Alabama Basketball: Tide Still Alive for NCAA Tournament Bid


Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports

The Alabama Crimson Tide somehow remains alive in their chase for an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament, and when they take the court tomorrow against Florida, they have an opportunity to make a loud statement to the selection committee. Alabama heads into the game desperately needing a win to put them on the right side of the bubble; and after the Gators’ loss to Tennessee, the Crimson Tide can once again say they control their own destiny in the SEC Championship race.

Alabama is sitting at 19-9 overall with an impressive 11-4 mark in conference play. They are one game behind Florida for first place with just three regular season games remaining.

The Crimson Tide is sitting in pretty much the same position they were in last week after going 1-1 in their two games. They lost a heartbreaking triple-overtime thriller in Baton Rouge to LSU before rebounding and beating Auburn on Tuesday night in Coleman Coliseum.

Interestingly enough, Alabama has seemingly made up some ground after the win over Auburn. ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi moved the Crimson Tide up to ‘First Four Out’ after the game Tuesday night, and that is where Alabama remains according to his update late last night.

At the moment, Alabama is the fourth team being left out of the NCAA Tournament according to Lunardi, behind Tennessee, Boise State and Baylor. His last four in are Kentucky, Temple, Villanova and Ole Miss.

With Alabama remaining a serious bubble team, let’s take a look at their resume:

Record: 19-9, 11-4 SEC
RPI: 62nd
SOS: 99th
Top 50 W/L: 1-3
Top 100 W/L: 7-5
Key Wins: Kentucky, Tennessee, Villanova
Bad Losses: Dayton, Mercer, Tulane, Auburn

Despite having only one win over the Top-50, the Crimson Tide does have a solid seven wins over the Top-100. Kentucky may be the only Top-50 team Alabama has beaten so far, but they have two other wins over fellow bubble teams in Tennessee and Villanova. The Vols and Wildcats are both in the Top-60 and inching toward the Top-50 in their own right.

It’s still hard to get past the four ugly losses, however. The committee will not look favorably on that, especially with three of those games coming on Alabama’s home floor in non-conference play.

Alabama’s RPI of 62 isn’t a strong number. Usually you need to be much higher than that to reach the tournament, but then again RPI is only one of several factors the selection committee looks at when evaluating teams.

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

Wins (18)

  • South Dakota State (76) -1
  • Oregon State (188) -17
  • Villanova (56) -1
  • Charleston Southern (194) -13
  • Lamar (332) -4
  • Texas Tech (222) +5
  • Oakland (116) +0
  • Tennessee (53) +12
  • Mississippi State (239) -8
  • Texas A&M (87) -16
  • Kentucky (49) -2
  • Arkansas (89) -9
  • Vanderbilt (134) +10
  • LSU (92) +11
  • Georgia (143) -24
  • South Carolina (201) -5
  • Mississippi State (239) -8
  • Auburn (217) -1

Losses (9)

  • Cincinnati (50) -9
  • Dayton (110) +7
  • VCU (34) +3
  • Mercer (148) +4
  • Tulane (169) -19
  • Missouri (43) -10
  • Tennessee (53) +12
  • Auburn (217) -1
  • LSU (92) +11

Remaining Games (3)

  • Florida (5)
  • Ole Miss (55)
  • Georgia (143)

The loss to LSU didn’t hurt nearly as much as most expected because the Tigers have leaped into the Top-100. They need to stay there because Alabama can ill-afford another sub-100 loss on their resume.

Right now, what has happened doesn’t really matter. The focus is on the game in Gainesville tomorrow against Florida. If Alabama can somehow find a way to get the win, then it will rectify their early season miscues. A road win over a team in the Top-5 of the RPI should be enough to propel Alabama into the NCAA Tournament barring a loss to another bad team in the regular season or the SEC Tournament.

A loss to Florida and the Crimson Tide would need to do some damage in the SEC Tournament. They would need to beat Ole Miss and Georgia to finish the regular season, and then hope to get a win over Florida, Kentucky, Missouri or maybe even Tennessee in the SEC Tournament in order to secure a bid. Even then, that may not be enough with Alabama’s only sure way in being by winning the SEC Tournament and getting an automatic bid.

An 11-4 mark in a major conference should help Alabama’s cause, but Alabama went 12-4 in the SEC during the 2010-11 season and got left out of the Big Dance. Early season losses to bad teams plagued Alabama that season. Sound familiar?

The only reason Alabama has a prayer of making it to the NCAA Tournament as an at-large is because of how down college basketball as a whole has been this season. In normal years, this Alabama team wouldn’t be sniffing the NCAA Tournament with those ugly losses on their resume.

I think if the Crimson Tide can win out in the regular season, and avoid a loss to one of the SEC’s bottom feeders in the conference tournament, then they should be in the NCAA Tournament. Winning out would mean that Alabama would win the regular season SEC Championship, and I can’t see any way the selection committee would leave out the conference champion of a power conference.

For now, all we can do is hope that Alabama plays their best game of the season tomorrow in Gainesville and somehow finds a way to pull of a shocking upset on Florida’s home court. If they can do that, then they’ll be back on the right side of the bubble once again.

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