The Alabama Crimson Tide continues to scratch and claw their way toward an NCAA Tournament bid, but they have also set their sights on a new goal for the 2012-13 season: The regular season SEC Championship. Two more Alabama basketball victories accompanied by a Florida loss at Missouri, and Alabama now controls its own destiny in the regular season conference title race.
Alabama is sitting at 10-3 in the conference, just one game behind Florida for the lead. It could very well come down to the Crimson Tide’s March 2nd date with the Gators to decide the conference.
The Tide didn’t get much of a boost in the NCAA Tournament race this week as they played and beat two of the worst teams in the conference. Wins over South Carolina and Mississippi State at home aren’t going to impress the selection committee. Although, the wins were key because losses would have been devastating.
The win over Mississippi State on Wednesday was especially important because it clinched a third straight winning season in the SEC for Anthony Grant and the Tide, something that hasn’t been accomplished in Tuscaloosa since 1994-96. Those of you who have been leading the “Fire Grant” charge can quietly move to the back.
Even with a 10-3 record in the conference, Alabama is on the outside looking in for a berth in the NCAA Tournament. Let’s take a look at their resume:
Record: 18-8, 10-3 SEC
Top 50 W/L: 1-3
Top 100 W/L: 6-4
Quality Wins: Kentucky
Bad Losses: Dayton, Mercer, Tulane, Auburn
Alabama’s NCAA Tournament resume remains extremely thin and weak. The one quality win the Crimson Tide can hang their hats on is the home victory over Kentucky, who is hanging on in the Top-50. Even if the Wildcats free fall from here on out, the selection committee should still look favorably on that win because it came when Kentucky still had star big man Nerlens Noel.
Alabama has amassed a solid 6-4 record over the Top-100, and they do have an early season tournament win under their belts by winning the 2K Sports Classic back in November. That may or may not mean much because the committee does usually like tournament victories, but it was a pretty weak field that featured only two decent teams in Alabama and Villanova.
The most glaring thing on Alabama’s tournament resume is the four bad losses. They have four losses to sub-100 RPI teams, and that will be tough for the committee to overlook come Selection Sunday, which is now a little under a month away.
Now, let’s take a look at Alabama’s wins, losses and upcoming games with the RPI of their opponents in parenthesis. As usual, 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.) (All RPI rankings are as of the Thursday update on realtimerpi.com)
- South Dakota State (75) -6
- Oregon State (171) -4
- Villanova (55) +9
- Charleston Southern (181) +16
- Lamar (328) -13
- Texas Tech (227) -12
- Oakland (116) -6
- Tennessee (65) +11
- Mississippi State (231) -6
- Texas A&M (71) -4
- Kentucky (47) -4
- Arkansas (80) +14
- Vanderbilt (144) +15
- LSU (103) +8
- Georgia (119) +0
- South Carolina (196) +7
- Mississippi State (231) -6
- Cincinnati (41) -6
- Dayton (117) +11
- VCU (37) +0
- Mercer (152) +12
- Tulane (150) -1
- Missouri (33) +1
- Tennessee (65) +11
- Auburn (216) -5
Remaining Games (5)
- LSU (103)
- Auburn (216)
- Florida (4)
- Ole Miss (56)
- Georgia (119)
Villanova is starting to creep toward becoming a Top-50 win for Alabama, which would be absolutely huge for the Crimson Tide’s tournament resume. The Wildcats got a boost last week by securing a road win over Connecticut, and they have several more chances in Big East play to boost their RPI with games remaining against Marquette, Pittsburgh and Georgetown.
Arkansas and Tennessee have both made significant jumps up the rankings as well. The Vols are playing as good as anyone in the conference, and Arkansas just took down Missouri to go along with already having knocked off Florida.
LSU is creeping toward the Top-100, which could give Alabama a 7th and possibly 8th win over Top-100 teams if they can beat the Tigers on Saturday in Baton Rouge. Then again, a loss to LSU wouldn’t be completely devastating because the Bayou Bengals would jump into the Top-100.
Alabama has only five games remaining to make a statement to the selection committee to show they deserve inclusion in the 68-team field. Home games against Auburn and Georgia are must wins first and foremost. They can’t afford to drop either of those games. It would be nice if they could beat LSU on Saturday as well.
The game that could determine Alabama’s NCAA and SEC Championship hopes is on March 2nd in Gainesville against Florida. A win over Florida could very well secure a bid to the Big Dance for the Crimson Tide, and it could very well win them the SEC Championship if they take care of business in their other games.
Of course, winning at Florida is much easier said than done, and it would take an absolutely perfect game on both ends of the court to accomplish such a feat.
Ole Miss has been in an absolute free fall as of late, culminating with their one point loss to South Carolina on Wednesday. The Rebels have fallen out of the Top-50, and they, too, look to be on the outside looking in for the tournament.
In terms of securing a double bye in the SEC Tournament by being a top four seed in the conference, Mississippi’s recent struggles has helped the Crimson Tide. It’s hurt them in their chase for a tournament bid, however, because the Rebels at one time presented Alabama with another opportunity to get a quality win. That’s no longer the case.
Alabama still has a lot of work to do to get into the NCAA Tournament, and like I’ve been saying for awhile, the only sure way of getting in will be by winning the SEC Tournament and receiving an at-large berth.
Beating Florida on the road could very well be enough as long as the Crimson Tide do not suffer another bad loss in the regular season or conference tournament, but regardless, if Alabama doesn’t win the SEC Tournament, they will be seriously sweating it out on Selection Sunday.
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