Loss to LSU lessens Alabama's tournament hopes

The Alabama men’s basketball team’s triple-overtime loss to LSU on Feb. 23 did not help the Crimson Tide’s meager chances of appearing in the NCAA tournament.

ESPN’s Joe Lunardi listed the Tide (18-9, 10-4 SEC) as one of the next four teams out of the tournament. But being listed as a bubble team doesn’t automatically mean a team’s record is worthy of competing for a national championship. It just means there’s a chance that team can get in. For Alabama, that chance slipped further from its grasp with a 97-94 loss to LSU.

With only four games left in the regular season, Alabama needs a strong showing in its remaining SEC games to stay in the hunt. But now the Tide is faced with doing the unthinkable: defeating Florida in Gainesville, Fla.

Alabama hasn’t had much success on the road this season, as it holds a 4-6 record away from Coleman Coliseum, excluding neutral sites. And it still has to travel to Gainesville, Fla., and Oxford, Miss., and come away with crucial victories.

It has to be sickening for the Tide’s players to think if they had taken care of business in the early season nonconference games, they wouldn’t be in this situation. The losses to Dayton, Mercer and Tulane practically killed the opportunity to play in the tournament. Those losses are laughable, at best, on a contending team’s resume.

And let’s not forget Alabama’s debilitating loss at Auburn on Feb. 6. The Tide could still be in sole possession of second place in the SEC if not for that blemish on its record.

Now, after Kentucky’s overtime win against Missouri on Saturday, Alabama is tied with the Wildcats for second place. The Tide also kissed its chances of winning the SEC regular season title goodbye.

The only plausible way Alabama can reach the tournament now is if it wins out, including in the SEC tournament. That calls for beating the Gators (22-4, 12-2) twice.

That is no small task, and head coach Anthony Grant knows it. He has preached for his team to show a level of consistency all season but nothing has come of it.

“If we want to consider ourselves a team that can be elite, so to speak, or be a team that can play for championships or make deep runs, then you’ve got to develop a level of consistency,” Grant said. “You have to do that, individually and as a team. You can’t be up and down.”

But the Tide has not found that level of consistency yet and time is running out.

There is the slightest glimmer of hope left for Alabama, but that glimmer could just be a gator’s teeth in the spotlight awaiting its chance to roll the Tide to its exit from tournament contention.

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