SEC coaches looked favorably on the Crimson Tide heading into the league tournament, but important measures look unfavorably on an Alabama team that doesn’t secure an automatic bid.
The Ratings Percentage Index ranks the Tide 79th nationally after the weekend’s games — up 10 spots from last week, but still a long way from the neighborhood where at-large selections historically reside.
No team with an RPI worse than 63 has qualified for the field since the ratings formula was tweaked in 2005, said Jerry Palm of CollegeRPI.com. Mississippi State was 55th last year after losing to Kentucky in the SEC tournament final and was not invited.
Either way, a win in Friday’s conference tournament semifinals appears to be a minimum requirement to remain in the discussion. The SEC West champion Tide (20-10) gets the winner of the Auburn/Georgia first-round game at noon Friday in the Georgia Dome.
Tide coach Anthony Grant chose to look at his team’s résumé instead of tournament history when judiciously addressing his team’s chances Monday.
“Well yeah, I have a lot of respect for the SEC and what we were able to accomplish with the caliber of teams and coaches,” Grant said.
“Our league was very, very competitive this year — East and West. I think for us, we just try to control the things we can control. So I think going 12-4 in the league certainly deserves some attention.
“Hopefully, at the end of the day, the selection committee will feel that with us having gone 12-4 in the SEC, winning 16 of the last 20, our team has made progress over the year.”
Georgia, a potential opponent Friday, is another team with a hazy NCAA outlook who could benefit from a deep run in Atlanta despite having an RPI rating of 39.
Kentucky coach John Calipari likes the odds for both teams making the expanded field of 68 teams when the brackets are announced Sunday. His prediction is conditional, though.
“We should be betting six teams in,” Calipari said. “Now, people have got to advance here in this tournament. Now they don’t have to go to the finals, but you have to advance a little bit. You have to advance your cause and I think that will be a big part of how this all plays out. Some of it will be how many spots open up, but I think this league deserves half of our teams to be in the NCAA tournament.”
Grant said he isn’t worried about not knowing Alabama’s first SEC tournament foe until 24 hours before tipoff. His team is plenty familiar with both possibilities.
Alabama survived a 15-point first-half deficit when Auburn came to Coleman Coliseum in a 51-49 Tide win Feb. 23. It beat Georgia 65-57 Saturday after falling behind by 8 in the opening moments.
“Either way you look at it, throughout the rest of the season, you’re playing high-quality teams that are playing good basketball,” Grant said. “There are challenges, certainly, but I don’t think there’s anything added because of what happened in the past.”
Alabama point guard Trevor Releford wasn’t looking backwards when asked if he thought his team would be in the field.
“I think we are,” Releford said. “But we just worry about our next game.”
Michael Casagrande covers University of Alabama sports for The Star.