Alabama Basketball: The Crimson Tide Enter a Critical Stretch Ahead of SEC Play

Damon YoungCorrespondent IIDecember 17, 2011

DAYTON, OH - DECEMBER 7: Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Anthony Grant looks on during the game against the Dayton Flyers at University of Dayton Arena on December 7, 2011 in Dayton, Ohio. Dayton defeated Alabama 74-62. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

While Alabama rebounded nicely from their two-game losing streak with a 62-54 victory over Detroit, the Tide have a chance to push those sour losses even further from view with their next four contests.

Saturday night, Anthony Grant's squad enters a stretch of games where they will face two teams from the Big 12 and one from the ACC along with Jacksonville out of the Atlantic Sun.

While that last game won't turn any heads, the matchups against Kansas State, Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech will.

It's one more chance for Alabama to make a statement before they start SEC play on January 7th at Georgia.

Kansas State comes into Saturday's contest at 6-1 with their only loss coming in double-overtime to West Virginia. The Wildcats are coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament seasons, even making an Elite Eight appearance in 2009-10.

With the game being played in Kansas City, it will be a nice homecoming for Tide point guard Trevor Releford who played for nearby Bishop Miege.

Alabama will return home, so to speak, to face Oklahoma State Wednesday night in Birmingham. 

While most would rather see the two schools face off on the gridiron, we'll have to settle for the hardwood version. Currently, the Cowboys sit at 6-3 with their most recent defeat coming at the hands of No. 14 Pitt.

After Christmas break, the Tide host Jacksonville, but then start the new year on January 3rd at Georgia Tech.

Yes, this is not a Yellow Jackets squad like the teams of old, but a win against an ACC team is still a good win and this a game Alabama should be able to take even if it is in Atlanta.

In fact, Alabama should have good shots to take all four of these games with the most difficult one being in Kansas City.

Look to see if this young team has learned anything since being manhandled on the road in Dayton.

At this point last season, Alabama sat at 5-5 and would drop their next game to Oklahoma State before winning 10 of their next 11.

Already at 8-2 the Tide would really put themselves in a great position if they can begin conference play with a nice five-game winning streak and a 12-2 start.

You never truly know where a college basketball season is made or broken until you can sit back and look at the resume as a whole, but performing well in this four-game stretch could go a long way to help make the Tide's 2011-12 campaign.