TUSCALOOSA — An ugly four-game losing streak has placed Alabama’s NCAA tournament fate, once considered a foregone conclusion, on life support.
Tuesday’s 21-point home loss to Florida ensured the Crimson Tide would not finish with a winning conference record. It must defeat Texas A&M on Saturday in Reed Arena to ensure a .500 finish — a tall task given the team is just 2-7 in true road games this season.
Still, hope remains for a spot in the event. Here are five fast facts about Alabama’s NCAA tournament resume, as it currently stands.
1. Barely in
Both ESPN’s Joe Lunardi and CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm penciled the Crimson Tide in to its latest mock brackets released Thursday.
Lunardi listed Alabama among the “Last Four Byes,” slotting it a No. 10 seed with a first-round matchup against Miami (Fla.) in Detroit.
Palm was a bit more bullish. He had the Crimson Tide out of his field entirely Wednesday, but put it back in Thursday’s bracket, playing in the First Four as a No. 12 seed against Providence in Dayton, Ohio.
2. Lot of losses
Unless it beats Texas A&M and then wins the SEC tournament, Alabama (17-13) will finish the season with at least 14 losses.
Since 1987, 12 teams have made the NCAA tournament field as an at-large selection with 14 losses. Last season, Vanderbilt made the field safely as a No. 9 seed with 15 losses — the most in tournament history for an at-large bid — due to its stout non-conference schedule.
3. Non-league slate
Even amid the losing streak his team is absorbing, Tide coach Avery Johnson continues to point out the non-conference schedule his team played, which included wins against Rhode Island and Oklahoma as well as a trip to Arizona.
Alabama’s non-conference strength of schedule is No. 32, according to WarrenNolan.com, bolstering its total strength of schedule to No. 11. For reference, that Vanderbilt team that snuck into the NCAA Tournament last season with 15 losses, had a No. 2 strength of schedule and No. 2 non-conference strength of schedule, according to the same site.
4. Quadrant quandary
That non-conference schedule — and the Southeastern Conference’s renaissance — has produced some signature wins.
Using the new four quadrant system utilized by the NCAA selection committee, Alabama boasts five Quadrant 1 wins as of Thursday, identical to Texas A&M, Arkansas and two more than Kentucky, which has only three.
Missed opportunities linger, though. Eight of the Tide’s 13 losses are either Quadrant 2 or Quadrant 3 losses.
5. It's not over
Somewhat perturbed by a question of “where does the team go from here,” Johnson emphatically stated his team’s season is not over, even if the outside feeling stemming from this four-game losing streak suggests otherwise.
“We have to look in the mirror. We have more than enough to be successful. We’ve talked about building a resume. We’ve talked about ‘OK, if we fall short a little bit of our expectations, is it going to be enough?’ … We had a team that we beat last year in the SEC tournament in the second round (South Carolina), they ended up going to the Final Four.”
“Other teams have survived four-game losing streaks.”