ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, a college basketball analyst who is known for creating “Bracketology,” released an updated bracket on Tuesday, Feb. 5, of the teams he believes will make it to the NCAA tournament.
The Alabama Crimson Tide (14-7, 6-2 SEC) was listed as a team on the bubble, but Lunardi projected the Tide to be one of the first four teams out of the bracket, alongside Illinois, Brigham Young and Maryland.
The last four teams to experience March Madness are guessed to be Saint Mary’s, Arizona State, Temple and Indiana State – Larry Bird’s alma mater.
He listed Florida, Indiana, Michigan and Duke as No. 1 seeds, as these four teams are the top four units in the current AP Top 25.
Other Southeastern Conference teams included in his prediction were Ole Miss, Missouri and Kentucky.
That Alabama has not been completely eliminated from the postseason equation is beneficial for the Tide. Head coach Anthony Grant and company will face seven consecutive winnable games ahead of them, as Alabama will battle Auburn and LSU twice, as well as Georgia, South Carolina and Mississippi State. Four of those games will be played at Coleman Coliseum.
Alabama has relied on its ability to stay in games this season until the final minute, and that ability has allowed the Tide to find a way to win when its back is against the wall.
Grant said the stressful way his team closes out games is not drawn up during timeouts.
“It’s not by design. I like to play with the lead, to be honest with you,” Grant said. “But it’s going to be a 40-minute game. You can never get too high. You can never get too low. We’ve had several games where we’ve started off well, where we’ve been able to build a lead and then at the end of the half we’ve had lulls. The whole thing is consistency.
“I think when our guys are playing at their best, from an offensive and a defensive standpoint, we’ve got a chance to be a very good basketball team. We’ve just got to be able to find that consistency on both ends of the floor.”
Alabama’s relentless defense is credited with several of these victories. Defensively, the Tide is ranked 22nd in the nation in points per game allowed with 58.3.
Alabama has held 13 of its 21 opponents – six straight SEC teams – to under 60 points this season. It is 10-3 when achieving this statistic.
The regular season comes to a close in little more than a month, and the Tide cannot afford any more losses from teams it should handle. Of course the match ups in March with Florida and Ole Miss will be tough road tests, but they could also catapult this team back into Lunardi’s good graces.
Regardless, Alabama cannot be afraid of losing. That will lead to sloppy play on the hardwood. It needs to play suffocating defense and score as many points in transition as possible. If it can accomplish that in its remaining conference schedule and in the SEC tournament, it will have a strong case of belonging on the positive side of the bubble.
Leading in today’s Crimson White: