Alabama could reach NCAA tournament with win over Florida

The Alabama men’s basketball team’s chances of making an appearance in the NCAA tournament are slim heading into the Southeastern Conference tournament this week, but they haven’t completely faded away. The Crimson Tide (20-11, 12-6 SEC) is haunted by three bad non-conference losses to inferior opponents and an embarrassing road loss to in-state rival Auburn from earlier in the season.

ESPN’s Bracketologist Joe Lunardi does not see Alabama making the tournament, but the Tide has been on the bubble since its conference schedule began. It’s used to hearing it’s one of the first four out or last four teams into the tournament.

Almost everyone believes it will take an SEC championship to push the Tide into the big dance, but I think two wins will be enough for this team to sneak in.

Alabama is the No. 4 seed and will likely face No. 5 Tennessee – if the Volunteers take care of the South Carolina-Mississippi State winner – on Friday in the quarterfinal round. The Tide split the regular season series with the Volunteers, but Tennessee has improved as the season progressed, closing out its season with a big win over Missouri.

A win against Tennessee will most likely result in a semifinal matchup between Alabama and No. 1 seed Florida. The Tide had the Gators on the ropes in Gainesville, Fla., but a second half collapse led to a 64-52 Florida victory. There was no way Alabama was going to beat the Gators at home, as Florida boasts an undefeated record at the O’Connell Center. But the SEC tournament is in Nashville, and Florida is a mediocre 9-6 on the road this season.

If the Tide can claim victories over Tennessee and Florida, I think that will be enough for it to squeak by other at-large teams that are on the bubble. But can Alabama put together a couple of consistent games for this to happen? If head coach Anthony Grant can get his team to play like it did in the second half against Ole Miss and the first half against Georgia, this team can win the league championship.

But the SEC tournament is wide open. There are seven teams with double-digit conference wins and five teams with at least 20 total wins.

If the Tide can muster up another hot streak, there’s a realistic chance of it bringing an SEC championship back to Tuscaloosa and try to make a run in the NCAA tournament.

But something tells me Alabama wants to redeem its performance against the league’s best team.

Junior guard Trevor Releford was asked if he wanted another shot at Florida.

“Yeah,” Releford said. “We want a shot at the championship.”

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