Time has come for Alabama to be ranked in Top 25

Laura Owens

When was the last time the Alabama men’s basketball team was ranked? I honestly have no idea. It may have been as long ago as the 2002-2003 season, which was the last time that Alabama won the Southeastern Conference Championship.

So far this year, the Crimson Tide’s overall record (15-7) isn’t anything spectacular. But what is impressive is the team’s 7-1 conference record. For weeks, Alabama has been No. 1 in the Southeastern Conference, ahead of Florida, the No. 2 team in the SEC and No. 19 overall, by half a game. Alabama leads the West Division by three games.

It’s true that most of the teams Alabama has played don’t have the highest Ranking Power Index or RPI; the team that has the highest RPI the Tide played was Purdue, and Alabama lost that game. Purdue comes in with an RPI of 11, but the team right after Purdue is Kentucky, which Alabama has beaten.

The other big win Alabama came up with was last weekend against Tennessee, whose RPI is 21. After last weekend’s victory, the Tide did get 21 votes in the Associated Press Poll, but it was not enough to crack the top 25. Alabama’s RPI is 97, which also really doesn’t help the team’s case to be ranked.

But the game tomorrow night against No. 24 Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tenn., might be just enough to push the Tide into a ranked position. Vanderbilt’s RPI is 19, and because the game is away, if Alabama can pull out a victory, the Tide’s 8-1 conference record should do the trick.

Aside from earning a top-25 ranking, Alabama has also positioned itself to have a good chance of making the NCAA tournament this year for the first time since the 2004-2005 season. A 20-win team will generally make it to the tournament, and Alabama is at 15.

There are four more home games, so if Alabama can pull out those four wins and keep a perfect record at home, then the Tide only needs to win one more road game to have a good chance at receiving a bid.

The remaining away schedule for the Tide includes a trip to Baton Rouge, La., Oxford, Miss., and Gainesville, Fla., not to mention the game that Alabama will play tonight in Nashville.

I don’t think there’s a very good chance that Alabama will win in Gainesville against Florida. Last year the Gators beat the Tide in Coleman, and though this year Alabama is ahead of Florida in the SEC, the Gators’ home-court advantage may be just too much for the Tide to handle.

A win in Oxford may be difficult, too. Alabama will play Ole Miss for the first time this season on Saturday in Coleman Coliseum. But, the Rebels defeated the previously No. 11 Kentucky in Oxford, making Ole Miss look like a very formidable opponent in its home court.

Assuming Alabama wins all four home games, as long as the Tide can win in either Nashville or Baton Rouge, then Alabama should be in good shape to play in the NCAA tournament after Atlanta. But just as an extra push, the farther Alabama goes in the SEC Tournament, the better chances are that the team will get an NCAA bid. The hotter a team is at the end of a season, the more likely they are to receive a bid.

Alabama may never be a basketball powerhouse, but if the 2010-2011 season ends with an SEC Championship title and an NCAA tournament bid, I would say that’s a big success story for this team, second-year head coach Anthony Grant and the program overall.