There was just one matchup of bubble teams on Friday afternoon, as Alabama took on Tennessee in an SEC tournament quarterfinal. In the case of both teams a win wasn’t going to lock up a spot in the NCAA tournament field, but at the very least the winner would remain in control of its own destiny.
Controlling one’s destiny is nothing more than living to play another day, and for Alabama (21-11) their 58-48 victory gives them another shot at SEC regular season champion Florida on Saturday afternoon.
Offensively it wasn’t the prettiest game as both teams failed to shoot at least 40% from the field in the second half. The differences: both teams made five three-pointers, but Alabama did so in 13 fewer attempts (ten, compared to Tennessee’s 23) and the Crimson Tide outscored the Volunteers (20-12) by eight from the foul line.
Levi Randolph (15 points) and Trevor Releford (14) led the way for Alabama, which has just one RPI Top 50 win all season. Tennessee’s resume isn’t the greatest but they at the very least have four such victories. Getting another shot at the Gators, who beat Alabama 64-52 back on March, was critical for Anthony Grant’s team if they were to entertain any thoughts of an NCAA tournament bid.
In Tennessee’s case does the loss automatically relegate them to the NIT? No.
The Volunteers have struggled away from Knoxville this season (2-9 road/neutral record against RPI Top 200 opponents) but with so many moving parts, not to mention other bubble teams failing to take care of business themselves, there’s still a sliver of hope for Cuonzo Martin’s team.
But Tennessee is no longer in control of its own fate, and that’s the worst position for a bubble team to find itself in at this point in the season. Alabama is now faced with not only a challenge but also an opportunity on Saturday when they take on Florida.
Want to go to the tournament? Keep winning.