Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Is Alabama the basketball counterpart to football's South Carolina?

I ask the question, because of the comment I received in the last hoops power poll I did (last week's poll).  The question "Why are you hating on alabama? They beat every team ranked below them on these standings except the one team they havent played..." is a fair one.

Let me start by being clear about my view of ranking in the power poll.  I try to look at these teams as if I were sitting in the conference room of the nameless hotel of a nameless Midwestern city during the NCAA tournament selection process and seeding them for the tournament.  That being the case, I look at season won-loss, RPI (including good wins and bad losses), and the last several games.  I also place a fairly high premium on road record, especially when I am making fine distinctions, which I have had to from 2-6th place.  SEC conference record is only important in that it has a bearing on tournament match-ups, thus gives some opportunity for teams to get further wins (which strangely might hurt Alabama's NCAA tournament chances this season, since they get one less game to get a win they might need).

That being said, I don't think it is even close for Alabama to be above 5th or 6th.  Looking at the records of the Kentucky, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama, it is easy to become fixated on head to heads and not the total season.  Yes, I have had serious cognitive dissonance with Alabama's wins over Kentucky and Tennessee, particularly the road win over Tennessee.  However, all three of those other teams have kept up their RPI and have played much tougher schedules to boot.  Only Tennessee's 17-12 is a worse season record among those teams.  Tenneesee's losses, beyond Alabama, include some head scratchers (Miss State and Oakland) and some tough ones (at Florida by one, at UConn).  UT's wins include over probable Big OMG!1! East champ Pitt and and Villanova.  If I had to rank them, and I would have done so on Sunday if I hadn't been away from a computer, I still would have a tough time ranking Alabama above Tennessee for that slot in the top five.  Even if I arrived at that conclusion, I can see no reason to rank them ahead of any of the other four top teams from the East. It isn't even close, in my mind.

Finally, Alabama is terrible on the road.  No NCAA games will be played at Coleman.  Hell, no NCAA first round games will be played within 500 miles of Coleman.  I might be convinced if they go to Atlanta and make a run to Sunday.  I might not.  They might have to win it to get in the NCAA tourney.

Prior to last night's loss manhood robbing beat down at Florida,  Bama's RPI was 88th.  No team has ever made the tournament with a sub-75 RPI.  I am not saying that is dispositive, but the RPI is an effective gauge of who will and who won't make the tourney.  The other teams mentioned above, plus Vandy, are a full 50 places in front of the Tide and over 100 places ahead in schedule strength. 

I'm not the only one, by the way.  Just a quick look around has Alabama as among the last four in or first four out in various bracketology scenarios.  That being said, I expect Alabama to win against Georgia this weekend.  They are a tough team at home.  Georgia plays well on the road and has the best road record of any SEC team.  That means it could be pretty close, but Georgia has had a maddening propensity to let games get away from them.

However, one team on Saturday will probably be assured of making the NCAA tournament, regardless of the outcome.  One team will have to win it and probably more to have a legit shot.  The team needing the win more will probably get it.  The team needing that win more will be Alabama.

Alabama is benefiting from playing on the weak side of the conference.  Yes, they have gotten their wins, but that weak side of the division is affecting their seed-ability and post season prospects, as well.  Much like South Carolina last football season, the Tide's basketball program is leading their division and has a solid SEC record, but it is barely above the middle of the pack when you stack up the whole conference.


  1. My husband is a 2 time, 4th generation Bama grad, so i'm gonna keep my comments ab them to myself. I have to live with this man, i'll remind you.

    I agree with your extremely well developed, prima facie case though :)

    On the "South Carolina football" twitter comment: considering SCu whipped our fannies & then won the SEC East this year, i'm perplexed at why Dawg fans continue to use them as the cellar dweller whipping boy...

    Sure their one win doesn't change history, but it certainly changed recent history. Maybe Vandy or Kentucky would be a better example? Oh wait, scratch Kentucky-they whipped our fannies at home last year (2009).

    Just a thought.

  2. Because they won the East last year, but were at best the fifth best team in the conference. Had it been Florida, Georgia, or Kentucky, I'd have used those teams.

  3. Hmm, not so sure i'd place SCu as the 5th best team in the SEC last season.

    And that still doesn't answer for me why UGA fans continue to use them as the cellar dweller whipping boy. It makes no sense. If anybody deserves that title of mediocrity it's UGA, if we're being honest.

    Hell, SCU won a baseball national championship, which Perno seems incapable do doing (finishing the drill & all that), until this year SCu was certainly putting out a better Hoops program than UGA, and Spurrier finally beat the dogcrap out of us from the very first drive this season. At this point, I WISH we were South Carolina.

  4. Oh, I think it is fair to say that South Carolina was the 5th best team in the conference in football. I could entertain arguments for 4th, but only because they beat Alabama head to head. Alabama certainly played better football season long then the Gamecocks did.

    As for your other question, I simply used South Carolina as an analogy. Hey, I'd have taken winning the East last season, too. Under no circumstances do I want to be South Carolina, though.