What a difference a month makes.
To fully comprehend Alabama baseball’s recent nosedive it's best to rewind back to April 15. The Crimson Tide was ranked No. 24 in the nation and had just handed No. 1 Tennessee its first SEC loss with a 6-3 Friday-night victory in Knoxville. Forget making a second straight NCAA Tournament, there were murmurs amongst the most hopeful corners of the Alabama fanbase that the Crimson Tide had an outside chance of hosting a regional.
Since then, Alabama’s NCAA Tournament chances have plummeted as it has tumbled down the conference standings. The Crimson Tide has lost its last five SEC series and is just 2-11 in league play since its upset over Tennessee. Now Alabama enters the final week of the regular season still looking to secure a spot as one of the 12 teams in this year’s SEC Tournament.
Last week, Baseball America listed Alabama as the third team in the “Next Four Out” of its NCAA Tournament projection. That was before the Crimson Tide dropped both of its games at Auburn over the weekend. Alabama (27-24, 10-16 in the SEC) heads into the week ranked No. 53 in terms of RPI and will need a late-season run to play itself into the tournament field.
The Crimson Tide will conclude regular-season play by hosting No. 7 Arkansas for a three-game series beginning on Thursday at 6 p.m. CT inside Sewell-Thomas Stadium. Game 2 is set for Friday at 7 p.m. with the two teams wrapping up the series on Saturday at 1 p.m.
Here’s a look at where Alabama’s postseason chances stand at the moment.
What Alabama needs to clinch SEC Tournament
Before Alabama can even think about the NCAA Tournament, it needs to first secure a berth in the SEC Tournament. At the moment, that’s still not a guarantee.
Alabama enters the final week of the regular season in 11th place in the SEC standings. After seeing its game against Auburn called off due to weather, the Crimson Tide sits at 10-16 in conference play, a half game ahead of 12th place Kentucky (10-17), a game and a half ahead of 13th place Mississippi State (9-18) and two and a half games ahead of last place Missouri (8-19).
Alabama can clinch the SEC Tournament with two wins over Arkansas this weekend. A single win over the Razorbacks would ensure that the Crimson Tide finishes higher than Missouri. However, in that scenario, Alabama would still be at risk of missing out on the conference tournament if Mississippi State were to sweep No. 1 Tennessee and Kentucky were to win at least two out of three games against No. 19 Auburn.
Alabama can still make the SEC Tournament if it is swept by Arkansas. In that case, the Crimson Tide would need two of the three things to happen.
— Auburn sweeps Kentucky.
— Georgia wins at least one game against Missouri.
— Tennessee wins at least one game against Mississippi State.
The best-case scenario for Alabama this week
It’s hard to imagine a slumping Alabama team sweeping Arkansas at the moment, but if it does the Crimson Tide could climb as high as eighth place in the SEC standings. Here’s a look at the best-case scenario for Alabama this week.
— Alabama sweeps Arkansas.
— Texas A&M sweeps Ole Miss.
— The South Carolina at Florida series finishes anything but 2-1 in favor of the Gamecocks.
If Alabama sweeps Arkansas and Ole Miss is swept by Texas A&M, the Crimson Tide would finish with a 13-16 conference record, a half game ahead of the Rebels, who would fall to 13-17 in conference play.
The situation with the series between South Carolina and Florida is a bit more complicated.
If the Gators win two or more games, Alabama’s hypothetical sweep over Arkansas would allow the Crimson Tide to pass South Carolina, which would fall to 13-17 with two losses or 12-18 with three losses. Meanwhile, if Alabama and South Carolina both pull off sweeps, the Crimson Tide’s 13-16 conference record would narrowly edge out the Gators, who would fall to 13-17.
If South Carolina was to win two out of three games against Florida, the Gamecocks and Gators would both end up at 14-16, putting them out of reach for the Crimson Tide.
Alabama’s NCAA tournament chances
Assuming Alabama does earn a spot in the SEC Tournament, the Crimson Tide’s next goal would be qualifying for an NCAA regional. Right now, that appears to be quite the mountain for Brad Bohannan and his bunch to climb.
The NCAA Tournament is made up of 64 teams with 31 automatic bids awarded to conference champions and 33 at-large selections decided by the NCAA Division I Baseball Committee.
The simplest way for the Crimson Tide to punch its ticket would be to win the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., next week. The Crimson Tide’s road to accomplishing that feat would begin on May 24 when it would have to win a single-elimination game before entering the double-elimination portion of the tournament. From there, Alabama would need at least four more wins in order to win the title.
Alabama could also reach the NCAA Tournament as an at-large selection depending on how it ends its season.
First things first, Alabama needs to win its series against Arkansas to avoid ending the regular season with six straight SEC series defeats.
Assuming the Crimson Tide takes two out of three from the Razorbacks, it would still likely need two or three wins in the SEC Tournament to keep its regional hopes alive. Two wins against Arkansas followed by three in the SEC Tournament would put Alabama at 32-26 on the season with a slew of recent respectable wins. For perspective, Alabama made the NCAA Tournament with a 31-24 record last season.