The Alabama basketball team now has to hope one of the true shaggy dogs of the sports cliche world — “the postseason is a new season” — turns out to be true.
There is very little the Crimson Tide needs more right now than a clean slate. Saturday’s loss to Texas A&M was its fifth in a row and while it was a step forward in competitiveness from last week’s loss to Florida, it still wasn’t a win.
UA did have an open 3-pointer with about 12 seconds remaining that would have potentially put the game into overtime. It even grabbed the rebound off the missed shot but couldn’t get another look before a turnover.
Still, it was more of the “SEC games on the road are tough” variety than it was the “don’t let children under 12 watch the game tape” train-wrecks from earlier in the streak. There’s plenty of reason for pessimism but no grounds to absolutely dismiss the possibility hat Alabama can win on a neutral court against a team that it played to a two-point decision on its home floor.
That’s all Alabama needs to be thinking about — the game, not the potential ramifications of the tournament. That will all be hashed out on Thursday.
Looking at the tournament as a whole, there are some intriguing matchups. There are probably seven teams that are already in the NCAA Tournament, with only Alabama having a realistic chance to play its way into the field without winning the whole enchilada (or, since the party is in St. Louis, the whole toasted ravioli.)
Mississippi State was getting some mention as a possibility despite its inadequate pre-conference schedule, but got blown out twice in the final week and ended its at-large hopes.
Anyone that doesn’t have to play Wednesday and win five games in five days (not going to happen) has at least a chance. Auburn certainly could win it as the No. 1 seed but one wonders if AU’s limited depth is suited for a three-day run. The wins AU earned without Anfernee McLemore down the stretch were pumped with home-court adrenaline that may not translate, either.
Tennessee has more players and its inside/outside game might translate well in a tournament setting. Florida, which was teetering on the NCAA bubble, closed with wins against Auburn, Alabama and Kentucky — the opposite of Alabama’s finish — and are the hottest team going in.
Kentucky always has a realistic shot at winning the tournament, and if, amazingly, there is a Friday afternoon session featuring Alabama vs. Auburn and Kentucky vs. Missouri (perhaps with freshman phenom Michael Porter Jr. making his return), that could be electric.
It could also show whether Mizzou fans will support an SEC event in their backyard. Texas A&M and Arkansas will be dangerous but the Aggies may be too slow to win four in a row and Arkansas might be too frenetic.
Even one win would be some salve for Alabama, a brief respite from the negativity that has surrounded the program on the Internet and the radio airwaves since somewhere in the second half of the Auburn game. So for Alabama, the correct approach isn’t to worry about the tournament. It needs to try and win one game, then go from there.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.