A look at Bama's non-conference tournament resume

The Crimson Tide basketball team wrapped up its 14-game non-conference schedule on Tuesday night with a blowout road win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. With that win, the Tide completed its respectable non-conference schedule with a solid 11-3 record, and appears to be on sound footing resume-wise heading into the start of SEC action this weekend.

Below is a simple visualization of Bama's postseason resume as it appears after non-conference play. This is essentially the way the committee will look at each team's work, with "good" wins and "bad" losses getting the most focus. For this reason, wins are ordered in the left column with the "best" wins on top. Similarly, losses are ordered in the right column with the "worst" losses on top. Upcoming games are listed in the middle in the order they will be played.

The committee considers teams that they themselves seed highest to be the strongest teams, so teams are first ordered based on their projected seeding in ESPN's latest Bracketology (updated Tuesday). Teams that are not currently projected to make the field are ordered by their projected year-end RPI, since this is the only metric the committee uses to judge teams that they don't consider for the tournament. Now, these criteria do not necessarily equate with which teams/games were actually tougher (as I've said countless times, the RPI is a terrible way to judge teams), but they are the general criteria the selection committee will consider, so that's what's important for this exercise.

Wins (11) Upcoming (16) Losses (3)
9-seed Purdue (Neutral) #105 Georgia (Away) #55 Dayton (Away)
10-seed Wichita State (Neutral) #75 LSU (Home) 5-seed Kansas State (Away)
#66 VCU (Home) 6-seed Mississippi State (Away) 3-seed Georgetown (Home)
#87 Oklahoma State (Home) 9-seed Vanderbilt (Home)
#127 Georgia Tech (Away) 1-seed Kentucky (Away)
#134 Maryland (Neutral) #150 South Carolina (Away)
#157 Oakland (Home) #78 Arkansas (Home)
#200 North Florida (Home) #86 Ole Miss (Home)
#226 Detroit (Home) #168 Auburn (Away)
#285 Jacksonville (Home) #75 LSU (Away)
#315 Alabama A&M (Home) 4-seed Florida (Home)
#138 Tennessee (Home)
#78 Arkansas (Away)
6-seed Mississippi State (Home)
#168 Auburn (Home)
#86 Ole Miss (Away)

Analysis of the Tide's resume below the jump...

As mentioned in the opening, Bama is in solid shape for a return to March Madness. ESPN's Bracketology has the Tide as an 8-seed, while Sports Illustrated puts Bama as a 9-seed. Both projections were made prior to Alabama's road win over Georgia Tech on Tuesday night. Now, clearly, being an 8 or 9 seed still leaves plenty to be desired, both in terms of tournament positioning and team performance, but being in that position now means the Tide is on track to at least make the tournament, with plenty of room to improve its seeding as the young team matures, injured players return, and the meat of the schedule comes around.

To delve a little deeper into what Bama has done in the non-conference schedule, let's take a look at the losses. Obviously, as projected top-five seeds, the Georgetown and Kansas State losses shouldn't hurt the Tide one bit. Sure, it's frustrating that Bama let the game against the Hoyas slip away on a last-second shot--at home to boot--but neither loss will do any damage to the Tide's resume as long as both teams continue to get good results and remain high seeds. The Dayton loss might not be quite as bad as originally feared. As the chart shows, they are projected to finish with an RPI in the 50's, which would actually put them in contention themselves for an NCAA bid if the perform strongly in A-10 play. At the least, they appear to be an NIT-caliber team, and losing to a team like that--assuming the streaky Flyers don't collapse--on the road certainly isn't fatal, though it probably will be a slight drag on the resume.

As far as the wins go, Bama fans everywhere have to be thanking their lucky stars that the Tide reversed its fortunes from last year's early-season trip to the Caribbean. The two neutral-court wins Bama got over Wichita State and Purdue--both projected to be tournament teams--will be solid gold as long as both teams continue to perform strongly. Neither is projected as a very high seed at the moment, but the Pomeroy ratings (which have both teams in the top 25) suggest both may be underrated after losing some very close games to very good teams. Bama fans should be watching both of these teams very closely for the remainder of the season, because a good deal of the value in the Tide's non-conference resume rests on how strong these two wins look to the committee come March. If both team can maintain their positions as tournament teams, Alabama's non-conference performance should actually be a positive this year come selection time.

While those wins will likely be the only ones (at least so far) against tournament teams, Bama does have some solid wins that will help to boost the Tide's RPI all season long. The home wins against projected top-100 teams VCU and Oklahoma State will prop up Bama's computer numbers tremendously. While Maryland and Georgia Tech are two of the weakest teams in the ACC, getting wins over major-conference top-150 teams away from home will be something that will help shore things up as well.

One aspect that is often overlooked is how big an impact scheduling slightly stronger mid-major foes can have. In the case of Oakland, North Florida, and Detroit, each is expected to finish fairly well within their respective conferences, which will indirectly provide a very nice boost to Bama's RPI and SOS numbers in the computers. If Bama had played three really weak small-conference teams (like Alabama A&M) ranked in the high 200's or 300's rather than these three teams in the high 100's and low 200's, it would have cost the Tide several spots in the final RPI rankings. This was a big factor in Alabama's finishing 80th in the RPI last year despite being universally considered a much stronger team. How different are things this year? The Tide is currently projected to finish 15th in the RPI at the end of the year.

As SEC play heats up we'll begin to take a closer look at the SEC and the impact of the conference (as a whole and as individual opponents) on Bama's resume in future updates such as these. In the meantime, Bama fans can look at this resume and, while feeling a bit disappointed about letting a big win over Georgetown slip away at home and falling flat against a mediocre Dayton team on the road, should feel okay about the Tide's non-conference foundation for its resume as SEC play looms.

Not only does Bama want to get in, obviously, but also the Tide wants to improve its seeding. Given the team's limitations, current resume, and future schedule, I'd say setting a goal of attaining a top-six seed is about right. It's realistic, but will require the needed improvement in performance that Bama fans have been looking for and a generally solid set of results during SEC play. Further, a top-six seed puts a team in the ideal position of being a favorite in a first-round game and avoiding a top-two seed until at least the Sweet Sixteen.

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