20. However, they shocked Division 1 Louisianna-Lafayette 68-64 in one exhibition, then led for a half against Division 1 New Orleans. In state they’ve already handled Southeastern Bible College 97-77, won at Faulkner 75-72, and upset 20th ranked UAM 78-76. It may not last, but so far they’ve been the 10th best team in the state.
11, Auburn University-Montgomery (Montgomery) – The preseason #20 team in the NAIA nudges out Division 2 West Alabama by virtue of playing Alabama State tougher than West Alabama did last year. They will compete for the Southern States Athletic Conference despite a slow start.
12, University of West Alabama (Livingston) – A 3-1 start with the only loss being to #23 Delta State indicates West Alabama could emerge to win their Division in the Gulf South Conference over Division 2 lost Jacksonville by 29. Last year they did worse than AUM vs. Alabama State.
13, University of North Alabama (Florence) – Just a few years removed from the Division 2 Elite 8, North Alabama could still win the Gulf South Conference despite a 2-2 overall start.
14, Faulkner University (Montgomery) – Despite the narrow loss to Mobile, Faulkner should be competitive in the Southern States Athletic Conference of the NAIA.
15, Spring Hill College (Mobile) – This NAIA Gulf Coast Athletic Conference team showed they were nowhere near Division 1 South Alabama (29 point loss) or even the top NAIA teams (lost to to AUM by 25). However, they beat USCAA national champion Talladega College, which in turn beat Tuskegee and Stillman, to give Spring Hill the nod over them. They also received one top 20 vote in the preseason NAIA poll that had AUM No. 20.
16, Talladega College (Talladega) – For the second straight year, an Alabama school won the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (small school) National Championship, finishing 22-8 last year. Talladega started this season ranked #1 in the USCAA again, and came within 11 of beating Division 1 Alabama State while defeating Division 1 Alabama A&M as well as two state Division 2 teams (Tuskegee and Stillman). They have defeated SWAC teams in the past, and even accused Grambling State of deliberately not bringing referees to a game to avoid another Talladega win over the SWAC.
17, University of Montevallo (Montevallo) – Montevallo was one of four Alabama teams in the Gulf South Conference until moving to another Division 2 Conference, the Peach Belt Athletic Conference , this year. They had an impressive 76-63 over Miles, which swept Tuskegee and split with Stillman last year. They beat Southeastern Bible by 28 this year, and were picked to finish ahead of Columbus State, which almost upset Alabama State already this year.
18, Miles College (Fairfield) – Miles is picked to finish near the bottom of the Division 2 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, but swept Tuskegee last year and beat Stillman by 19 after losing to them by 3 points for a split.
19, Stillman College (Tuscaloosa) – Stillman was also picked to finish near the bottom of the Division 2 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, behind Miles, but then stunned Division 1 Alabama A&M by 2.
20, Alabama A & M University (Normal) – Despite being Division 1, Alabama A&M has struggled even against non-Division 1 teams last year and this, and should still be a the bottom of the SWAC. They survived a scare by Division 2 Tuskegee last year, lost to Division 2 Stillman this year as well as Oakwood and Talladega of the small school United States Collegiate Athletic Association last year. However, the rebuilding effort is already showing improvement, as they have already rebounded to beat Oakwood this year.
21, Tuskegee University (Tuskegee) – Alabama’s third team in the Division 2 Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, like Stillman and Miles, is not expected to compete for the Conference title. However, the already have narrowly missed an upset of the preseason 4th place pick Clark Atlantic, so they could move up.
22, Oakwood College (Huntsville) – Oakwood won the United States Collegiate Athletic Association national championship two years ago before seeing fellow Alabama school Talladega take it this year. They started this season ranked No. 3 in the USCAA, two behind Talladega, and have lost to A&M by 5 this year after beating them last year.
23, Birmingham Southern College (Birmingham) – Just a few years ago Birmingham Southern was beating Division 1 teams, so they may be better than this in the Division 3 Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference Division. They have dominated fellow conference team Huntingdon for a few years, and are off to a 3-0 start this year after finishing 8th of 12 in the conference last year.
24, Concordia College (Selma) – Concordia is the third ranked Alabama team in the small school United States Collegiate Athletic Association, coming in at No. 18 in the preseason poll that had Talladega and Oakwood in the top three.
25, Southeastern Bible College (Birmingham) – Competing in the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA), Southeastern Bible College lost to the University of Mobile 97-77, and last year lost to Talladega 92-76, West Alabama 91-67 and Spring hill 94-70. However, while Huntingdon College (Montgomery) of the Division 3 Great South Athletic Conference might be the logical No. 25 team in the state, Southeastern Bible College did beat Huntingdon 104-90 for their only win against another Alabama school last year, so I have to give them the nod as the 25th best team in the state over Huntingdon.