Bama Basketball Bracketology

Everyone's attention is obviously focused on Pasadena right now (I'm in Cali now as I type).  The game is just days away and, well, we all know what is at stake there. That said, for better or for worse, football season will be over come this weekend, just in time for the start of the SEC basketball season.  The Crimson Tide finished up its non-conference games today with a win at Toledo to finish a respectable 10-4 against non-SEC foes.  We all know our goal this season in Coach Grant's first year is a return to the Big Dance, so in this post I'll examine our tournament resume as we prepare to transition into SEC play this weekend in Baton Rouge.

For those of you that missed my previous post on this subject, I've created a tournament resume chart if you will, which I'll simply call Bama Bball Bracketology.  As you can see, it's pretty simple to figure out, but I'll clarify a few things that might be confusing. Obviously, teams we have beaten go in the left column (in order of strength), teams we have lost to go in the right column (in order of weakness), and teams we have yet to play remain in the center column (in order of play). As for the rankings, I'm using two different systems. The first is based off ESPN's latest bracketology, and the teams that they have projected to be in the Dance (as at-large teams) are highlighted in bold with their projected seed (note: not their overall ranking) indicated in parentheses. I do this because it shows how we have fared against teams that the selection committee will likely see as the strongest. The selection committee doesn't care about the AP or the coaches poll, so they are completely irrelevant in college basketball. The second is simply the latest RPI ranking, which I have used to give us an idea of where the teams not projected in the tournament stand. As you may already know, the RPI is the only ranking system used by the selection committee.  Please note however that the RPI rankings will not really take shape until late January or so due to the small sample size we are working with this early in the season, so many of these RPI rankings will change drastically.

Wins (10)

Upcoming (16)

Losses (4)

#58 Baylor (Neutral)

#145 LSU (Away)

#37 Cornell (Home)

#78 Providence (Home)

(12) Vanderbilt (Home)

(5) Florida State (Neutral)

#125 North Florida (Home)

#234 Arkansas (Away)

(3) Kansas State (Neutral)

#177 Michigan (Neutral)

(3) Tennessee (Home)

(1) Purdue (Home)

#211 Samford (Home)

(10) Mississippi State (Home)

#217 Mercer (Home)

#145 LSU (Home)

#261 Louisiana-Monroe (Home)

#198 Auburn (Away)

#275 Tennessee State (Home)

(7) Florida (Home)

#276 Jackson State (Home)

(4) Ole Miss (Away)

#301 Toledo (Away)

(1) Kentucky (Away)

#234 Arkansas (Home)

#121 Georgia (Away)

(10) Mississippi State (Away)

(4) Ole Miss (Home)

#80 South Carolina (Away)

#198 Auburn (Home)

In reviewing our 14-game non-conference slate, it's important to point out that our strength of schedule was the toughest of any team in the SEC according to RPI.  All four of our losses were "good" losses, with three coming against top-20 teams and the other coming against a bubble team in the season opener.  We already have double-digit wins, which is great, but right now we are lacking a signature non-conference win. The only way that will change is if Baylor, Providence, or Michigan rally in conference play to make the Big Dance. Baylor is the most likely candidate, as we are their only loss so far. Bama fans should keep an eye on those teams and hope that at least one picks it up so that we can later point to that as a signature non-conference win.  In short, our now-completed non-conference resume has two things working for us and one against: we have an excellent overall SOS and all of our losses are to good teams, but we are lacking wins against tournament-quality teams.

So what does this mean heading into conference play?  Well, not much has changed since my first BBB update; we've stayed the course of beating the teams we should but not quite beating the tournament-caliber teams.  Holding that course would likely get us an NIT bid--nothing to sneeze at these days and a definite sign of improvement in Coach Grant's first year, but not quite where we want to be.  That said, we are in a good enough position where it won't take a lot of improvement from our current course to get us to that place where we do want to be: the Big Dance.  The SEC is much improved this year, currently ranked as the #4 conference according to RPI, so any winning record in the SEC will be looked at very favorably by the committee.  As I stated earlier, a 10-4 non-conference record given our SOS will also be looked at favorably.  The only thing left to do will be to pick up some quality wins, and half of our SEC games will be against teams projected to make the Dance, so we will have plenty of chances to remedy that weakness in our resume.

Once basketball season starts to really heat up in the coming weeks, we can discuss specific SEC games and their implications for our tournament resume.  For now though I will say this, as an overly general sweeping statement: at this point 10 more wins should be our target to making the Dance.  That could mean 9-7 with a win in the SEC tourney, or 10-6 with no tourney wins, or maybe even 8-8 with two or more tourney wins.  Built into this overly general sweeping statement is the assumption that 10 or more wins against SEC teams would likely include a few wins against tournament-caliber teams, which would bolster the quality wins on our resume. 

Obviously getting 10 wins against SEC opponents will be no small task, and to be honest it's probably not a task we can accomplish without some improvement in our play (and maybe even a little luck).  That said, it is a reasonable goal and if we can improve--and you better believe while we're all focused on California, Coach Grant and the team are working to make those very improvements--we have a realistic shot at a return to the Dance.  Follow and support this team once all is said and done in Pasadena.  Even if we don't reach our goal this year, I know this team will be fun to watch and will make us proud.

March Madness is 72 days away...Roll Tide!

FanPosts are just that; posts created by the fans. They are in no way indicative of the opinions of SBN and the authors of Roll Bama Roll.

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