At one point in the College Football Playoff, the national championship picture was dominated by Alabama and Clemson. Nick Saban vs. Dabo Swinney became one of the best rivalries in the sport while driving the rest of the country bonkers at consistent matchups.

From 2014-21, at least one of Clemson or Alabama made an appearance in the 4-team Playoff. 5 of those occurrences included both the Tide and Tigers in the Playoff field with 4 head-to-head showdowns.

Entering 2024, things look much different with Saban retiring and Clemson not reaching the CFP since the 2020 season. Yet, March Madness has given fans a blast from the past in the Elite 8.

During Sweet 16 action, Alabama and Clemson both advanced with wins over North Carolina and Arizona, respectively. Now, Nate Oats and Brad Brownell will etch their own story into the postseason rivalry on the hardwood.

Inevitable reaction

The showdown between the two programs was not missed by fans. Many on social media were quick to point out the historically strong football programs making an unusual postseason matchup in basketball, and CBS Sports even tackled the idea in a segment.

Check out all the reaction to the matchup:

What’s at stake?

The opening line for Saturday favors Alabama with the Crimson Tide set as a 3.5-point favorite against Clemson. Fans can track that line movement and get in on the action with Saturday Road’s DraftKings links.

Beyond the game line, history for each program is on the line Saturday night with a shot to reach the Final Four. Neither Alabama nor Clemson has reached the Final Four in their history, and the Tigers have not even reached the Elite 8 in over 40 years.

Clemson’s last appearance in the Elite 8 came in 1980 when the Tigers lost to UCLA. The Tigers were already making their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2018 and their first appearance in the Big Dance since 2021.

Meanwhile, Alabama is in a more familiar position though still in search of its first trip to the Final Four. Under Nate Oats, the Crimson Tide have appeared in the Sweet 16 3 of the last 4 seasons but are in the Elite 8 for the first time since 2004.

Oats and his offensive system have drawn different reactions throughout the season, but the Tide came up with the defensive plays needed to get past UNC after stifling Grand Canyon in the Round of 32.

So, without a historical context to investigate, how should you approach Saturday’s game? Alabama is the higher seed, but a look at Clemson’s regular-season schedule is intriguing.

In fact, Clemson made a trip to Tuscaloosa to face Alabama in nonconference play. The Tigers held Alabama to 34% shooting inside Coleman Coliseum while winning 85-77. That head-to-head matchup (particularly as a road game for Clemson) should carry some weight, but it’s not the only positive outcome for the Tigers.

Overall, Clemson went 4-2 this season in games against AP Top 25 teams, including road victories against Alabama and UNC. The Tigers also had a chance to beat Duke on the road before a controversial ending in Durham.

Translation? Both these teams are battle tested, and neither team is going to feel overwhelmed when things tipoff Saturday night. The Tigers also are likely to hold a slight edge with the knowledge they have already beaten the Crimson Tide.

This isn’t the College Football Playoff, but these two teams are primed for a similarly epic struggle on the basketball court.