For some Alabama fans, it is all about football, the whole football, and nothing but the football. But maybe it is time to start paying attention to Crimson Tide hoops.
After a decade of apathy, Coach Avery Johnson has turned this program on its ear. From day one, he has pumped enthusiasm into this team and the fanbase. In his ten short months on the job, he has already achieved way more than the previous administration did in six loooong torturous years.
Johnson started with coining the catchphrase "Buckle Up". Whether it was a happy coincidence or a genius marketing scheme, it has caught on.
Next he embraced the assets at his disposal, namely Nick Saban. Johnson created a quick friendship with the Bama football coach as well as others who have made it to the top of the mountain: Sarah Patterson (gymnastics), Patrick Murphy (softball), Jay Seawell (M golf), Mic Potter (W golf).
He then went to work promoting the program to the students, alumni, and the Tuscaloosa community. His energy seems to have no bounds.
Finally, he was able to secure the signature of future Bama star Dazon Ingram and added walk-on Lawson Schaffer. [A full roster! Imagine that!]
Face it. After losing Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper to graduation, most Tide fans expected a rebuilding year, maybe a .500 record in the first season. An NIT bid would be deemed a success. Frankly, this observer already sees this season as a success as it stands right now.
Early wins over Wichita State, Notre Dame, and Clemson caught some eyes. In retrospect, the non-conference losses are not that disappointing. They came to Dayton, Xavier, and Oregon - all currently ranked teams.
After losing Ingram to season-ending injury and a slow start to the SEC schedule, Johnson has lit a spark under this Tide team and guided them to five straight wins, including three on the road.
One of the big knocks on Anthony Grant was his inability to develop players. Clearly, Retin Obasohan, Riley Norris, Justin Coleman, and Jimmie Taylor have all seen marked improvement over their performances from a season ago.
Across the nation, this season is turning into a wide open race. Last night while Alabama was upsetting 8-time Naismith winner Ben Simmons and his LSU Tigers, three of the top five ranked teams also went down. For added measure, #15 Dayton fell to unranked Saint Joseph's as well.
Currently among ranked teams, the lowest loss total is three shared by four teams. Among the top ten, there are four teams with five losses. By comparison this time a year ago, Kentucky was 25-0, Gonzaga and Virginia each had one loss, and three teams had three losses. In short, there is some serious parity going on here. Villanova is looking like the top seed. Kansas probably get the second one-seed. But beyond that, it is anyone's guess.
What they are saying:
Sam Vecenie CBS Sports
Big picture though, this is a huge win for Alabama. The Tigers came into this one ranked No. 34 in the RPI, so this win should slide the Tide up a bit. With wins over Clemson, LSU and Florida on the road as well as a few against South Carolina, Notre Dame, Wichita State and Texas A&M, this one should slide the Tide to the right side of the bubble for most people.
CBS's Jerry Palm places the Crimson Tide in the dreaded 9-seed against 8-seed Pitt in Des Moines. "Dreaded" because if they win that, it means facing a #1 seed in the next round.
The night's other big bubble winner was Alabama (16-9, 7-6). The Crimson Tide showed incredible poise in picking up a 76-69 win at LSU (16-10, 9-4). Retin Obasohan added another great performance to his SEC Player of the Year nomination mixtape, scoring 35, while Riley Norris was following loose balls all over the court, coralling 16 boards. Craig Victor II scored 21 for the Bayou Bengals and Ben Simmons added 20, but it wasn't enough.
The mothership places Alabama in Denver as the #12 seed against #5 Duke. [Ya know... I'm okay with that.]
Alabama continued to roll, getting a road win at LSU, which keeps Ben Simmons and Co. out...for now.
USA Today had Bama as the ten seed in Providence against seven-seed Texas Tech. The winner facing West Virginia. [Even better.]
Joe Lunardi's ESPN Bracket also has Bama in Denver but as the play-in game against Cincinnati with a #5 Texas waiting the winner in the next round.
It is no time for the Crimson Tide to get complacent. They cannot afford a loss to any unranked opponents. Alabama is now 16-9 (7-6) with four games remaining that they should win.
|Saturday, February 20, 2016||vs. Mississippi State||Tuscaloosa, Ala.||1:30 p.m. CT||SEC Network|
|Tuesday, February 23, 2016||at Kentucky||Lexington, Ky.||6:00 p.m. CT||ESPN|
|Saturday, February 27, 2016||vs. Auburn||Tuscaloosa, Ala.||4:00 p.m. CT||SEC Network|
|Wednesday, March 02, 2016||vs. Arkansas||Tuscaloosa, Ala.||8:00 p.m. CT||SEC Network|
|Saturday, March 05, 2016||at Georgia||Athens, Ga.||3:00 p.m. CT||ESPN2|
You folks in Atlanta and other parts of Georgia need to be at that game in Athens!
Let's take off the Gump hat for a moment and say that Bama goes 3-2 down the stretch. That would place them at 19-11 (10-8). They would get a first round bye in the SEC Tournament and should be favored in the first round. If the conference tourney started today, they would be the six-seed against eleven-seed Arkansas. Win that and they face three-seed South Carolina. If hypothetically the Tide loses their second round game, the record would be 20-12. Is that good enough? I say yes. Especially with an RPI around 30.
If they win the games they are suppose to win and the losses are to strong teams. This record should be good enough. Last year, the following teams got at-large bids into the Big Dance:
|8||North Carolina State||20–13|
|8||San Diego State||26–8|
* Play-in Games