Now that the season is over and we await the selection show, we find ourselves squarely on the bubble. I thought I would present both sides of the argument whether we should be in or out as objectively as I possibly can.
The Standard of Review
The selection committee will consider a number of factors in selecting the at-large bids. They have stated they will consider a team's "entire body of work." This includes the win-loss record, strength of schedule, quality wins, bad losses, RPI, and road and neutral site records.
The Undisputed Facts
Alabama had a poor start to the season, including bad neutral court losses to Iowa and St. Peters. They rebounded to go 12-4, win the SEC West title, and finish 2nd overall in the SEC. Alabama is 21-12 with an RPI of 78.
Alabama should be in, Case in Chief
Alabama was undefeated at home and finished 12-4 in a power conference. No team with a record of 12-4 or better from a power conference has ever been denied entry to the NCAA tournament. We won the Western Division, and went 4-2 against the powerful Eastern Division. Alabama has not suffered a bad loss since the start of conference play. Alabama has quality wins at home against Kentucky and on the road at Tennessee. Tennessee is considered a lock by many, but Alabama has a better record than UT, a better conference record than UT, a higher winning percentage against the top teams in the conference than UT, and we beat UT on their home court. Georgia was considered a lock by most until Alabama beat them twice in the same week. We advanced to the final 4 of the conference tournament. The Tide has proven they can play with good teams, nearly upsetting Vanderbilt on the road in Nashville. Statistically, Alabama is one of the top defensive teams in the country, ensuring any game they play in the tournament would likely be a closely contested, entertaining game.
Alabama should be out- Case in Chief
No team with an RPI as low as Bama's has ever received an at large bid. Alabama played a horrible non conference schedule, and did not fare very well against it at that. Alabama has bad neutral court losses to Iowa and St. Peters. Alabama's quality wins are not that impressive. They beat Kentucky at home, but Kentucky lost to nearly everybody they played on the road. Likewise, they picked up a road win against a Tennessee team who has not played well at all in conference play. The SEC record is inflated because they played 2 games each against the horrible West division, including 4 games combined against auburn and LSU. Speaking of which, they nearly lost to an AUful auburn team on their home court.
The selection committee removed the "last 10 games played" consideration for a reason. Allowing Alabama in the tournament sets a precedent that the early non conference games are meaningless. Historically, the lower seeds that have made a "cinderella run" of upsets have had either one superstar, nearly unstoppable player, or great guard play with numerous quality 3 point shooters. Alabama has neither of these, making them an unlikely candidate to advance. When faced against the SEC's only true quality team, they were run out of the gym in Gainesville. They were also blown out in the SEC tournament against Kentucky. That is likely what would happen if they played in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Considering the entire body of work, Alabama should be in the N.I.T.
We were not the same team that endured the bad losses in the non conference schedule. That team was still finding its identity and was playing without injured player Andrew Steele. Our best player, JaMychal Green, was also suspended for 3 games. Furthermore, those losses are now not as bad as our detractors would make them out to be. We barely lost to a Seton Hall team that still had their best player and a full roster. St. Peters is in the NCAA tournament after winning their conference tournament. How can an NCAA tournament team be considered a bad loss? Iowa has wins over Michigan State and Purdue.
While the SEC West is bad from an RPI perspective, that statistic is also misleading. $tate is a very talented team, but played much of the season without their best player. auburn played much better down the stretch, also playing Florida and Georgia very close. The West had several quality wins against the East, most importantly including Alabama who went 5-3 against the East including the SEC tournament. The RPI is just one tool, but the human element should be able to see the flaws of applying it to this case. In all but one game since January, Alabama has passed the "eye test" with flying colors. Common sense should prevail and a team with 13 wins in a power conference should not be left out.
I think we may be in the Dayton play-in game for a 12 seed. It doesn't matter what I think. The NCAA selection committee is the judge and the jury in this case. They will deliberate Sunday and announce the verdict at 5pm CST.