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Jumbo Package: Stretch run to determine Tide’s NCAA fate

Your latest Crimson Tide news and notes.

NCAA Basketball: Alabama at Kentucky Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday, everyone. It was a successful weekend on the diamond as the men swept three from Valparaiso and the women won three of four. We will open with the latest bracketology following the men’s tough loss in Lexington, which was frustrating because the game turned out to be so winnable.

Alabama’s Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) is still at No. 31, per ESPN, and according to CBS Sports, the Crimson Tide’s RPI is 32 after a 1-1 week. Ratings Percentage Index is a tool the NCAA’s selection committee uses to evaluate teams for the NCAA Tournament.

Another tool that is a little easier to decipher is bracketology, and per CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm, Alabama is now considered a No. 8 seed following its latest loss and would play No. 9 seed Houston in Charlotte, N.C., in the South region of the bracket.

Yes, Kentucky has been playing poorly by their standards lately, but an extremely competitive loss at Rupp isn’t going to hurt anything from a tournament standpoint. It’s a four-game-plus-SEC-tournament season now. They could wind up anywhere from a sweet sixteen seed to the NIT depending on what happens down the stretch.

Hey, the ladies got some revenge on Auburn yesterday.

The Crimson Tide (17-10, 7-7 SEC) went 25-of-28 (89 percent) from the free throw line to top the Tigers (13-13, 4-10 SEC) and win its third-straight Southeastern Conference game.

Senior Hannah Cook finished the game with 14 points, six rebounds and three assists, while sophomore Jordan Lewis chipped in 12 points and junior Shaquera Wade added 11 points and eight rebounds in the win.

I’m just spitballing here, but maybe the women could teach the men how to shoot foul shots?

At this point the ladies are on the outside looking in at the NCAA tournament, but they are on a three-game win streak and have pulled even in conference play at 7-7. They probably need to win both of their final two games against Georgia and LSU squads who are firmly in the field, then last a couple rounds in the SEC tourney to give themselves a shot at something that seemed totally implausible after a terrible 1-4 stretch had them sitting at 4-7 in the SEC just eight days ago.

Najee Harris’ freshman year wasn’t quite what he had hoped, but his patience paid off.

The running back returned home and gave the man he considers a big brother his game-worn jersey.

“All of the helmet stains, the turf stains — they’re still on it,” Malu said describing the jersey. “I didn’t know what to say. I made a joke to him earlier in the year about how it would be cool to get one of his jerseys so I could hang it up in the shop.

“And I see him when he gets home, and he says, ‘Here you go, bro. I just want to say that I love you. You earned it.’ I said, “Bro, this is your freaking national championship jersey.” And he said, “Yeah. You earned it.”

We had heard rumblings that best friend and roommate Tua Tagovailoa’s parents were a bit frustrated with his lack of playing time down the stretch, and based on some of the quotes from this piece, Najee felt the same way. I’d rather not consider what might have been had Saban not put both men in the game against Georgia.

Speaking of Tagovailoa, perhaps he can help us land one of his former teammates.

The nation’s No. 2 defensive tackle, Faatui Tuitele, is planning to take an unofficial visit to Alabama this spring, the Honolulu (Hawaii) St. Louis product announced on Twitter Sunday evening.

Work on him, Tua.

The defensive line rotation is one of the key things to watch in spring and fall camps, and one early enrollee looks to make an impact.

DL: Stephon Wynn Jr.

Stephon Wynn has a leg up on the other defensive lineman Alabama signed, Christian Barmore, because he’s already in Tuscaloosa and will be able to go through spring practice. Wynn is 6-foot-4 and more than 300 pounds. The plan right now is for him to be an interior lineman, which is probably the smart play there because he’ll be able to use his quickness to his advantage against guards.

There has been some debate about who will man the nose, but I wonder if it may be a committee approach. Raekwon Davis, Stephon Wynn, and Phidarian Mathis are all over 300 pounds. You may see each featured both inside and outside.

“He would never tell you and he’ll never talk about it, but that man was out there playing on one foot. He’s out there trying to battle for his teammates. A lot can be said about the way it didn’t work out in the stats and all those things. But the thing that I want to talk about is I will roll with that guy any day of the week because he was out there just trying to give it his all even though he could barely get out there and do it. And so that’s the kind of guy I want to play with, and that’s how I know we’re going to be just fine. He would never say it to you. No one would ever say it to you. But I’ll say it to you to have his back. That man was out there playing as hard as he could and giving everything he could, and, honestly, a lot of guys probably wouldn’t even have played with what he had going on. So I commend him for what he was doing.

Yep, sounds about right. Hopefully Coop can get healthy and back to his superstar ways.

Last but not least, AJ McCarron is the topic du jour in NFL circles after his arbitration victory over the Cincinnati Bengals.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told NBC Sports Radio’s “Pro Football Talk” that the league thought the Bengals handling of McCarron had been correct and that the NFL Management Council had represented the team in the grievance.

Even though arbitrator Shyam Das ruled the Bengals to be in the wrong, the team won’t be disciplined by the NFL.

McCarron, the former Alabama star, will be considered, more seriously, by several other teams besides the Vikings, including Cleveland, Arizona, Denver and the New York Jets. His price tag is expected to be in the $10 million per year range.

If the Vikings were to sign McCarron, it would be for him to compete for the starting job, not as a backup.

The NFL argued to keep AJ under Cincinnati’s control to no avail, and now any team that is in a contract dispute with its QB has a free agent available for half the going rate of a big time passer to use as leverage. I’ll be surprised if he winds up in Minnesota though. Case Keenum really shouldn’t overplay his hand lest he end up in a far worse position than he is currently.

That’s about it for today. Have a great week.

Roll Tide.