It’s been a rocky few weeks for the Alabama basketball team. The team has had to deal with suspensions of multiple first-team players, as well as several shocking losses. Alabama was a lock for the NCAA tournament after a strong early season performance, particularly the Tide’s performance in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Has the midseason turmoil changed this outlook?
The losses to the Florida Gators and the LSU Tigers lowered Alabama’s Ratings Percentage Index, or RPI, to 35. RPI, an all-encompassing ranking system for the nearly 300 Division I basketball teams, is the main criteria used by the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee. The model leans heavily on strength of schedule to determine its ranking system. There are such things as “good losses,” such as Alabama’s defeat by Kentucky, and “bad losses,” such as the Bama loss to LSU. Since Kentucky is No. 3 in the RPI rankings, it does not hurt Alabama’s RPI nearly as much as LSU’s No. 68 ranking.
Even with the two recent losses, Alabama is still in the top 50 in RPI. The SEC has several strong teams this year, so the conference isn’t in the doldrums as it was during the 2011 season. Given those two facts, Alabama should still get into March Madness, but the Tide is very close to a bubble team that may or may not make it in. The margin for error is shrinking, though, and any more bad losses will definitely stick Alabama squarely on the NCAA Tournament bubble which will force the Crimson Tide to go deeper into the SEC tournament to lock up an NCAA bid.
Alabama continues to control its own destiny. Coach Anthony Grant must get the team refocused and prepared for a strong stretch run to sew up its tournament bid.