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Jumbo Package: Ice Cold Alabama Enters NCAA Tournament in a Funk

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Losing three in a row is not a recipe for March momentum

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament- Alabama vs Vanderbilt Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Lest we forget, caught up in our glee over LSU’s notice of allegations, there are some major NCAA violations being investigated at Arizona State and Tennessee.

The latter involved Big Macs and fat stacks, while ASU is accused of — well, just completely disregarding NCAA and P12 rules entirely during the lockdown: The staff continued to recruit and continued to practice while their competitors were prevented from doing so (recall: five extra-long practices were considered bad enough that a major infraction got Michigan in deep NCAA doo doo). But, UT and ASU aren’t playing the NCAA game: the Sun Devils and the Vols have both lawyered up, both have shut up, and both have either fired or chased off (nearly) everyone associated with the worst accusations.

Not coincidentally, their stonewalling has led to the NCAA being “nowhere close” — read: years away from issuing NOA. After seeing how well a lack of cooperation worked at Auburn and UNC, versus the good faith effort of someone like Mizzou, there is absolutely no incentive whatsoever to do anything but frustrate the NCAA.

CBS, which pays about a bazillion dollars a year for the rights to broadcast the dirtiest sport this side of boxing, has posted their story lines to watch, and the complete television and streaming schedule.

“What to watch” item No. 1? Gonzaga and Baylor making another Final Four run.

If only I knew a team out there that had beaten both of those squads: one that can play relentless defense, that can get after the glass for 40 minutes, that can scrap and hustle, that can avoid crippling stupid mistakes when getting a lead, that can play to a standard rather than playing down to every single mingy-ass scrub that hits the court, that can show some fire and heart, one that can demonstrate they actually want to be on the floor.

If only...

Man, I bet that would be a good team. A dangerous one, even.

Completely unrelated, the Alabama Crimson Tide basketball program found out its first round NCAA opponent, after Notre Dame and Rutgers played an absolute beauty in double-overtime last night, won on a Notre Dame buzzer beater with 1.4 seconds to go. Both teams’ stars came to play: Atkinson and Ron Harper Jr, among them. But, in the end, the Irish were just a little more clutch off the bench, and it mattered more than not having the single best player on the floor — as did the Scarlet Knights.

Seriously, check out the highlights. We may not see a better game the entire tournament.

There was a lot of hustle from everyone, and Notre Dame had 18 bench points — both of which are their MO. That is a very dangerous formula against a Crimson Tide team that out-talents about 70% of their opponents and out-efforts only 10% of them. And, buddy, are the Irish pumped about getting a shot at the Crimson Tide too.

Parker will have the BBB coming soon, but there are some brutal facts staring us in the face here.

WARNING: BARELY CONTAINED SEETHING AHEAD — NOT FOR SUNSHINE-PUMPERS

Following the Baylor win, Alabama went 5-6 down the stretch, 1-3 against ranked teams. It comes into this one having lost three straight — and went .500 against the bottom 5 teams in the SEC. This was after giving Georgia its sole SEC win of the year, being routinely smoked on the road, losing four games at home, going .500 against tournament teams, and completely no-showing their home finale — none of that imbues me with much confidence in a deep Tide run this March.

I’m not even sure the Crimson Tide makes it out of the first round, if it comes down to hitting the floor to fight for a loose ball, if it comes down to making a smart pass late in the game, if it comes down to boxing out and throwing elbows to get a critical rebound...if it comes down to trusting themselves to make a shot.

Pessimistic? Sure. But that seems fair to me: they quit, I quit. And I saw a lot of quit too often for my taste this season. Alabama is going to have to earn my trust back, even as I wish them nothing but the best. Because god knows “best” is nothing we have seen from this team in almost two months.

Hope for the best? Well, maybe not hope.

Alabama is the plainly more talented team. It also has the deeper bench. And, if history is any indication, the Tide’s First Round track record is quite good.

That’s it. That’s all the optimism I can muster.

You may have noticed it last night, but the NCAA has gone to a ludicrously-bright orange basketball for the tournament this year.

Why? Well, Wilson hypes it as their best innovation ever. But, the reality is, these are just rebranded WNBA balls. LOL.

We’re stuck with them too. They’re the official ball of the NCAA, the WNIT, the NIT, and the WNCAA tournaments. Maybe all the roasting on social media will at least get them to alter the color next season.

I’m honestly impressed Mark Cuban even knows that Walmart exists and that $5.99 is cheap.

Not to be outdone by CBS, ESPN set forth an outrageously large 54-expert panel’s predictions for the NCAA tournament.

(Duke is the gamblers’ favorite, but they’re simply not playing well right now. Lack of effort defensively, lack of leadership on offense. Oh, deja vu.)

Finally, for casuals looking for a brief synopsis of all 68 teams, we’ve got you covered here.

Enjoy your hoops today: opening weekend of the NCAA Tournament truly is one of the best four-day events in all of college sports.

Roll Tide