We looked like a basketball state because that's what we are
Auburn basketball took me to Alaska and Long Beach. Alabama basketball got me to Seattle and San Francisco. UAB basketball tried to send me to Boise, but a March snowstorm grounded the plane in Minneapolis. So my most exotic trips with the Blazers were to Miami and Jamaica - Jamaica, Queens, to the campus of St. John's.
So, yeah, me and Alabama basketball - Alabama the Beautiful, Alabama the state, Alabama the best-kept secret in hoops - we've been down a long road together.
It all came home this week.
First it was UAB in the first round of the NIT in Bartow Arena on Tuesday. Not even Andy Kennedy's emergency root canal could take the bite out of the Blazers as they ran Southern Miss back to the Sun Belt.
Then came Thursday. This sport and this state had never seen anything like it. Not in the same building on the same day in the month when everyone takes note. This was March Madness to the max.
Alabama and Auburn. Tide and Tigers. Roll Tide/War Eagle. Living together in a different kind of Jungle. Lifting the already proud heritage of this underdog sport in this underdog state to another level in Legacy Arena.
All No. 1 seed Alabama did was hang 96 points on the would-be Cinderella from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in a 21-point romp. Not one of those points came from SEC player of the year Brandon Miller. He played only 19 minutes, still bothered by a groin injury from Sunday's command performance in the SEC Tournament championship game.
It was the first scoreless game of his fabulous freshman season. His teammates weren't bothered at all. The Crimson Tide bench, which might win the Southland Conference and other one-bid leagues, contributed 49 points.
Auburn had the far tougher assignment. As the No. 9 seed in the Midwest, the near-miss Tigers were forced to follow Alabama's act and deal with Iowa, one of the best scoring machines in the land. For a half, the home team slowed the pace, muddied the waters and frustrated the Hawkeyes.
And then Auburn went hurry up, no huddle, push, rise and fire, SEC athleticism in action. The gang that couldn't shoot straight suddenly couldn't miss. ...
Read the rest of Kevin's column on a great day for the state. Only in The Lede.