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Alabama's JD Davison heads toward the basket for a dunk against Gonzaga during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, in Seattle. Alabama won 91-82. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Could the University of Alabama become the only program other than fellow Southeastern Conference brother Florida to win a football and men's basketball national championship in the same school year?

At this point, that question may seem somewhat absurd on two fronts. No. 1, the Crimson Tide, despite being the No. 1 seed in the upcoming College Football Playoff, hasn't yet successfully defended its latest football national title. And with Georgia foaming at the mouth to get revenge for its SEC title game loss to the Tide should both reach the CFP title tilt, a battered Bama is probably a long shot to repeat on the gridiron.

As for hoops, the Tide's tall guys opened a lot of eyes when they shocked preseason No. 1 Gonzaga 91-82 on the same day the football team was dismantling the Dawgs. They followed that up with a one-point win over fierce and fast Houston this past Saturday night in Tuscaloosa.

A surprise Sweet 16 team a year ago in Bama coach Nate Oats' first season at the Capstone, the Tide would appear to have all the ingredients to go at least one round further than that this time around, if not make it all the way to the Final Four.

Then again, by the time you read this, Alabama may also have lost late Tuesday night at Memphis to a most confounding Tigers squad that also plays Tennessee on Saturday inside Nashville's Bridgestone Arena.

Yet no matter what happened Tuesday in the Bluff City, Bama has the early look of a team that could deliver its opponents a lot of sadness come March Madness.

But what about the rest of the SEC? With six teams currently ranked in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll, could this be the kind of season that leads to multiple SEC schools in the Final Four, as there were in 2014 with Florida and Kentucky? Or 2019 when four SEC schools reached the Sweet 16? Or 2017, when three reached the Elite Eight?

Is this the year somebody from America's most decorated football conference cuts down the basketball nets while serenaded by "One Shining Moment" for the first time since Kentucky won its eighth NCAA crown in 2012?

This time around, as then, the Final Four will be in New Orleans. Also just like then, when Alabama had won it all in football, the Tide could again be No. 1. History repeats, and a decade later, the stars might be in line for an SEC sweep of college athletics' two most coveted crowns.

But not since Florida did it in 2006-2007 — and the Gators remain the only program to ever do it — has one school captured both titles in the same school year.

Unfortunately for the Tide — should it be fortunate enough to repeat as CFP champs — bitter rival Auburn may undo its loftiest hoop dreams.

Bruce Pearl's Tigers are 13th in this week's AP poll, their lone loss coming in double overtime against current No. 20 UConn in the Battle 4 Atlantis tourney over Thanksgiving weekend in the Bahamas. Since then they've drubbed Syracuse by 21 in that same tourney and Nebraska by 31 this past Saturday in Atlanta.

What's scariest about Auburn, however, is the player they haven't had on the court thus far. Allen Flanigan, who was viewed as a potential SEC Player of the Year before injuring his right Achilles tendon over the summer, should return by February at the latest.

And when he comes back the Tigers shouldn't just be the favorite to win the league, but also a solid choice to make their second Final Four in three NCAA tourneys.

Or as all-time Auburn great Charles Barkley told ESPN2 during the Nebraska blowout: "This team is loaded. They're deep."

The team whose NCAA chances of joining Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, LSU and Tennessee in the Big Dance could be in deep trouble is Kentucky, which could be on a path to miss the event in back-to-back non-probation years for the first time since 1946 and 1947.

It's not that UK is awful, at least not as epically awful as last year's horrific 9-16 season, but the No. 21 Wildcats once more can't seem to shoot 3-pointers — they're currently ranked 283rd out of 350 Division I schools, hitting but 30.3 percent — can't cut off opposition drives to the basket and struggle to close out teams at the end of games.

Coach John Calipari's teams are typically much tougher in February and March than December, but in an SEC that seems as rugged from top to bottom as it ever has, the losses that should pile up if UK doesn't play much, much better than it did in last weekend's 65-61 road loss at mediocre Notre Dame may leave it outside the 68-team NCAA field come Selection Sunday.

Admittedly, it's only the middle of December. Much can and will change by March. But basically a month along, Alabama, Auburn and LSU appear to be the three SEC teams with the highest upside, followed close behind by Tennessee.

If nothing else between now and March Madness, the hoops Iron Bowls on Jan. 11 in Tuscaloosa and on Feb. 1 in Auburn should be must-see TV for college basketball junkies the nation over.

Contact Mark Wiedmer at mwiedmer@timesfreepress.com.

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