Tuesday, December 24, 2013

State of the RPI - Christmas Eve Style

Well, it ain't good. After another bone-crushing defeat, this time at the hands of Xavier, Alabama has fallen to 5-6 on the season. The general consensus here at the blog is that the season is, to put it nicely, over. Bama currently finds itself with a triple digit RPI, and they are drifting dangerously close to becoming an RPI buster instead of an asset.

And, yet, it's the time of miracles. Would we be remiss to not wish, hope and pray for a Christmas miracle where it concerns our beloved Crimson Tide? When all is said and done, fans only care about the W/L record. That is what shapes the perception of a team. However, it should be stressed that with a bounce of the ball here, a bounce of the ball there and a bounce of the ball everywhere, this Bama team could easily be 9-2/8-3 at this juncture with a different kind of light shining on them altogether.

Perhaps the inspiration of jolly old St. Nick is flowing through me (it could also be the booze), but I see twenty games left on the regular season schedule. And perhaps I've been encouraged by the ghosts of Bama basketball's past, who remind me of 2010-11. That Bama team struggled to a 5-6 record before winning 15 of their final 19 regular season games. I don't have the patience to go that far back in the blog archives, but I would bet a few of us considered the season toast after that 5-6 start.

For Alabama to perform a similar miracle, they must figure out how to make the right play during winning time. They have struggled with that up to this point. But basketball is a fickle game. That's why you can be #1 at one point in a season and barely make the postseason at a later point. Pardon me for those of you who discount the law of averages, but at some point the scales must tip in the favor of our beloved Crimson Tide.

 As I wrote earlier, Alabama has twenty games remaining on the schedule. Eight of them are against teams currently in the RPI top 50, with an additional six against teams currently in the top 100. That's a bunch of golden opportunities for this team, but due to the struggles, the margin for error will be razor thin. For a team that has struggled from a mental aspect, that could spell trouble.

Two non-conference games remain: @UCLA on Saturday and Robert Morris on January 4th. The UCLA game represents the last opportunity for Alabama to notch a quality win before SEC play begins. UCLA's RPI currently sits at #63. If Alabama can somehow upset the Bruins and take care of business against Robert Morris, they would enter SEC play with some much-needed momentum and confidence. They will need it too because, even with a win at UCLA, they probably need to win 12/13 games in conference to even be in the conversation come March.

Speaking of the SEC: How are the conference mates doing? Five conference schools (Florida, LSU, Kentucky, Missouri and Arkansas) currently sit in the top 50 of ESPN's RPI rankings. Another four schools (Vanderbilt, Ole Miss, Tennessee and South Carolina) are in the top 100. The rest: Bama at 112,Mississippi State at 147, Texas A&M at 178, Auburn at 182 and Georgia at 273. The conference once again has a lack of quality wins in the non-conference, but most schools did schedule better and that's helped with the overall RPI.

Merry Christmas to all of you, even the worst of you. Ho Ho Ho.

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