It was a busy Saturday morning at Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, especially at the United Airlines gate, where a crowd gathered for a 6 a.m. flight to Houston.
The college kid in the Miami T-shirt. The young adult in the San Diego State hat. The gentleman from Guntersville and a friend who works at Jacksonville State who've made this trip before. Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin. And me.
I didn't survey every passenger so there may have been others headed to H-Town for the same reason. This was one of the great sporting days of the year. This was Final Four Saturday.
There was only one thing missing from our basketball band of fellow travelers, the one thing that would've made a great day even better. A team from the state we call home.
That's not uncommon. This is the 84th Final Four, which means there have been 336 available berths in the national semifinals since the NCAA Tournament began in 1939. How many of those berths were earned by a team from Alabama?
Only one. A lonely one. Jared Harper, Bryce Brown and Auburn 2019 broke the glass ceiling, only to have their hearts broken in the national semifinals when Virginia double-dribbled. That Auburn team looked like it could win a national championship. So did this year's Alabama team until it couldn't hit water from a boat in the Sweet 16 against San Diego State.
It doesn't feel right that San Diego State is here for the first time and Alabama isn't. That a team from Conference USA is here for the first time since Memphis in 2008, and that team is Florida Atlantic, not UAB. That Miami got here for the first time a year after crushing Auburn's 2022 would-be dream season in the second round.
The only true, hybrid new blood/blue blood to make it to NRG Stadium Saturday was UConn. The Huskies have won four national titles since 1999, and one of them is painfully familiar. They dominated the only Alabama Crimson Tide team to reach the Elite Eight in 2004 en route to their second big ring.
So when does the Heart of Dixie break through instead of simply breaking? When do we have our One Shining Moment? When do we become the fifth state in the 11-state SEC footprint - after Kentucky, Florida, Texas and Arkansas - to host a national championship parade for a Division I men's basketball team? ...
Read the rest of Kevin's column on a hoop dream that won't die. Only in The Lede.