Even in down years — like this one — the grind of SEC play is starting to gnaw away many contenders like an old hound worrying a hambone. This year may be closer to the “old SEC” than we’ve seen in the past half-decade. The conference is not as skilled as it has been the past few seasons, and with the combination of key injuries, there aren’t a whole lot of skilled players that leap out at you. And even some of those non-Bama guys that do most stand-out (Castleton, Oscar, Nkamhoua), they are post players. That has resulted in a lot of teams reverting to a grinding, deliberative approach that defined the SEC seemingly forever.
And it’s taking its toll.
Following the Big 12/SEC Challenge, Alabama was sitting in first in the SEC, but the breathing room was very slim, such as it was. Alabama held a thin 2-game lead with road trips to A&M, Tennessee and Auburn staring down the Tide.
What a difference two weeks have made. In the last 12 days, Tennessee’s offense has fallen off a cliff, and the Vols are losers of two of the last three games. The scrappy Auburn Tigers finally got to the meat of their schedule, and it shows: The Boogs have lost 4 of their last 5.
While Alabama (11-0) and Texas A&M (9-2) have maintained their momentum after the midseason break, the collapse of Auburn and Tennessee have disguised something greater too: The race for second and SECT positioning is shaping up to be an entertaining log jam. Big Blue is now quietly at 7-4 in the SEC. Arkansas has won three straight and 5 of its last six to reach 6-5, with a favorable late season schedule. Of course Aggie has two losses, the Vawls just three, and Auburn is tied with UK at 4th in the conference.
So Alabama is up by at least three games with just 7 remaining to play. Make no mistake, though, the back half is as brutal as the start was: Alabama faces Auburn twice, Arkansas, travels to Tennessee, and hits the road at A&M to end the regular season in ‘Bama’s only cursed morning game. Alabama’s final seven games feature four contests between SEC No. 2 - No. 4.
The grind has taken its toll on a lot of teams, and one suspects there are some surprises yet in store from some those “basketball schools” sitting in the second tier, but so far Alabama saved its doldrums for when it mattered the least: a meaningless non-con road game.
It could be worse. I mean, you could lose to Vandy...
Now, finish the drill.
Once again, thanks to Draft Kings for generously sponsoring this site. They help us tremendously in keeping the site active. And, if you missed Wednesday’s story, the Tide has become quite the little darling with Vegas, in a year where the quality at the top is so closely bunched together — and where three of the top four will have all played one another in some fashion.
Here’s our weekly run-down of where ‘Bama stands by the numbers in the 2022-2023 season.
- Ranking: AP 3 (LW 3) / CBS Coaches 2 (LW 3)
- RPI: 1st (LW 1st)
- SOS: 4th (LW 2nd)
- KenPom: 3rd (LW 4th), 15th offense (LW 17th), 6th defense (LW 6th)
- Sagarin: 3rd (LW 3rd)
- Bart Torvik: 3rd (LW 3rd); 14th adj. offense (LW 19th); 4th adj. defense (LW 6th)
- True Tempo: 1st — 73.6 adj. possessions per game; 1.073 points per possession
- Offense PPG: 83.1 PPG
- Defense PPG: 68.8 PPG
- NET ranking: 3rd (LW 3rd)
One day we’ll have to figure out why Houston is getting so much love as the No. 1 overall seed from the NET. These jokers have a Q3 loss, 9 of their 24 games are against Q4 teams (sub-200; the bottom third in the country); like the Vols, they’ve played half as many Q1 teams as Alabama...and in the H2H, Alabama beat the taste out of their mouth on their home court, by 15.
Did we mention the Cougs opponents are a statistical disaster too? The adjusted efficiency for UH’s opponents is: 96th offense, 98th defense. For Alabama? It’s 2nd and 24th? Wins above bubble? Only Purdue’s 6.7 is better than Alabama’s 6.5. FT shooting efficiency? 2PT efficiency? 3PT efficiency? All Alabama. And defensively? The teams are tied at 2nd in effective FG defense.
The difference is, Alabama’s offense is not cheeks.
Meanwhile, on the bracket side and pollsters side, the media folks are smitten with Giant Cornfed White Guys in the Big 10. Purdue is 4th in NET, between 4th and 6th in most efficiency rankings...yet are the No. 1 team in both the AP and CBS Coach’s poll. And are the No. 1 overall seed for the two major bracket services. Yes, the Boilers have a lot of Q1 games under the belt (11), but Alabama has 9 of its own, more Q2 wins, and fewer Q3/Q4 games dragging down the SOS — and Purdue’s is easier: 28th to 35th, depending on service.
But that also raises the question: Do we actually want any of that potential rat poison that comes with being number one?
Alright, bracket time:
As with last several weeks, Joe has the Tide as a No. 1 seed in the Dance, with the Tide moving up to the No. 2 overall seed and in the Midwest. And though tough, the projected 2-4 seeds this week for Alabama’s projected field are a bit more forgiving than last week: Baylor, Xavier, UCLA — two of the three would represent a recent rematch in which the Tide went 1-1. Weirdly though, I feel better about this than recent records should suggest.
The one you don’t want to be in is the South, where Houston is the Projected No. 1 (overall 3 seed). Try this group on for size KU No. 2, Xavier No. 3, and UConn No. 4 — the Cougars can lose to every single one of those teams in an instant.
But perhaps far more interesting is that despite perceptions of the SEC being so far behind the ACC, B12 etc., is that the top half of the conference is putting up a good showing — at least good enough to be tourney-worthy. What looked like a 4-5 bid conference, could wind up having as many as 7:
Now, if Jerry Palm keeps this up, he could become my mortal enemy. First, he yeeted Houston down to a 2-seed, and also gave ‘Bama the 1-seed in the MW and second overall seed. But, who he has projected in the Tide’s field is a devastating slog with not a single game you can circle past the round of 32 as a sure win:
Past the round of 16, Alabama would either meet Memphis again — a team they barely beat already, or 8-seed Pitt, who many think is actually the most complete team in the ACC. Up next? Whoever wins the scrum between No. 4 Baylor and No. 5 UConn — provided they don’t get upset by defensively-filthy VCU or the fastest, most perimeter-loving team in the country: College of Charleston.
Make it out of there, and then whoever emerges out of bottom half of the bracket could be the most scarred team in the tourney by the time they faced Alabama in a Regional final:
K-State as the 2, squaring off on that side of the bracket with 3. Xavier and No. 7 Creighton. No, 10 Sparty, a healthy Mizzou as a 6-seed, and dangerous as hell No. 11 Boise State.
Notice who no one’s talking about this year, but that could wreck a lot of teams? Gonzaga. One gets the feeling the Zags could be poised to have the most quiet Final Four run in school history with the right draw.
But at this point in the season, we essentially know who the real players are for March. It’s a matter of surviving the war of attrition to get there. Kansas State could have 10 losses in three weeks time; Pitt could go on a tear and jump to the 2-seed. Kentucky could discover its offense. UCLA could have put it all together and stake a claim and moved to a 1-seed.
A lot can change before March, despite it being just three weeks away.
Who’s the real No. 1?
This poll is closed