Alabama Basketball: Tide’s Bubble Bursts with Horrible Loss to Auburn


John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

The Alabama Crimson Tide had been trending up a bit in terms of their chances for an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament coming into the week. They had won six of their last seven games with the one loss coming by a single point on the road to Tennessee. They had just exorcised past demons in Memorial Gymnasium with a come from behind victory over Vanderbilt in Nashville.

Both Joe Lunardi and Jerry Palm had Alabama on the cusp of the Big Dance as one of the first four teams left out of the tournament in their most recent bracket projections. The Tide’s momentum came to a screeching halt on Wednesday night in Auburn as the team put together their absolute worst performance of the season in a 49-37 loss to the rival Tigers.

The team has had their fair share of offensive struggles this season, but nothing to the extent of what we saw at Auburn Arena. Every Tide fan has harped on the offensive inefficiency, and for good reason, but scoring 37 points in a 40 minute basketball game was the straw that finally broke Alabama’s back.

It was simply an unacceptable performance, and one that head coach Anthony Grant cannot allow to happen again. Something has to change quickly on the offensive end of the floor or something will have to change on the bench. That’s the reality of the situation.

Alabama had been clinging to slim at-large hopes, but after losing to Auburn, a team with an RPI worse than 200, those hopes seem to be over. The Crimson Tide could not afford another bad loss after having already suffered three earlier in the season.

Let’s take a look at how bad this Auburn loss hurt Alabama’s at-large chances. As usual, we’ll look at the Tide’s wins, losses and upcoming games with the RPI of their opponents in parenthesis. I’ll also put 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 (13)

  • South Dakota State (69) -3
  • Oregon State (165) -11
  • Villanova (66) -11
  • Charleston Southern (198) -4
  • Lamar (318) +2
  • Texas Tech (206) -15
  • Oakland (139) +24
  • Tennessee (102) -29
  • Mississippi State (228) -1
  • Texas A&M (72) +0
  • Kentucky (41) +9
  • Arkansas (76) +17
  • Vanderbilt (155) -17

Losses (8)

  • Cincinnati (25) -2
  • Dayton (103) +10
  • VCU (50) -8
  • Mercer (166) -2
  • Tulane (163) -4
  • Missouri (35) -7
  • Tennessee (102) -29
  • Auburn (204) +19

Upcoming Games (9)

  • LSU (105)
  • Georgia (112)
  • South Carolina (191)
  • Mississippi State (228)
  • LSU (105)
  • Auburn (204)
  • Florida (6)
  • Ole Miss (48)
  • Georgia (112)

As you can see, Alabama now has five losses to teams with RPI’s worse than 100 after their loss to Auburn and with Tennessee dropping out of the Top-100. They hold a 5-3 record against the Top-100, which is good, but they really only have one quality win and that was at home against Kentucky.

The Kentucky win is great, but it doesn’t cancel out all the bad losses that have piled up on the Crimson Tide’s resume. The losses to Mercer, Tulane and Auburn specifically will be hard to overlook for the selection committee regardless of how well Alabama finishes the season. Three losses to sub-150 RPI teams is more than likely too much to overcome even in a weak year for college basketball overall.

The loss to Auburn dropped them all the way to 68th in RPI.

There was no room for error for this team, and they lost to one of the worst teams remaining on their schedule. Alabama doesn’t have many opportunities for quality wins to cancel out some of those bad losses, either.

They play two more games against teams in the RPI Top-100 with road tilts against Florida and Ole Miss. It’s possible if Alabama won their final nine games and then earned a quality win in the SEC Tournament over the likes of Florida, Kentucky, Missouri or Ole Miss, then Alabama could sneak into the dance.

But anyone who has confidence in a team that could only manage 37 points against an SEC bottom feeder to win the remainder of the games on their schedule is delusional. The fact is that this team simply is not an NCAA Tournament team this year.

Their lack of a low post threat and inability to score the basketball has been their downfall this year, and it all came to head on Wednesday night in Auburn.

Barring a miraculous finish to the season or winning the SEC Tournament and receiving an automatic bid to March Madness, it certainly seems like Alabama will be an NIT team this year.

It will be interesting to see how this team responds to such an ugly loss. They could learn from it and get better, or they could fold. We will find out tomorrow night in Tuscaloosa against LSU.

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