Welcome to Birmingham, Basketball Capital of the South. That is not a typo. That is a Type-A declaration of independence from a lifetime of football hegemony. Add it to the marquee at Legacy Arena. Light up the Regions Center with Big Al and Blaze the Dragon passing the pumpkin, a k a the Wilson Evo NXT day-glo orange mistake that shooters would like to stick a fork in.
Appreciate you, Nick Saban, but for the next two weeks, those of us who have waited a lifetime for these roundball moments would appreciate it if you could be neither seen nor heard.
We are in the upside down here, people. We are less than one week removed from the greatest basketball week in state history, and we are less than two weeks away from the maddest March on record from sea to shining sea.
Pump the possibility straight into my veins. It is somewhere between maybe and probably that one week from tonight, UAB will win the NIT, and four days after that, Alabama will win the NCAA Tournament. Two teams. One state. Same university system. Each of them emerging from two rousing postseason victories last week in the Magic City, then hitting the road to immortality.
This week, that road is I-65 North.
The lights went on as UAB went off Wednesday evening in Music City. Jordan Walker overcame a frigid first half to play Vanderbilt like a fiddle, UAB seized control of another SEC opponent and the Blazers completed a 67-59 business trip to earn their way to the NIT semifinals in Las Vegas.
Vegas, baby! Viva, Jelly and Coach AK! This incredibly talented team is two wins away from the program's first championship in a national postseason tournament.
Don't tell me nobody's interested. There were plenty of interested parties in Bartow Arena last week as UAB ran past Southern Miss and Morehead State and last night in Memorial Gym, where teams from this state typically go to lose their way.
The 28-9 Blazers have lost just once in their last 12 games, in the Conference USA Tournament championship game against FAU, and who knows? If Walker, the nation's No. 4 scorer, hadn't hurt his foot and missed half the month of January, the Blazers could be dancing in the NCAA Sweet 16 themselves.
Alabama will carry that banner. Earlier Wednesday, about 175 miles up I-65, the immensely talented Crimson Tide arrived in Louisville in preparation for its Sweet 16 Friday date with San Diego State. Already 31-5, Alabama is two wins away from its first Final Four, four wins shy of the program's first national championship in this sport. ...
Read the rest of Kevin's column about a potential double championship that is close enough to touch for Alabama and UAB. Only in The Lede.