No, this wasn’t a showdown to decide a Bowl Championship Series argument.
It was just a basketball game that could have been big in March, especially had the Crimson Tide lost to a 90-something-RPI team in Birmingham.
As it was, Alabama left the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Complex a 69-52 winner with a bullet. The Tide did it without leading scorer JaMychal Green, who sat out with a shoulder injury.
“It’s a huge victory in a lot of ways,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “We needed a win. You want to go into the holiday break on a positive note.
“The win is big because we had guys step up that needed to step up. It’s big, because we were able to do it without JaMychal, our best player.
“In a lot of different ways, this is a great confidence builder for our team.”
Let’s not overstate things.
Alabama beat a major-conference opponent soundly, but Oklahoma State came into the game with a 96 RPI, according to RealTimeRPI.com.
The Cowboys were also missing one of their best players. Suspended 6-foot-8 senior forward Darrell Williams awaits the Jan. 9 start of his trial on five felony counts alleging he inappropriately touched two women at an off-campus party.
Williams wore team warmups as he watched the game from OSU’s bench.
So, this was a game that Alabama should win just 40-or-so minutes from Coleman Coliseum, with a partisan crowd of 13,808 in its favor.
But Alabama (9-3) is a team with long memories of the 2010-11 season, when the Tide won the SEC West Division and 21 games through the SEC Tournament but wasn’t selected for the NCAA tourney field.
This is the year to break through, especially with shiny newcomers like freshman guard Trevor Lacey, who hit big 3-pointers early Wednesday and scored 12 points in his first career start.
This was the season to build on last season’s run to the NIT finals.
Things looked good early as the Tide beat Maryland, Purdue and Wichita State to win the Puerto Rico Shootout, but things haven’t looked so good lately. After beating Final Four participant Virginia Commonwealth on Nov. 27, Alabama lost three of its next four games.
Take early-season RPIs for what they’re worth, but those losses were blown opportunities. Based on rankings going into Wednesday’s game, Alabama lost to No. 29 Dayton, No. 32 Kansas State and No. 67 Georgetown.
That means that Alabama’s best win so far came against No.44 Wichita State. Victories over No. 60 VCU, No. 69 Purdue and No. 92 Maryland?
Even with Alabama’s 22 RPI, the Tide would do well to add to its resume between now and Selection Sunday. The best remaining chance in non-conference play is No. 102 Georgia Tech on the road Jan. 3.
That Dec. 29 home game against No. 301 Jacksonville won’t help much, and Alabama has the SEC’s top RPI.
That’s why Alabama needed a strong showing Wednesday against No. 96 Oklahoma State, and the Tide got it. Lacey provided a huge spark early, and Alabama responded when the Cowboys pulled to within nine points late.
A 17-point victory over a Big 12 Conference opponent without Green looks OK.
A loss, essentially at home, to a No. 96 team missing its best player would have hurt, especially for an Alabama team that’s out of good non-conference opportunities.
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.