Alabama Basketball: More work ahead after LSU ‘Bubble Boost’

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Alabama basketball zoomed up the NCAA NET Ranking after beating LSU. The Tide’s enhanced Big Dance quest needs more wins and no bad losses.

Alabama basketball coach, Nate Oats may not have a 24-hour rule, following games. It may be a one hour rule instead. He heaped praise on his team Saturday for the win over LSU. He quickly added, “We’ve got to draw a line in the sand. Are we going to keep losing close games or are we going to do what it takes to win.”

Saturday, the Crimson Tide, led by a one-armed Herbert Jones, did what it took. Now it has more work to do. The updated NCAA NET Ranking (after the Saturday games) has the Crimson Tide at No. 35. Numbers expert Warren Nolan lists the Tide, Strength of Schedule as No. 5. Those are NCAA Tournament qualifying numbers.

The rest of the Alabama basketball, NCAA resume needs improvement. Two Quad One wins is barely enough. A 6-10 record against Quad One and Quad Two teams is good but not great. Eleven losses are problematic. Three of those losses were by a total of four points. Two more were in overtime. Three of the last four Tide losses were without a healthy Herbert Jones. How many, if any, of those mitigating factors will the NCAA Tournament Committee consider? No one knows or will know before Selection Sunday.

What Alabama basketball can control is how it finishes the season. If it needed an extra dose of heart, Herbert Jones provided it on Saturday. The Tide can feed off Herbert-generated emotion, but going forward, replicating Saturday’s effort is the key. An often, not unfairly maligned Galin Smith was a difference-maker against LSU. Smith had 10 points and six rebounds in 17 minutes of play. The Tide’s worst foul shooter was 6-of-7 from the line.

Alabama basketball committed only nine turnovers against the Bengal Tigers. For a team, near the bottom of Division One in gifting the ball to opponents, single-digit give-aways were huge. Take away Beetle Bolden’s three turnovers (in 15 minutes) and the two from the one-armed Jones – and the rest of the team had only four turnovers.

Many Alabama basketball fans remember Tide teams falling flat against weaker teams in late-season games. Going to Oxford on Feb. 22 fits the profile.  A loss to TAMU or Vanderbilt, even Missouri on the road could wreck the Tide’s NCAA chances.

What would heal many wounds is a win over Mississippi State in Starkville. No credible prognosticator sees a Crimson Tide win over the Bulldogs. The early January 21-point, Tide win is misleading. Ben Howland’s roster was still adjusting to the return of Nick Weatherspoon, who was suspended for 10 games. Future NBA star, Reggie Perry played only 23 minutes before fouling out. The Tide shot almost 42 percent outside the arc. The Bulldogs (No. 52 NET Ranking) are in contention for an NCAA bid.

It will be a brawl in Starkville, with Perry trying to dominate inside. Tide fans less familiar with Perry can think, Austin Wiley, but better.

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Nate Oats would agree – nothing going forward should be presumed. There are zero guarantees. The Crimson Tide has made big improvements following Nate Oats’ vision and leadership. Work is left to do.