Let’s begin with some hype: This is who we are.
#BlueCollarBasketball pic.twitter.com/zezXfbVdNN— Alabama Men’s Basketball (@AlabamaMBB) March 13, 2023
Now that you are sufficiently ready to run through a brick wall, let’s check out what the country is saying, how the brackets are being parsed, and what experts think of Bama’s chances:
The South Region is loaded. It begins at the top with the overall highest seed, but if Alabama is to make its first Final Four in program history, it will have to navigate a bracket filled with lots of accomplished programs, including four programs with national championship banners hanging in their home arenas.
Two of the three most recent NCAA champs are here, Baylor and Virginia. Arizona, a powerhouse of the ‘90’s, is back in the title hunt. Then there’s Maryland, which cut down the nets early this century and is hoping to make noise as one of the Big Ten’s numerous representatives in the field.
The winner: Alabama
In the end, though, it’s hard to pick against Alabama. There’ve been a few outings this season in which the Tide looked less than focused (Oklahoma, anyone?), but they enter the Big Dance firing on all cylinders. They’re usual means of generating points is by attacking the rim, but if their three-pointers continue to fall they’re almost impossible to slow down. Could the basketball team actually make a Final Four in a year when the football team didn’t? It could happen.
Besides the fact that the Tide got the overall No. 1 seed after thrashing Texas A&M in the SEC tournament final, they got a reasonably favorite draw. Already both Charleston (a 12-seed) and Furman (a 13) are upset favorites, which very well means Alabama could play a double-digit seed in the Sweet 16. A lot of teams would prefer that route.
We’ll never know what would have happened if the likes of Florida Atlantic, Charleston or Oral Roberts had not captured their respective automatic bids. The selection process has rarely been kind to true mid-majors. As it stands, 31 of 36 at-large bids went to power conference schools.
The committee did 7-seed Texas A&M no favors. The Aggies were clearly a line or two better than that. Then again, we said last year that A&M’s public temper tantrum over its exclusion from the field was a very bad idea. Committee members are human, after all, perhaps with long memories.
Or, as I wrote last week: The NET killed Cinderella, and has destroyed midmajor representation.
Speaking of being hosed: Not only was Aggie done dirty (perhaps the scariest 7-seed in the tournament), the NET reared its ugly head again to cockblock the Vanderbilt Commodores. It was a team that went 10-11 against Q1/Q2, finished 20-14 against the No. 6 SOS, was T-4th in the SEC (14-8), was the SEC Tourney semifinalist, and is No. 43 in the RPI.
Vandy wins: Swept Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, Auburn, Pitt, NIT 1-seed Morehead State, won 2 of 3 vs. Kentucky — including at Rupp and on a neutral court. If you’re counting, that’s six wins over NCAA Tourney teams and another three against NIT teams. They went 3-4 on the road (NET Top 25 teams win about 57% of the time), and did play .500 ball on neutral floors.
But the NET, which prioritizes margin of victory and efficiency loathed the ‘Dores. Why? The season’s slow start, when Vandy had not figured out its offense yet, and there were roster malcontents affecting play. Teams they finished ahead of that did get invites? ASU (9-11 Q1/2), Pitt (7-9), Providence (7-10), Miss. State (8-11), NC State (8-10), Nevada (7-8), Illinois (9-13), Auburn (9-11), Arkansas (8-13), Creighton (10-11). They all had worse overall SOS behind the ‘Dores too.
If that’s not a tournament team, absolutely nothing is.
Not only did the ‘Dores not get in (NET they weren’t even a play-in game. And the NIT did them just as dirty — just a 3-seed.
15. At least one No. 1 seed has reached the Final Four in 10 straight tourneys and 14 of the past 15.
• Either one or two No. 1 seeds have reached the Final Four in 30 of 37 tournaments (81%)
• The only time all four No. 1 seeds made the Final Four was 2008
18. Of the 34 teams that were a top-2 seed and in the AP top 10 after entering the season unranked, none reached the Final Four. • Purdue began the season unranked but earned a No. 1 seed and is ranked third in the AP poll
• Five of the 12 teams seeded No. 1 to meet these criteria lost in the first or second round • Marquette began the season unranked but earned a No. 2 seed and is ranked sixth in the AP poll
• 14 of the 22 teams seeded No. 2 to meet these criteria lost in the first or second round
20. Each of the past five champions have been No. 1 seeds, and 12 of the past 15.
• No other seed has more than one title in that span
21. However, it has been 10 years since the last time the overall No. 1 seed won the title (Louisville in 2013).
• Seven of the 18 previous overall No. 1s lost in the Sweet 16 or earlier
• They have been more likely to lose during the first weekend (four) than to be champions (three)
• This year’s overall No. 1 seed is Alabama
The Crimson Tide earned the No. 1 overall seed, will get to start their tournament in Birmingham and drew a favorable path to potentially making the Final Four for the first time in program history. Not that playing the winner of Maryland and West Virginia won’t bring some bruises and require some physicality, but Alabama has one of the low-end 2-seeds in Arizona, and both 3-seed Baylor as well as 4-seed Virginia have been picking up losses more frequently over the last couple of weeks.
Should Alabama make it out of the first two rounds into the South Regional, it will do so with a comfortable trip to Louisville while other regional contenders like Arizona, San Diego State and, to a lesser extent, Creighton face more daunting travel. It’s uncertain if a loss to Texas A&M in the SEC Tournament championship game would have jeopardized such a favorable path, but after following the regular-season SEC title with a conference tournament title, everything is coming up Crimson Tide.
Who wins the South Region and why?
Michael: Alabama. With all due respect to Edey, Alabama’s Miller is the best player in the country given his combination of length, athleticism and three-level scoring. Miller is averaging 19.6 points and 8.3 rebounds while shooting better than 40% from 3-point range on more than 7.5 attempts per game. He draws 4.8 fouls per game and shoots 85.6% from the free-throw line. If the Crimson Tide need a basket late in the game, there’s no better player in college basketball than Miller, a projected top-five pick in this year’s NBA Draft. Pairing a tremendous player like Miller with a head coach in Nate Oats, who employs an NBA-style offense, is a strong recipe for success. Oats’ system discourages players from taking 2-point jumpers in favor of driving layups and plenty of 3-pointers — a wholehearted embrace of basketball analytics. Alabama scores nearly 37% of its points from beyond the arc (32nd nationally) and just 43.1% of its points (353rd nationally) inside it. That’s a winning recipe as long as perimeter shots are falling.
Finally, we didn’t start there, but we finished there. Alabama ends the season the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, the No. 1 team in the NET, the No. 1 team in the RPI, and for the first time ever, the No. 1 team in the season-ending AP Top 25 poll.
POLL ALERT: Alabama, Houston, Purdue, Kansas top the final AP Top 25 poll of the season ahead of March Madness; NCAA tourney-bound Memphis cracks rankings.— AP Top 25 (@AP_Top25) March 13, 2023
Full poll: https://t.co/ZJG5mgWrsa pic.twitter.com/yrX8SNumGF
Still unfinished business left, however. This team is hungry, talented, and ready. Three down, five to go,
Who is the most vulnerable 1-seed?
East (Purdue) — Duke, Memphis, K State, Marquette, Oral Roberts, FAU. Vawls, Kentucky
West (Kansas) — Arkansas, Illinois, UConn, TCU, Gonzaga, UCLA
Midwest (Houston) — Auburn, Indiana, Miami, Iowa State, Texas, Texas A&M, Xavier, Drake, Iowa
South (Alabama) — WVU, Maryland, Arizona, Baylor, UVA, Mizzou, Creighton
None of these
More than one of these (list below).