Nick Saban and the Alabama football program missed the CFP this season, but there is still a team with national title hopes on the Tuscaloosa campus.
Fourth-year coach Nate Oats has slowly turned the Crimson Tide into a legitimate threat on the court, not just the gridiron. The program entered the 2022-2023 college hoops season coming off two consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, including a run to the Sweet 16 in 2021.
Now, the Tide are 9-1 to start the season, good for the No. 4 ranking in the country after a win over No. 1 Houston over the weekend. The Tide never have advanced to the Final Four, but there's reason to think this team could break the mold after this hot start to the campaign.
Alabama sports betting is not legal and legislation seems a ways off. And despite the momentum behind Oats' squad, national sportsbooks have been slow to put too much expectations on Alabama.
Over at BetMGM Sportsbook, the Tide aren't even favored to win the SEC at +350, behind No. 13 Kentucky (+225) and No. 6 Tennessee (+300).
The Tide have national title odds of +2500, despite already beating the betting favorite Houston (+750).
While the sportsbooks have yet to buy into Alabama just yet, Oats and his team have more time to build their case when conference play starts on Dec. 28.
Also of interest to those in the state? Rival Auburn is No. 19 in the latest college hoops poll. Both Auburn and Alabama went to the NCAA Tournament in 2022 and 2018, but those are the only times that both have gone to the tourney in the same year since 2003.
UNC Off to Brutal Start
Meanwhile, the dream of a seventh college basketball National Championship banner hanging from the Dean E. Smith Center in Chapel Hill has slowly turned into a nightmare.
The UNC Tar Heels were the No. 1 team in the country going into the season and a co-favorite with Gonzaga in the betting markets (+900) to win a national championship after falling three points short of Kansas in last spring’s national title contest.
North Carolina came out of the gates hot with a 5-0 start, but things have taken a turn since beating Portland on Thanksgiving, 89-81.
Following that victory, the Tar Heels lost four consecutive games, including to unranked Iowa State at home and on the road at Virginia Tech Dec. 4. North Carolina also lost a four-overtime thriller against Alabama, 103-101, and lost by a dozen at Indiana Nov. 30.
North Carolina has won its last two games (vs. Georgia Tech, vs. Citadel), but it hasn’t helped the college basketball blue-blood very much. North Carolina is now unranked, according to the latest Associated Press poll released on Monday.
However, sports bettors still have some faith in a turnaround for Hubert Davis’ squad. North Carolina is tied with No. 8 Kansas, No. 16 UCLA and No. 2 Virginia for the eighth-highest odds to win the national championship at +2000, according to BetMGM.
Best of the Rest
Purdue is the new No. 1 in college basketball, moving up three spots after improving to 10-0 last week.
No. 5 Houston is one of three teams that made last year’s Elite 8 currently in the Top 10 along with No. 8 Kansas and No. 10 Arkansas (+2200 to win the national championship).
No. 7 Texas and No. 3 UConn each have the second-lowest odds to win the national title at +1100. Texas improved to 8-1 Monday night with an overtime win over Rice, but lost head coach Chris Beard indefinitely after the coach’s domestic violence arrest. They were No. 2 in the country in last week’s AP poll.
UConn is No. 3 in the country for the first time since the 2008-2009 season. The Huskies are 11-0 on the year and have won every game by double-digits.
No. 11 Baylor is the fourth-favorite to win the national championship at +1200. The Bears got another key win last Friday, defeating Gonzaga, 64-63, at home.
No. 13 Kentucky rounds out the Top-5 betting favorites to win the national title, tied with No. 9 Arizona at +1400. Kentucky has won four straight following a 3-2 start. Arizona is 9-1 with three consecutive victories after a 15-point loss at Utah Dec. 1.
For more coverage like this and any info on sports betting legislation, stay with BetAlabama.com. When sports betting does come to the state, it no doubt will be fueled by the vibrant college teams.