Only nine more "sleeps" until HC Nate Oats leads the No. 24 overall Alabama Crimson Tide men's basketball. Let's take a look at the 10 toughest matchups that the Tide will see in their 2020-2021 schedule:

1) No. 10 Kentucky 

The Wildcats are a perennial powerhouse in the sport of college basketball. Head coach John Calipari and his Kentucky squad finished their 2019-2020 season as the No. 2 team in the country from a 25-6 regular-season record. In conference, the Wildcats have managed to secure four of the last five SEC tournament championships (2015-2018).

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2) Auburn Tigers

HC Bruce Pearl has a difficult season ahead of him and his program as the Auburn Tigers are losing six players to either graduation, transfer, or the NBA Draft. In the last NCAA Tournament (2019, tournament canceled in 2020 due to a global pandemic), the Tigers from the plains managed to earn themselves a spot in the Final Four before losing to the No. 1 ranked Virginia Cavaliers 63-62. However, a rivalry game can produce odd outcomes between the two squads (as Alabama fans can confirm) and NOTHING is concrete in an Alabama v. Auburn matchup.

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3) No. 12 Tennessee Volunteers  

A sub-par season after losing Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams left the hopes of one of the SEC's best, in limbo. However, Tennessee HC Rick Barnes' ability to consistently find depth in recruiting keeps the Vols fighting in the SEC for 2020-2021. Look for Tennessee to improve on the truncated season from the experience gained by their starters, especially senior forward/guard Yves Pons.

Photo Courtesy of Rocky Top Insider

4) Florida Gators

The Gators, at the very least, should keep a consistent pace from their previous season as the majority of Florida's starters are able to return for an extra season. Nevertheless, HC Mike White, who's been the skipper in Gainsville, FL since 2015, will probably be under a microscope for the season as his Gators have struggled to improve their record and make positive runs in the NCAA tournament. With the prospect of a proverbial "hot seat" for the HC, look for White to push the Gators to the next level in 2020-2021.

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5) LSU Tigers

The Bayou Bengals are returning two All-SEC players from their exciting 2019-2020 season: junior guard Javonte Smart and sophomore forward Trendon Watford. The offseason NCAA trouble may have brought a dark cloud over the basketball program, but it also brought UCLA forward and LSU legacy athlete Shareef O'Neal (son of Shaquille "Shaq" O'Neal) to Baton Rouge, LA. The LSU Tigers, barring insurmountable NCAA sanctions, will be a tough win for Nate Oats and the Alabama Crimson Tide.

 

Photo Courtesy of The Advertiser

6) Stanford Cardinal

Though the Stanford Cardinal only managed to finish seventh in their conference, the demanding matchups within the Pac-12 are a key to why a sports and academic powerhouse look so "average." The 20-12 record from the shortened season is their best in recent history for the program and don't be surprised if they try to jumpstart their regular-season chances with an opening non-conference victory over No. 24 Alabama in the Maui Invitational.

Photo Courtesy of The Mercury News

7) Oklahoma Sooners

The Sooners' overall record has slipped since losing NBA All-Star guard Trae Young in the first round of the draft in 2018. Though, it's also important to note that Oklahoma hasn't lost to a non-conference opponent in the regular season since December of 2019. Oklahoma will need to make a push to knock off fellow Big-12 foes like Kansas and Texas Tech, but if they can manage the task of their difficult conference, the Alabama Crimson Tide could be in trouble when they get to their January meeting.

Photo Courtesy of OU Daily

8) Arkansas Razorbacks

The Razorbacks certainly had a tough offseason as they lost their co-SEC Player of the Year, Mason Jones, to the 2020 NBA Draft. However, head coach Eric Musselman has done a consistent job in recruiting to beef up the Arkansas bench. Alabama is scheduled to play a home-and-home series against the Razorbacks which should provide a "measuring stick" between the new coaches for both schools.

Photo Courtesy of BustingBrackets.com

9) South Carolina Gamecocks

Last season's record of 18-13 doesn't quite accurately depict the type of season that the Gamecocks were able to put together. USC took down SEC-Powerhouse Kentucky AND defeated the reigning national champions (Virginia) on the road by over 10 points.

Photo Courtesy of The New York Times

10) Mizzou Tigers

The Tigers don't intend on slipping from the success of their 2019-2020 season as they've managed to return the squad's top-five leading scorers. However, Mizzou will need to focus and work on their discipline as a program to cultivate some success as last season, they finished in the top three schools in both personal fouls and turnovers for the SEC.

Photo Courtesy of St. Louis Post-Dispatch

For more content from J.R. and all the talented interns at Tide 100.9, make sure to tune-in for Tide Tonight - Monday and Wednesday @ 6:00-7:00 pm & Thursday @ 6:00-6:30 PM. You can hear all of our excellent radio content on the new Tide 100.9 app!

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