{{ timeAgo('2023-01-24 13:25:32 -0600') }} basketball Edit

Alabama basketball battles complacency amid winning streak

Alabama head coach Nate Oats prepares for the game against Vanderbilt at Memorial Gymnasium Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. Photo | George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK
Alabama head coach Nate Oats prepares for the game against Vanderbilt at Memorial Gymnasium Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. Photo | George Walker IV / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Winning has a price, and like a high-stakes poker game, every victory just ups the proverbial ante.

For Alabama basketball, its eight-game winning streak has procured plenty of perks including the team's best ranking in over 20 seasons. While fans are busy submitting vacation requests throughout March in the hopes that the team will make a deep tournament run, Alabama head coach Nate Oats remains present.

It's one of his gifts as a coach and something that a young Alabama squad relies on to safeguard itself against the idea of complacency.

"Coaching as long as I have, it's natural that you'd have to fight (complacency) when you're having success like we have right now," Oats said. "I think this group has done a real good job fighting it on its own. We talk about not getting complacent like maybe last year's team did after we had some early non-conference wins."

Last year's squad beat three of the four teams that went to the Final Four in 2021 en route to five wins against ranked opponents for Alabama. The team lost just three games by the turn of the year before losing 11 of its last 19 games, dashing all hopes of a deep tournament run.

The 2022 rendition of the Crimson Tide has faced many of the same obstacles last year's squad faced, but time and time again it has persevered, becoming the third SEC team in the last 50 years to start conference play winning its first seven games by double figures, joining Kentucky (1994-95) and Florida (2012-13).

"This group's pretty mature," Oats said. "I think the maturity, the professionalism, the depth of the team, all that helps. Guys are mature and understand what we've got at stake. We're playing for a No. 1-seed in the NCAA Tournament, we're playing for an SEC Championship (and) you can't afford to have a letdown. If you want to be playing your best basketball in March, you've got to continue to get better every game."

That maturity bleeds through in practice according to Oats. During his Tuesday press conference, the fourth-year head coach praised his group for consistently pushing themselves and each other every day.

It in turn led to some fierce moments but it has also grown the one thing basketball coaches strive every day for their teams to develop — culture.

"It's probably the best I've ever seen — that competitiveness while still really pulling for your teammates to do well," Oats said. "Today in practice, I thought Nimari (Burnett) was really good on defense. Rylan (Griffin) and Nimari play similar positions. Rylan subs in and goes 'I'm trying to get like you Nimari. I'm trying to get as good at defense as you are.' They really want each other to do well, but they are pushing each other for even better. It's a special group."

Wednesday is another opportunity for Alabama to continue to grow when it hosts Mississippi State at 8 p.m. Although Alabama downed a then-ranked Mississippi State on the road by 11 points, Oats maybe now more than ever, understands the importance of avoiding the pitfalls of complacency.

"It's the first time we've played a team twice this season," Oats said. " ... I didn't think we were great against them the first time we played them They are one of the best rebounding teams in the country and one of the best defensive teams in the country. Our offense has to be better and we're trying to get a little better every game and I think they're playing pretty well. We've got our hands full tomorrow."