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Tide awaiting call from NCAA or NIT

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

The weekly media schedule that Alabama sends to reporters covering its teams has the NIT selection show listed as something to look for.

Maybe that’s an indicator of what the schools thinks of its chances to make the NCAA tournament.

After losing four of its last five games, even the NIT might be wishful thinking for the Crimson Tide, which is 20-11. But in some ways, Alabama still has a realistic shot at the NCAA tournament.

The Tide did start the year 13-1 and won the Paradise Jam, beating quality opponents Xavier and Iowa.

In terms of its nonconference, nontournament schedule, the Tide defeated N.C. State 82-75 on the road and Oklahoma 70-55 at home.

The Crimson Tide also made it to the magical 20-win plateau.

However, N.C. State and Iowa make up the weaker portion of the ACC and Big 12.

Also, Alabama’s only major SEC win came against Kentucky in a year where the Wildcats have struggled.

According to ESPN.com, the Tide sits at No. 47 in the RPI rankings, which is higher than the No. 56 that it was last year at this point and higher than tournament “locks” Vanderbilt (48) and Syracuse (51).

But it’s tough to argue that the team is better than last year’s bunch that was a 3-point shot away from tying UCLA in the NCAA tournament’s second round.

Alabama is 1-3 against the RPI top 25 and 1-4 against the Nos. 26-50 teams.

The Crimson Tide never had an easy conference win, its largest margin just 11 points occurring once against Kentucky and once against Ole Miss.

The team lost twice to in-state rival Auburn — No. 111 in RPI — and was grossly defeated by SEC West Division foe Arkansas in its two matchups with the Razorbacks.

The Tide also finished 7-9 in conference.

The committee might take into account the health of point guard Ronald Steele, who has struggled all year with a bad knee. The preseason All-American has not been 100 percent all year but could be ready to go come tournament time.

However, both Steele and Gottfried have indicated that Steele, the “heart and soul” of the team, will not be anywhere near his 2005-06 form when he was an All-SEC first-team selection.

Alabama might suffer from the results of other league tournaments.

Tournament lock Butler lost to Wright State in the Horizon League finals. The Bulldogs still will probably make the tournament, but Wright State has landed the league’s automatic bid.

Also, No. 10 Nevada lost to Utah State in the Western Athletic Conference tournament meaning someone else’s tournament hopes will burst. It’s the same in the Atlantic 10 where Rhode Island upset Xavier.

Several SEC West teams are making some noise in the conference tournament, including Arkansas, which made the finals.

Now, the NCAA tournament selection committee might not have an excuse to take the Razorbacks

No matter what happens, Alabama will be on edge Sunday looking to see where it will be sent — the NCAA or the NIT.

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