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Bama Basketball: Bracketology Update (2/3)

For those of you that missed my previous posts on this subject, I've created a tournament resume to chart the progress of the Crimson Tide basketball team.  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.

The Auburn loss really hurts us obviously. While it's still theoretically possible to win enough games to get into the Dance, it has become somewhat unrealistic at this point. We could overcome our lack of tournament-quality wins (2 at this point) if our losses were all limited to tournament-quality teams (6 of the 8 at this point), but the two losses to teams outside the RPI top 100 are weighing us down to the point where we would likely need to beat at least two more tournament-quality teams in addition to getting to at least 20 wins on the season. Again, possible but not very realistic given our lack of consistent scoring.

Wins: 13 Upcoming: 9 Losses: 8
(7) Baylor (Neutral) #53 Florida (Home) #133 Auburn (Away)
(11) Mississippi State (Home) (10) Ole Miss (Away) #122 Arkansas (Away)
#92 Providence (Home) (1) Kentucky (Away) (9) Cornell (Home)
#134 Michigan (Neutral) #122 Arkansas (Home) (7) Florida State (Neutral)
#207 LSU (Away) #82 Georgia (Away) (4) Tennessee (Home)
#207 LSU (Home) (11) Mississippi State (Away) (4) Vanderbilt (Home)
#226 Mercer (Home) (10) Ole Miss (Home) (3) Kansas State (Neutral)
#228 North Florida (Home) #63 South Carolina (Away) (2) Purdue (Home)
#248 Jackson State (Home) #133 Auburn (Home)
#256 Samford (Home)
#277 Louisiana-Monroe (Home)
#281 Tennessee State (Home)
#315 Toledo (Away)

I think a minimum of 6-3 from here out along with at least one win in the SEC tournament is required to put us in position for the NCAA tournament. That's a minimum and like I said earlier would also need to include at least a couple wins against tournament-level teams. The bad news is that our schedule only gets tougher from here on, but the flip side of that of course is that our next three games all provide opportunities to beat tournament-level teams (Florida is currently considered a bubble team).

More realistic for us is qualifying for the NIT. While normally a disappointment, an NIT berth would actually be a good sign of success in what is a major rebuilding year for us. To qualify for the NIT, I think winning roughly half of our remaining games would probably be just enough. However beating half of the teams left on our schedule will be no easy task. Five of the nine games are on the road. Six of the nine are against tournament-level or bubble teams, and two of the remaining three are against teams that have already beaten us.

The good news is that even at this point is we have been really close to getting the wins that we needed. Think about how many of those games in the loss column were close down the stretch or where we had major leads in the second half. If we had just won any two of those eight games we would probably be a bubble team right now. Any three of them and we'd be projected as a tournament team right now. The bad news is that we didn't win those eight games, and we simply have missed out on most of our best opportunities already.

From here on out, it's all about the Process. We just have to keep up the outstanding defense, and work on improving our offensive efficiency and mental toughness to prepare us for whatever may or may not come at the end of this season and what will hopefully be coming in the years ahead.