Top 10 teams in Alabama (as of March 9, a.m.)
1. UAB 23-7 – easily the best team in the state, and could give Alabama a 2nd team in the tournament. They need to beat the Southern Miss/Tulane winner in the Conference USA tourney Thursday, then beat Memphis Friday in the semifinal. I think if they win those two, they will replace Memphis for one of the last spots in the tourney, but they could guaranty a bid by also winning Saturday to take the title, probably against UTEP who barely held off UAB on a shot at the buzzer in their last game.
2. Troy 20-12 – started them at No. 6, but they won at Auburn early, won the Sun Belt season, and can now win the title tonight at 6 p.m. and go to the tournament. Coach Don Maestri, best known for Troy's 258-141 win over DeVry in 1992 (still a record for points and for the 51 three-pointers made by Troy), won a defensive struggle in the semifinal game last night, with Richard Delk hitting a late 3-pointer from the right wing with 13.2 seconds left, and top-seeded Troy scored the game's final seven points for a 54-48 win.
3. Alabama 16-14 - Closed with wins at South Carolina and vs. Auburn, so they could beat South Carolina Thursday at Noon, but then would still have to beat Kentucky at noon Friday, and win Saturday at 2:15 and Sunday at Noon for the SEC title to go to the NCAA.
4. Auburn 15-16 – Needs to beat Florida Thursday at 6:30, Mississippi State at 6:30, and then Saturday at 2:15 and Sunday at Noon to win SEC title and go to NCAA. At only 3-11 away from home this year that would be tough.
5. USA 17-15 – upset Troy last year to make Sun Belt conference title game last year, but Troy was ready this year and eliminated them in quarterfinals, so no NCAA chance.
6. Alabama State 15-14 – after losing most players from last year’s NCAA team, they improved steadily to finish 15-14 and I’ve moved them ahead of Samford and Jacksonville State. Alabama A&M has also improved, and the two teams meet Thursday in the SWAC opening round. The winner would most likely play Arkansas-Pine Bluff, then Jackson State to win the SWAC and go to the NCAA.
7. Samford 11-20 - only lost by 3 to UAB early, but won just two of their last 10 to be eliminated.
8. Jacksonville State 11-19 – they are going up against tough competition in the Ohio Valley Conference and should catch up to them.
9. Alabama Huntsville 23-6 – I had them picked as the best non-Division 1 team in the rankings at the beginning of the season, and they had a fantastic season and were just invited to the NCAA Division 2 title.
10. AUM 14-13 – AUM isn’t anywhere near where they were last year during their NAIA tournament run, but they did split with Faulkner, Mobile and Spring Hill after early losses to the latter two, and finished higher in the standings than those three in there respective conferences, so I sneak them into my Top 10.
Haven’t updated #11 to #26 from the early season rankings, so feel free to comment if you have an update on any of them.
Alabama-Huntsville will represent Alabama in the NCAA Division 2 tournament after a great season, and Troy can represent Alabama in the NCAA Division 1 tourney with a win tonight in the Sun Belt championship game at 6 p.m.
In fact, the top two teams in the state (Troy and UAB) both have a 50-50 chance to make the tournament. If they both do it that would make the first time since 2006 (USA, UAB and Alabama) that more than one state team made the tourney. Alabama State, Alabama A&M, Alabama and Auburn are all longshots, needing to win the SWAC or SEC tourney to make it, however with Auburn’s new arena opening next year and Grant pulling in players that can play his style in Tuscaloosa, brighter days could be ahead for hoops in the state that is already producing a lot of talent for out-of-state programs.
Compare my early season top 25 of state college teams compared to my current Top 10.