Tide Left Out Of NCAA Field

It was bad luck for Alabama that the Crimson Tide couldn't have played Georgia three times in the final week before the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Selection Committee made its picks Sunday. Beating the Bulldogs twice obviously was not enough as Georgia went into the tournament and Bama was left out.

No one doubts that Alabama had its blemishes. There is also the pragmatic outlook that it doesn't really matter if a team gets into the tournament if that team isn't capable of winning the tournament. The Crimson Tide of Coach Anthony Grant has not demonstrated that it would have any chance of being national champion.

But it is hard to believe that the team that was champion of the Southeastern Conference Western Division did not make the tournament with a 21-11 record, including a 13-5 record in SEC play (including the SEC Tournament record of 1-1).

UA is the first team in history from a major conference to go 12-4 in conference play and be left out of the NCAA Tournament field. Alabama was the only team to finish with the second most number of wins in a power conference and not make it into this year's NCAA field. No SEC team had ever before won 12 conference games and not made the tournament.

The SEC Eastern Division put five teams into the tournament. Alabama had a record of 4-3 against those five teams.

Most notably was Georgia, which Alabama defeated head-to-head twice within a week, including in the SEC Tournament in Atlanta. Alabama also defeated Tennessee in Knoxville, and Bama downed SEC Tournament Champion Kentucky during regular season play.

NCAA Selection Committee Chairman Gene Smith didn't have much of an explanation. Smith may have been distracted a bit since he is athletics director at Ohio State, where the football program and its head coach appear to have issues with honesty.

Smith did mumble something about "A lot of people put head-to-head as a high priority."

Alabama got another little jolt when UAB and Clemson were announced for a play-in game. And not just Alabama. Virginia Tech, Boston College, and Colorado were other so-called bubble teams who by Smith's explanation "just didn't get the votes."

There were a handful of reasons Alabama was left off.

First, Alabama played a lousy non-conference schedule and did not have a good non-conference record.

Second, while Alabama was 16-0 in Coleman Coliseum, the Tide did not play well away from home.

Play in high profile games that were publicized as Bama's screen test -- at Florida late in the year and against Kentucky in the SEC Tournament -- were miserable Tide performances.

Tim Higgins. Higgins and his crew absolutely robbed Alabama in Nashville against Vanderbilt. A Crimson Tide win over the Commodores to go with the rest of the Bama worksheet probably would have done the job.

Now Alabama moves on with an NIT berth to be announced shortly.

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