Will Wade vs Nate Oats: The Start of a College Basketball Rivalry
The 13th ranked LSU Tigers men's basketball team travels to face the Alabama Crimson Tide on Wednesday night, and it will mark another chapter in the brief but interesting rivalry between the current leaders of the two programs.
LSU head coach Will Wade joined the Tigers in the 2017-18 season, and his team is once again near the top of the SEC standings for the fourth straight year. LSU is nationally ranked in the top 15 with a 15-2 record, and they're 3-1 in an important January stretch.
Nate Oats took over at Alabama in the 2019-20 season. After finishing ninth in the SEC in his debut year with the Crimson Tide, he took Alabama to the top of the conference in 2020-21, winning both the regular season and tournament titles in the SEC.
This season has been strange for Alabama. They've picked up huge wins against Gonzaga, the nation's top team, and Houston, who is currently ranked 10th in the country. However, they've also lost to teams such as Iona, Davidson, and Memphis. The Crimson Tide have floundered recently with three straight losses in the SEC, and they sit at 11-6 overall with a 2-3 record in conference play.
That makes this game in Tuscaloosa, Alabama a must-win for the Crimson Tide to get their season back on track. What makes this game interesting is that Oats has controlled the series against Wade so far.
In 2020, Wade's Tigers beat Alabama 90-76 in Baton Rouge in the first matchup between the two coaches. However, a few weeks later, the Crimson Tide got revenge with a 88-82 win in Tuscaloosa. There wasn't much to talk about between the two coaches in 2020. The SEC Tournament got canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the two teams didn't meet again until the next year.
Last season was the start of something interesting. Alabama finished first in the SEC and LSU wasn't far behind, finishing in third place. They met three times, first with Oats embarrassing Wade and the Tigers 105-75 in Baton Rouge before beating them again in Tuscaloosa 78-60. As the scores indicate, neither game was very close, and the two victories helped propel the Crimson Tide to the top of the SEC.
Wade and LSU had another chance to topple Alabama when both teams made a run to the SEC Tournament Championship Game. Prior to the game, members of the two teams met in the middle of the court, but no fight broke out.
This was likely a result of the first two meetings earlier in the season. LSU didn't want to lose for a third time in the same year to the Crimson Tide, and the SEC Tournament Championship Game was easily the closest of the three. The two teams fought in a tightly-contested game from start to finish, and Alabama ultimately won 80-79. The final seconds featured three potential game-winning shots from the Tigers, but none of them fell as time expired.
Oats and Alabama finished the season with a perfect 3-0 record against Wade and LSU, and the camera crew seemingly caught the Crimson Tide coach having some words for Wade after the victory.
Wednesday's game is the next matchup between the two coaches. LSU has started the 2021-22 season very well and Alabama is looking to rebound from a recent slump, so it should be a must watch for college basketball fans. Just keep an eye out for the two men on the sidelines, because there could be fireworks in this one.