The Crimson Tide basketball team is now very much in the March Madness discussion, though we find ourselves skating on very thin ice. For all intents and purposes, we are as square on the bubble as a team can possibly be. Here are some sample projections from some major media outlets:
- ESPN has the Tide projected to make the Tournament as a 12-seed, the lowest seed possible for an at-large team
- NBC similarly has the Tide projected to make the Tournament as a 12-seed, again, the lowest possible seed for an at-large team.
- Sports Illustrated has the Tide projected to be one of the last four left out.
- CBS has the Tide projected to be one of the last five left out.
Clearly, Bama is either just barely in, or just barely out, depending on who you ask. Our current resume as it stands, compared with other teams' current resumes, would get us in the discussion, but would by no means guarantee us a berth in the Big Dance. So what exactly does our resume look like right now?
To see for ourselves, we'll examine the following chart, which essentially sums up how the selection committee will look at what a team has done. Wins are listed in order of quality in the left column, with the best wins coming first. Teams that are projected as either Tournament or bubble teams are listed as such in bold. These would be teams the committee has already discussed and ranked according to their own criteria, so clearly the higher they seed one of your opponents, the better they would view a win against them. Teams not in Tournament/bubble discussion are ordered based on RPI. This is where the RPI becomes really important. It's not so much your own RPI that gets you in or keeps you out, as the committee will examine other factors for teams they are strongly considering. Rather, it is the only way, really, that they judge the strength of your opponents who are not in the discussion.
Losses are listed in the right column, with the worst losses listed first. Upcoming games are listed in the center. Remember, margin of victory doesn't count. Losing in heartbreaking fashion at Vanderbilt counts just the same as losing by 20 at Purdue. The committee isn't even allowed to take that into account. They can and do, however, take into account where the game was played (home/away/neutral) and to a small extent when the game was played, though usually that only matters significantly in the case of players missing due to injury.
|Wins (16)||Upcoming (6)||Losses (8)|
|5-seed Kentucky (Home)||#218 LSU (Away)||#148 Iowa (Neutral)|
|7-seed Tennessee (Away)||#110 Arkansas (Home)||#142 St. Peter's (Neutral)
|#61 Ole Miss (Home)||#271 Auburn (Home)||#110 Arkansas (Away)|
|#105 Lipscomb (Home)||#61 Ole Miss (Away)||#103 Providence (Away)|
|#119 S. Carolina (Home)||3-seed Florida (Away)||#90 Seton Hall (Neutral)|
|#143 Miss. St. (Away)||10-seed Georgia (Home)||bubble- Okla. St. (Away)|
|#143 Miss. St. (Away)||5-seed Vanderbilt (Away)|
|#185 SE La. (Home)||3-seed Purdue (Away)|
|#218 LSU (Home)|
|#222 Pepperdine (Home)|
|#260 Troy (Home)|
|#271 Auburn (Away)|
|#302 S. Ala. (Home)|
|#311 Ala. A&M (Home)|
|#325 Toledo (Home)|
|#327 Fla. A&M (Home)|
Basically this tells us what you should already know. We have a good win percentage, which is enough to get us in the discussion, but we are a little heavy on the bad losses and a little light on the good wins.
We already know all about the bad losses. We knew the moment it happened that when we lost to Iowa and St. Peter's back in November in a 24-hour period that those games would stain our resume for all time. We were right. St. Peter's at least is doing pretty well in their conference and have been rising in the RPI. Iowa, meanwhile, seems to be dropping. Let's hope that both can at least stay in the top 150.
The Arkansas and Providence road losses will count against us a little, but those are somewhat forgivable since they came on the road. It would help if both teams could close strong and sneak into the top 100 in the RPI. The Seton Hall loss really hurts for a lot of reasons. First, it came in a close game when the Pirates had one of the nation's top scorers who proceeded to drop 30+ on us and then didn't even have the decency to play another game all year (broke his hand in our game, then was later shot...yeah). So essentially, Seton Hall has been spiting us all season, something that seems to be continuing, as they have now kicked two starters off the team. We'll be lucky if they stay in the top 100.
The other three losses won't hurt. There's no shame in losing to a tournament-caliber team, and all three came on the road.
Looking at the wins, obviously any wins over tournament-caliber teams are big, especially one coming on the road. That Tennessee road win is really the feather in our cap. It would help for Tennessee to close strong and garner a top-5 or -6 seed. Having only two wins over tournament-caliber teams isn't that bad, but having only three wins against teams in the RPI top 100 is. Ole Miss should stay there, and with some luck Lipscomb will keep creeping up, but that's it. That's what's really killing us in the win column: the SEC West teams being ranked so much lower in the RPI than they ever have, and our non-conference cupcakes being a little too, well, cupcake. If FAMU, Toledo, Alabama A&M and South Alabama were merely Pepperdine or SE Louisiana bad rather than epically bad, our RPI and SOS numbers would move way up.
Looking at upcoming games, you can put a match to this resume if we have to move either LSU or Auburn over into that loss column. We might could survive having to put a home Arkansas loss over there, but that would require multiple big wins to balance out. Winning all three wouldn't do much to improve the resume, other than boosting the win percentage a bit, but the fact that those are "can't lose" games makes them perhaps even more important than the big games coming up at the end.
The keys for improving the resume will come in the final 3 games plus the SEC Tournament. A top-100 RPI road win (Ole Miss) or a home win over a tournament-caliber team (Georgia) would be nice adds to the win column. Those games will be key. The Florida road game goes without saying. Also keep in mind that we are almost certain to face a tournament-caliber team in our opening game at the SEC Tournament, so that will be another opportunity for a quality win.
No one knows exactly what this Bama team has to do to ultimately make the cut on Selection Sunday. That will depend on what other teams' resumes look like, which teams win conference tournaments, etc. All we can control is making our resume look as attractive as possible. Right now we know our current resume is borderline, so if we can improve it--and at all costs avoid damaging it--we might have just enough come Selection Sunday. But as the bracketologists are so fond of saying, we still have a lot of work left to do.