State of '08: Alabama
What is the top D1 basketball program in each state.. and which program is the worst? While there's not much competition in Hawaii.. there are great debates to be had in loaded regions like California, North Carolina, and Texas. The State of '08 is a state by state ranking based mostly on recent success (the last five years) mixed in with subjective factors such as conference prestige, historical success, and overall program direction.
Up today: Alabama.. the first of the individual state articles. For more info, check out the State of '08 introduction.
Reader Poll: What is the Best Program in Alabama?
Alabama - The Crimson are coming off a down season with an RPI of 114. But that still topped SEC rival Auburn, and for most of the past decade Alabama has been a Top 50 team.. even breaking into the Top 20 at times. From 2002 to 2006, Bama made the NCAA Tournament five-straight times and could very well be back there again in 2009.
UAB - During the same period that Bama was consistently making the Tourney, UAB was also in the midst of a nice run.. dancing for three straight seasons from 2003 to 2006. Mike Davis is finally getting things back on track following the departure of Mike Anderson. After an NIT bid last year, another NCAA Tournament trip is definitely possible now that Robert Vaden returns for another go-around.
South Alabama - Ronnie Arrow picked up where John Pelphrey left off, and the Jaguars made the postseason for the third straight season. While this year's group won't be able to match last year's 24 wins or Top 40 RPI, they should once again be in the running for a Sun Belt Conference title.
Auburn - The last five seasons have been pretty brutal for Auburn fans, as the Tigers have basically been a mediocre .500 team in that time. There's no reason to expect they'll break out of that trend, and another sub-100 RPI should be expected.
Samford - While not a powerhouse by any means, Samford has had decent success under veteran coach Jimmy Tillette. In '99 & '00, Samford made back to back NCAA Tournaments.. though the wins have slowed down of late. 2006 was Samford's last quality run with 18 wins and an RPI of 107.
6. Alabama State - The Hornets actually won the SWAC regular season title with a 15-3 record last season, but MVSU won the Tournament bid. The Hornets made the Big Dance in 2001 & 2004, but hadn't had much to cheer about in the meantime.
7. Troy - While the Trojans occasionally make some noise on the football field, there's nothing to get excited about on the hardwood. The usual season recently is basically 11-12 wins and an RPI of 240.
8. Alabama A&M - While not quite as bad as Jacksonville State, A&M has run into some lean years since making the Big Dance in 2005. Even that season, they started 1-8 against D1 teams and didn't beat anyone ranked better than 240th all season.
9. Jacksonville State - With the exception of a decent 15 win season in 2006, JSU has been awful recently. Last year, they were 3rd worst in the country in RPI, with provisionals North Florida and NJIT finishing at the bottom.