Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day and Selection Sunday, all rolled into one big celebration at some schools. But is it possible Alabama basketball might actually have a chance at one last, lucky NCAA clover.
Normally, rounding up a group of Alabama basketball fans to watch the NCAA Selection Show is like inviting a group of second-graders to a viewing of The Lion King and telling them, “really, I think Mufasa is going to be OK!” It rarely works out. The majority opinion is this year is going to be another “close but no cigar” situation, with Alabama being one of the teams that falls just short.
Losing to Kentucky in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals didn’t help but such losses to top 5 teams aren’t decisive. Far worse were some of the home losses where the Crimson Tide squandered big leads, and a few other games where there seemed to be little sense of urgency.
Still, for an Alabama fan who wants to watch for some reason other than a love of pain and a shortage of Sunday afternoon root canal providers, there are a couple of reasons to sneak a peek.
First, while the big network bracketologists, particularly Joe Lunardi of ESPN and Jerry Palm of CBS, have Alabama in the NIT, not every prediction agrees. Some are outliers, but roughly 15 to 20 percent of the 124 projections studied by Bracket Project have Alabama still in (virtually all of those have UA playing a First Four game in Dayton.)
Second, bracketology is always guesswork but this year requires more guesswork than usual. The NCAA has changed its selection criteria in ways that haven’t been made public. The NET rankings, the value assigned to Quadrant I and Quadrant 2 wins, strength of schedule — all have been discussed but there is no precedent for determining how they will be applied.
Third, the so-called “bubble” is a squishy, icky mess and some of the teams in the same boat as Alabama have their own blemishes on the resume.
Whether Alabama’s status is “barely in” or “painfully out” may not have as much bearing on the future as a simple “in/out” status might suggest. Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne indicated in Nashville on Friday night that he would address Alabama’s basketball program — including the future of Avery Johnson — at the appropriate time, which probably means sooner rather than later.
In his podium comments after the Kentucky game, Johnson spoke of himself as Alabama’s coach in both the present and the future tense. The $8 million buyout Johnson would be owed had no comment because $8 million lets its zeroes do the talking.
So it’s an odd Selection Sunday, one some people may choose to observe and others may choose to ignore. There’s always green beer to fall back on, or televised basketball (although having to choose an SEC Tournament winner between Tennessee and Auburn might lead some Alabama fans to rely on green beer in excess.) Or those Alabama fans may be more worried about 2020 and beyond, moreso than the final destination of Team 2019.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.