Crimson Tide ranked in USA TODAY Sports Top 25 men's basketball poll

Cecil Hurt
The Tuscaloosa News
Alabama Head Coach Nate Oats applauds his team's effort as they play Mississippi State in Coleman Coliseum Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2019 in the SEC home opener for the Crimson Tide. [Staff Photo/Gary Cosby Jr.]

The Alabama men’s basketball team is ranked No. 25 nationally in the USA Today Sports Coaches Poll, which was released on Thursday morning. 

Baylor was ranked No. 1 in the poll, a mere two points ahead of No. 2 Gonzaga. Alabama was one of three SEC teams in the initial rankings, joining No. 9 Kentucky and No. 14 Tennessee. The Crimson Tide will face those teams in conference play. Houston, which will face Alabama at Coleman Coliseum on Dec. 19, is ranked No. 18 in the poll.

Alabama is also in the Maui Classic field and has potential matchups against North Carolina (No. 16) and Texas (No. 22) in that tournament, which will be played in Asheville, N.C. later this month. 

Alabama's presence in the USA Today Sports Coaches’ Poll is the program's first preseason ranking since the 2017-18 season and only the second since 2006. 

Alabama was 16-15 in Nate Oats’ first season in 2029-2020. Expectations are higher this season as  UA returns four starters – including three All-SEC performers – and seven letter-winners from last season’s team. The returnees include seniors John Petty, Herb Jones and Alex Reese and sophomore Jaden Shackelford. 

In addition to the returnees, the Crimson Tide adds a total of six newcomers who made up the nation's ninth-ranked signing class, according to Rivals.com, and the No. 12 overall class by 247sports.com. The team recruiting rankings did not include graduate transfer Jordan Bruner, who earned first-team All-Ivy League honors last season at Yale. In addition,

Alabama will have three highly-rated players (Juwan Gary, Jahvon Quinerly and James Rojas) who were redshirted last season, giving the Crimson Tide added depth in both the frontcourt and backcourt. Gary is not expected to be available early in the season as he recovers from knee surgery.

Alabama opens its season on Wednesday, Nov. 25, hosting Jacksonville State.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or via Twitter @cecilhurt