NCAA Committee Watches For Wins

When Tony Mitchell's desperation shot went off the rim as time expired in Alabama's 50-49 loss to St. Peter's in the Paradise Jam in the Virgin Islands, the last thing on the minds of Crimson Tide basketball followers was the NCAA Tournament.

At the end of December, Alabama had a 7-6 record. But a funny thing happened as Southeastern Conference play got underway. First, Bama upset Mississippi State in Starkville to open league competition. The Tide got surprise wins over Kentucky at home and Tennessee on the road. And now the Crimson Tide of Coach Anthony Grant is leading the SEC Western Division and challenging for the overall league title.

As a result, there is conversation about Bama making this year's NCAA Tournament field of 68 (there are three more play-in games this year).

Going into tonight's game at LSU 8 p.m. CST, ESPN), Alabama is 16-8 overall and 8-2 in SEC play. Bama has six games remaining – road games at LSU, Ole Miss and league-leading Florida; home games against Arkansas, Auburn and Georgia.

Although the 16-8 overall record lacks quality wins against non-conference opponents, Alabama remains within striking distance of earning its first NCAA bid since the 2005-06 campaign. Alabama currently has an RPI ranking of 87 according to the NCAA Men's Basketball website. Banking on a strong finish within the conference, the Tide will be attempting to overcome the prevailing reputation that the SEC has not measured up to previous years.

A.P. Steadham of 'BAMA Magazine/ had the opportunity to pose questions to Eugene "Gene" Smith, the 2011 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Selection Committee Chair during a Wednesday afternoon teleconference. The Ohio State University Director of Athletics has been a committee member for the past five years with his term expiring in September.

How can a team overcome a less than stellar non-conference record?

Smith: "You win. It goes back to whom you played and where you played and how you did and sometimes when you played. At the end of the day I think we all know winning is a very important criteria – your road wins, your overall wins. You need to win."

Can a team with a lack luster non-conference record improve its at-large chances by winning conference games?

Smith: "I can't speculate. There are a lot of moving parts around there but obviously if you win all your games wherever you play them, you have a pretty good chance of being in. In that situation you're probably going to end up being an automatic qualifier and you're going to get in as an AQ. Trying to narrow down your scenario there, I would say if you win all your games, there is a good chance you're in."

Are the last ten games weighted more in the evaluation process for teams on the proverbial bubble?

Smith: "No. Awhile ago we did look at the last ten games as a criteria but we no longer look at that. Some committee members still may look at that as a consideration but it's really more your entire body of work. I really look back to the first few games and where you played them and how you did. We all know that some teams have different issues that they go through in the middle of the season or at the end of the season. So you take all those things into consideration but all of us try and look at the entire body of work."

Can a conference RPI ranking detract from a team's wins?

Smith: "We really don't take in the conference RPI as an issue. It's not even on our documentation. Frankly if you asked me today I'd probably have to guess what they are across the country based upon my subjective view because I don't track that. We don't look at conference RPIs. We truly look at the individual teams. We look at who they played, where they played and how they did. We look at their win-loss record. We are trying to make sure that we respect the individuality of what that coach and those group of kids did. So sure there is a lot of data out there, a lot of rankings and things of that nature but we really try and look at what those teams accomplish with what many of us call the gauntlet which is the regular season. I know there is a lot of conversation about conference RPIs and all that type of stuff but we look at the body of work from November when the season starts all the way through when it ends. The very first game that they play, wherever they played it - neutral site, away, at home - we look at that and go through the whole season and evaluate those individual teams."

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