It might be impossible to have more of a disappointing start to the college basketball season than what has befallen the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Crimson Tide were expected to compete in the SEC and possibly make it to the 2014 NCAA Tournament, but finish non-conference play with the worst record in the SEC, 6-7.
However, Alabama should be able to take a lot of confidence into SEC play with what they did. The Crimson Tide lost outright to the Oklahoma Sooners and the then No. 6 Duke Blue Devils, but their other losses were a lot closer. They lost in triple overtime to the Drexel Dragons, lost by two to the South Florida Bulls, and then led late against the then No. 11 Wichita State Shockers, UCLA Bruins and Xavier Musketeers only to lose in the waning moments. Alabama could easily be a nine or ten win team going into conference play.
The good news for the Crimson Tide is that they have one of the easiest opening SEC schedules of any team. With their first two games coming against two of the worst teams in the SEC, the Georgia Bulldogs and Vanderbilt Commodores, they should start out with two wins. After that, they face a weaker, but still difficult Mississippi State Bulldogs team before facing the No. 25 Missouri Tigers and No. 12 Florida Gators back-to-back. I like Alabama in that first matchup with Missouri because of the way Anthony Grant sets up his team defensively; you saw it work against a very similar UCLA team.
Alabama may have started the season poorly, but with one of the best players in the SEC, Trevor Releford, they will have every opportunity to win enough games to go to the 2014 NCAA Tournament. Expect Alabama to finish in the top half of the SEC, but pull off a couple of upsets along the way. The Crimson Tide are down, but they are definitely not out en route to the 2014 NCAA Tournament.