Two weeks ago, Alabama’s season outlook was turning bleak. The Crimson Tide had just been dealt its fifth SEC loss of the season by in-state rival Auburn, landing it near the bottom in the conference standings. Since that crushing defeat, Alabama has stormed back from the brink, winning three straight SEC games and solidifying its place in the SEC tournament.
Before the Crimson Tide travels to Orange Beach, Ala. to compete in the conference tournament this weekend, Alabama squares off against Ole Miss in Oxford on Thursday at 7 p.m. The game, Alabama’s last of the regular season, provides the team a chance to improve its tournament seeding and continue building on its newfound momentum.
With a win against Ole Miss and an Arkansas loss to Tennessee, Alabama could climb from ninth to seventh in the SEC standings.
“We don’t have to worry about not getting into the SEC tournament,” head coach Wes Hart said. “We’re in. But by any means we are treating this like any other game. We can finish as high as seventh in the standings. Considering a little less than two weeks ago we were in 13th place with one win, that would be impressive.”
Alabama’s ascent up the conference standings began with a narrow 3-2 double-overtime victory over Mississippi State on senior night at home. The Crimson Tide kept momentum going with a 1-0 road victory over Arkansas and then added to its winning streak with another 3-2 overtime victory coming against Missouri.
“We’ve shown a tremendous amount of guts, heart, and resiliency,” Hart said. “Losing four games in a row is not easy. It’s hard to maintain confidence, but this group was able to do that.”
For the first time in Hart’s tenure with the team, Alabama not only has a chance to make noise in the SEC tournament, the team is also competing for an opportunity to be considered for the NCAA tournament. Ranked 21st in the NCAA RPI standings, Alabama has a chance to qualify for the NCAA tournament for only the third time in program history. The other two times came in 1998 and 2011. With a win over Ole Miss and a strong showing in the SEC tournament, Hart believes his team will receive qualification.
“I think right now we’ve done enough to be in serious consideration for the NCAA tournament,” Hart said. “We played a good non-conference schedule and had a good result to position ourselves nicely for the tournament. I believe with a win over Ole Miss Thursday or a win in the SEC tournament I would think we’d almost be a lock. I don’t want to leave anything to chance. We’re going to go out there and try to win every game remaining.”
Having lost to Texas A&M 1-0 in the first round of the SEC tournament last season, Alabama aims to advance farther this year and compete for a conference championship. Depending on seeding Alabama will be playing its first round game on Sunday at either 1 or 3:30 p.m.
Source:: The Crimson White Sports