Edwards: Tide still faces uphill climb
by Mark Edwards
medwards@annistonstar.com
Mar 09, 2013 | 3361 views |  0 comments | 4 4 recommendations | email to a friend | print
TUSCALOOSA -- If Alabama doesn't get an NCAA tournament bid, at least the Crimson Tide made it interesting this season.

Alabama began the season with Trevor Lacey beating South Dakota State with a buzzer-beater. Then in the final regular season game Saturday, Trevor Releford beat Georgia 61-58 with a 50-footer as the clock ran out. In addition, Alabama beat Oregon State in November when Rodney Cooper sank a 3-pointer with 13 seconds left.

Alabama has won nine games by five points or fewer, including Saturday's thriller.

Unfortunately, the NCAA selection committee doesn't appear to give extra credit for an exciting endings.

It doesn't give teams much of a break for playing seven December games without your emotional leader, Andrew Steele, who missed that stretch because of surgery to fix a sports hernia.

The committee doesn't care Alabama lost its starting center, 7-foot-1 Carl Engstrom, in December to a knee injury.

The committee members aren't saying the Crimson Tide should get a break because it's playing with a young lineup. Kenpom.com ranks Alabama's roster 300th nationally out of 347 Division I teams in terms of experience.

We're not suggesting the committee is all-knowing and always right. Far from it. Very far from it. In the previous two NCAA tournaments, we saw a few "upsets" that weren't really upsets than they were examples of poor seeding choices by the committee.

Complain about football's Bowl Championship Series all you want, but at least the BCS doesn't go behind close doors and screw up things like the NCAA men's basketball committee sometimes does.

If it were up to me, and Alabama managed at least one win in this week's SEC tournament, I would find a place in the NCAA bracket for the Crimson Tide.

For the selection committee, however, one win in the SEC tournament might not be enough. If Alabama makes the SEC tournament finals, that might not be enough either. Winning it offers the only guarantee.

Releford's basket Saturday probably kept the Crimson Tide somewhere in the picture of also-rans but nothing more. And even in that photo, Alabama's not in the front row. Maybe the third row. With some big guy taking up half the Tide's space, so the Tide has to crane its neck around him to be seen.

It shouldn't have been this way. If Alabama hadn't suffered December home losses to Dayton, Mercer and Tulane, it likely would be a slam dunk for the tournament field.

Then again, maybe not. Perhaps if Alabama had sailed through those games, it wouldn't have played with the same sense of urgency it did in January.

When judging the bottom line, Alabama shouldn't be in this position. Anthony Grant compiled a good enough roster to put together a better record than 20-11 overall and 12-6 in the league, especially considering the schedule wasn't that overwhelming.

But either way, it's been a fun chase -- even if the Tide's results ultimately make the NCAA selection committee do little more than yawn.

Contact Mark Edwards at medwards@annistonstar.com or 256-235-3570.
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