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Alabama Basketball: Crimson Tide Clinging to Slim At-Large Hopes

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The Alabama Crimson Tide is clinging to slim hopes of making the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team. Last week, you had to like the position they were in following wins over Texas A&M and Kentucky. They seemed to be on the cusp of busting into Joe Lunardi’s bracketology the following Tuesday as long as they could take care of business on Saturday in Knoxville against Tennessee.

Instead, the Crimson Tide lost a 54-53 hearbreaker in a game they seemed to control from the outset. It was an inexcusable loss that dropped Alabama from NCAA Tournament consideration at the time. After being listed as one of the “First Four Out” the previous week, Lunardi didn’t even mention Alabama in his Tuesday update.

The Tide’s hopes of getting into the NCAA Tournament as an at-large seemed to hinge on Thursday night’s matchup in Tuscaloosa with Arkansas. Another loss and the Crimson Tide might have dug themselves too big of a hole. Although that hole is still pretty big thanks to two ugly nonconference losses, the Crimson Tide is still alive thanks to their 59-56 win over the Hogs.

Alabama got a boost from Kentucky this week, who went on the road and knocked off Ole Miss. The Wildcats are now Alabama’s best win on the season and they have worked their way up into the RPI Top 50.

Villanova had done the same, but they lost  a close road game to Notre Dame and dropped back to 55th. The Wildcats have plenty of chances to get back into the Top 50 though.

Alabama had a real shot to make some noise last week, but took a loss at Tennessee. By itself, the loss to Tennessee isn’t that bad because the Vols are better than their record shows and they are a Top 100 RPI team. Still, it was a win Alabama had in its grasp and let slip away in the final minutes.

Being dominated on the glass was Alabama’s real downfall against Tennessee, but they seemed to solve that issue against Arkansas, albeit the Hogs aren’t as big and physical as the Vols are. Alabama out-rebounded Arkansas, and crashed the offensive glass coming up with 14 offensive rebounds.

Devonta Pollard and Moussa Gueye really worked hard on the glass, and it helped the Tide overcome a rough offensive half over the final twenty-minutes.

So where does Alabama stand in terms of making the NCAA Tournament as an at-large team? Let’s take a look at their wins, losses and upcoming games with the RPI of their opponents in parenthesis. I’m also putting a +/- with a number next to it to indicate RPI movement from last week.

(The win over West Alabama doesn’t factor in because they are not Division I.)

Wins (12)

  • South Dakota State (66) -1
  • Oregon State (154) -22
  • Villanova (55) +3
  • Charleston Southern (194) -22
  • Lamar (320) -7
  • Texas Tech (191) +8
  • Oakland (163) +5
  • Tennessee (73) +25
  • Mississippi State (227) +14
  • Texas A&M (72) -6
  • Kentucky (50) +10
  • Arkansas (93) -10

Losses (7)

  • Cincinnati (23) +1
  • Dayton (113) -16
  • VCU (42) -15
  • Mercer (164) -6
  • Tulane (159) -9
  • Missouri (28) -3
  • Tennessee (73) +25

Upcoming Games (11)

  • Vanderbilt (138)
  • Auburn (223)
  • LSU (120)
  • Georgia (144)
  • South Carolina (178)
  • Mississippi State (227)
  • LSU (120)
  • Auburn (223)
  • Florida (6)
  • Ole Miss (45)
  • Georgia (144)

The biggest thing to happen this week, in my opinion, is Dayton’s fall out of the Top 100. The Flyers had been steadily falling for the last couple of weeks, but now after a 2-4 start in A-10 play, they have tumbled all the way to 113th. Now, Alabama has three losses on its resume against teams with RPI’s worse than 100.

Alabama cannot afford another bad loss, but as you can see above, they have plenty of chances leftfor a resume crushing defeat. Nine of the team’s final eleven games in SEC play are against teams with RPI’s worse than 100.

If Dayton can work their way back into the Top 100, then maybe Alabama could afford a loss to a team like LSU, but even then it still might be too much to overcome on Selection Sunday.

The bad news is that Alabama has a quick turnaround on Saturday against Vanderbilt, a team a loss against could deal that final crushing defeat that ends Alabama’s at-large hopes. The even worse news is that the game is to be played at the Commodores’ Memorial Gymnasium; a place Alabama has not won a basketball game since 1990.

The Crimson Tide currently check in at No. 63 in RPI, which would have them out of the NCAA Tournament at this point in time. They hold a 6-4 record against Top 100 opponents, but are just 1-3 against the Top 50, and they have three losses against teams outside the Top-100.

The harsh reality is that Alabama probably needs to go 10-1 down the stretch to earn a trip to the tournament as an at-large, and even then they would probably need to win a game or two in the SEC Tournament.

Those losses to Mercer and Tulane are unforgivable, and now the loss to Dayton continues to look worse and worse. The Crimson Tide could possibly survive a 9-2 finish, but that would mean they more than likely have to beat Florida on the road, which is as daunting of a task as there is in college basketball this season.

There is just so little room for error right now, and it seems likely that Alabama is going to be an NIT team this year, which is probably what they deserve. NCAA Tournament teams do not lose back to back home games to teams the caliber of Mercer and Tulane.

If Alabama had simply taken care of business against those teams, then they would be sitting at 15-5, and we would probably feel pretty good about their tournament chances at this moment.

For Alabama to have the finish to the season that they need in order to bust into the Big Dance as an at-large, they are going to have to play much better on the offensive end than they have been playing. Regardless of how good the Tide is on the defensive end, you aren’t going to win many games in which you fail to score 60 points, which is what they have done in their last four games — miraculously going 3-1 in that stretch.

I think Alabama’s hopes of making the NCAA Tournament rest on them winning the SEC Tournament. I don’t like their chances as an at-large this season, and I suspect that if they fall short in the SEC tournament that they will end up in the NIT for the second time in three years.

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