Have you wondered why Alabama’s defense has looked so different from November until now? After Christmas, Alabama was sitting at a very pedestrian 74th or so in adjusted defensive efficiency and was in the bottom 25% in points allowed.
However, over their last 10 games (which includes Gonzaga, I add), the Tide’s adj. defensive efficiency is 7th overall. That is not just good, that is elite.
But what changed? What flipped the switch?
I don’t think it was actually any one game or any one precipitating event. It was a matter of a new roster learning to play together on one hand; but most importantly, it was being forced to play better teams night-in and night-out.
Because, my friends, in retrospect the Tide’s early schedule did it no favors preparing to face big boys from major conferences...and on paper, it should have.
We’re about six weeks out from post-season play, so it’s a good time to start talking about SOS, as teams become the proverbial crabs in a bucket, climbing over the head of the man below them to break out.
Alabama’s tough slate currently sits anywhere from 1st to 11th in overall strength of schedule, depending on whose metrics you use. But some of those midmajor wins the Tide had looked to earlier in the year have slipped a good bit, though a few have improved.
- Dangerous perimeter snipers Liberty are firmly flirting with Q1, presently sitting at 52nd overall and is ‘Bama’s best Q2 win on the schedule. Not all Q2s are created equal, and this could be an unexpected Q1 victory at tourney time.
- Longwood has very much regressed, presently at 176th. What was a marginal Q2/Q3 win is now a Q4.
- South Alabama has fallen off a cliff too, and not only are a Q4 win for the Tide, but are below .500 (8-10).
- Jacksonville State, like USA and Longwood, was expected to be a Q2/Q3 win for ‘Bama. And they’re even worse than either of those team, currently sitting at a gross 306th overall.
- SDSU was always going to regress this year, perhaps into middle Q2 territory; they simply lost too much in the offseason. But no one expected the Jacks to be an uncompetitive .500 team that has slipped into the lower realms of Q3, staring at Q4.
SDSU, Jacksonville State, South Alabama, Longwood — four teams that made postseason play last year, three of whom were conference winners and in the NCAA tourney. It looked great on paper. But in retrospect, perhaps ‘Bama’s early season defensive struggles are justifiable now. Alabama’s gauntlet turned into paper tigers after a few months of play.
They’re not alone, either. As teams have entered conference play, they’ve increasingly become streaky — Arkansas has lost 4 of 5; Mizzou has been cat puke away from CoMo; the once-reeling UK Wildcats seem to have figured it out again; UConn has gone 1-4 in Big East play; UNC was at one point 2-4 — they’re now 12-6; but promising Michigan State who started hot, is now also just 12-6.
Some tough wins that looked great on paper diminished, particularly in the earlier part of the season. And a stacked SEC has become flakier with injuries (Arkansas, UK) and overachievers (Auburn, Mississippi State) that are apt to regress to the mean. You can only beat whose on your schedule and win the games you play
So, the solution?
Leave no doubt: if the Tide wants to lock up its first ever 1-seed in the NCAA tournament, win and win big.
Here’s our weekly run-down of where ‘Bama stands by the numbers in the 2022-2023 season.
- Ranking: AP 4 (LW 7) / Coaches 4 (LW 8)
- RPI: 1st (LW 2nd)
- SOS: 1st (LW 5th)
- KenPom: 4th (LW 11th), 12th offense (LW 18th), 8th defense (LW 11th)
- Sagarin: 2nd (LW 5th)
- Bart Torvik: 4th (LW 8); 14th adj. offense (LW 19th); 10th adj. defense (LW 10th)
- True Tempo: 2nd overall — 78.3 adj. possessions per game; 1.078 points per possession
- Offense PPG: 8th (84.4 PPG)
- Defense PPG: 42nd (63.2 PPG)
- NET ranking: 3rd (LW 7th)
- Projected Brackets: Jerry Palm — 1st East (LW 3rd East); Lunardi — 1st South (No. 2 overall seed)
Given Alabama’s schedule, you would be satisfied with what NCAA seed?
This poll is closed
2 seed, some wins will slip even further with time
3 seed, can’t win ‘em all, there are some tough road games ahead