After a whirlwind week, let’s take stock of the state of the tournament field and other tidbits relevant to college hoops and the Crimson Tide.
- Ole Miss had a weird week as the dean of SEC basketball coaches, Andy Kennedy, abruptly resigned in the midst of a bad campaign. Prior to this season, Kennedy’s Rebels had never finished below .500 on the season. But, this year Ole Miss is mired in its worse season in over a decade: 11-15, with a 4-9 record in SEC play (12th). The Rebs have been decent at home (10-6), but are winless away from the Tad and are on a 6-game losing streak. MidMajor Madness takes a look at some coaches that are a realistic get for OM.
- This is the game we all mentally circle every year: Kentucky. No matter how much of a funk the ‘Cats are in, Kentucky is still Kentucky — every year it will the edge in talent, facilities, coaching, resources, support. So, this is the measuring stick for everyone else in the conference (and most teams in the nation). Sad to say, the Crimson Tide have historically laid an egg against the SEC’s bully. Entering tomorrow’s game at Rupp, ‘Bama has a 37-110 record against BBN (.2517 woof). There have been spans lasting an entire decade or more where the Tide haven’t beaten the Wildcats. But, tomorrow is the best shot for ‘Bama in good long, while; 11 years in fact. What happened the last time ‘Bama won in Rupp?
That 2006 Alabama win in Rupp Arena also came at a rough patch for the Wildcats. It was the third straight loss suffered by a team ranked as high as No. 7 before slipping into what became a 22-13 season.
Jermareo Davidson went for 28 points in the 68-64 Alabama win. It pushed the Tide to 9-6 and gave Kentucky its first back-to-back losses in Rupp since 1989. That Alabama win was just the 10th in 60 trips to Kentucky at the time.
- Assuming the Tide makes the Tourney, there’s already speculation as to matchups the hoops guys would like to see. This one, from B/R, is probably the most intriguing: Virginia Tech vs. ‘Bama. From the article:
We all went gaga over Collin Sexton vs. Trae Young in late January, and this would be another opportunity for Sexton to flex his muscles against a potential one-and-done guard.
Nickeil Alexander-Walker hasn’t been quite what was expected from him given his performances at the 2017 Nike Hoop Summit, 2016 Adidas Nations and 2016 FIBA Americas U18. He flew under the radar on the college recruiting sites, but everyone in the NBA mock draft community seemed to think he could play his way into a lottery pick this year. (B/R’s Jonathan Wasserman had Alexander-Walker at No. 19 in his preseason mock.)
- Alabama is turning heads, so much in fact that even at 18-9, they’re getting lots of love in power rankings. This one from Sporting News is illustrative:
No. 21 Alabama (17-9 (8-5)): No one wants to play Alabama right now. The Crimson Tide, third in the SEC in defensive rating, are holding opponents to a meager 58 points per game in February. They have a couple tough road tests coming up, taking trips to Kentucky Saturday and rival Auburn next Wednesday.
- Speaking of those Wildcats, surely the unfathomable can’t happen, right? What’s the Field of
48, 64,68 without Big Blue Nation? The ‘Cats are still riding a high RPI on the back of some good early season wins and a tough SEC, but at sub-.500 in SEC play, they are hoping for some legacy love or a hot streak in the last three weeks of the season.
Kentucky boasts a pair of quadrant 1 victories against West Virginia and Texas A&M and a couple notable quadrant 2 wins against Louisville and Virginia Tech. Also boosting the Wildcats’ hopes is their dearth of losses against sub-100 RPI opponents.
Compare Kentucky’s resume to teams right on the bubble, and it’s easy to see why the Wildcats have a little wiggle room left. Few bubble teams can match Kentucky’s most impressive victories, nor have they so adeptly avoided bad losses.
- In case you missed the Tourney Committee’s bracket preview show on Sunday, four of Bama’s opponents made the Top 16 seeds — the Tide has gone 3-1 against them, with an Auburn rematch pending and a loss to Arizona on the ledger. The other interesting takeaway was the committee’s admission that they do, in fact, protect the top seeds. This was long-speculated, and those recent chalk-favored brackets didn’t happen by accident. But, the transparency was appreciated.
- Naughty, Naughty: The FBI probe into bribery from apparel companies to street agents, school officials, and AAU miscreants has greatly expanded. As many as three dozen teams could be swept up in this scandal that is so vast, and so rotten to its core, that the NCAA will have little choice but to act.
In case you forgot, Auburn is one of those schools ;)
Since this is our first week doing this, chime in below with any thoughts. If it’s helpful, I’ll make the time to drop this to you on Fridays from now on. There’s a lot here that doesn’t thematically work with the JP, but that is still relevant. Think of it as JP for hoops heads.
If you dislike it, then you know where to email your illegibly-scrawled, error-laden death threats. Or you can always comment below to dish scorn upon me in real time.