There are many ways to celebrate one of the biggest wins in the last decade for the Crimson Tide basketball program, but my personal favorite is waking up Sunday morning and seeing that Avery Johnson has Alabama in the thick of things a year or two ahead of schedule as we near next month's NCAA Tournament.
The Tide are far from a safe bet for the Big Dance at this point, but many talking heads have Alabama on the right side of the bubble as of today. In this article, we take a look at some of their prognostications and some metrics ahead of the stretch run.
Many fans fret over their team's conference record or overall record when thinking about the NCAA Tournament, when in reality the committee pays little mind to your record -- the committee instead looks at things such as RPI and strength of schedule, along with a team's quality wins and bad losses.
This bodes well for the Tide, who are in excellent shape in all of those categories. You will find Alabama's RPI checking in at 37 or 34 depending on your source (37 on the NCAA's official website), and a strength of schedule of 14. Pair those rankings with the Tide's quality wins over Texas A&M, South Carolina, Notre Dame, Clemson, short-handed Wichita State, and, most recently, Florida, and you'll see why Alabama has an excellent chance to make their first tourney appearance since 2012.
Bad losses often put Anthony Grant's teams on the wrong side of the bubble during his tenure at the Capstone. So far, that won't be the case for Avery's first team. To date Alabama only has one bad loss, at Auburn, who has an RPI ranking of 144.
Many of the metrics would have Alabama in the field of 68 if the season ended today, but let's see if talking heads/major publications agree. For the most part, they do:
- Jerry Palm of CBS is regarded by many as the best bracketologist in the business, and he currently has Alabama as a 10-seed playing in the South region against the 7th-seeded Cal Bears.
- USA Today has the Tide playing as an 11-seed in the West region against the 6-seed Arizona.
- ESPN's Joe Lunardi currently has Alabama as one of his first four teams out of the Tournament, but he seems to be the odd ball of the group. Most bracketologists have us firmly on the bubble, but in the field.
All in all, it is incredible that we are realistically talking about the NCAA tournament in Avery Johnson's first year -- after the media picked Alabama to finish 13th in a fourteen-team league.
Alabama has some opportunities in the next two weeks to solidify its standing as a participant in the big dance when it goes on the road to face LSU and Kentucky. Likewise, there are opportunities to fall out of the field in the coming weeks when Mississippi State and Auburn come into Coleman Coliseum.
I suggest you Buckle Up because these last few weeks should shape up to be fun for a fanbase that's starving for March Madness.