Alabama basketball among nation's unluckiest teams
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — No one is complaining about the state of affairs surrounding Alabama basketball at the moment. The Crimson Tide is fresh off its first SEC road victory and finds itself in the midst of a three-game winning streak — all of which have been decided by 14 points or more.
As of Friday, Alabama (11-7, 4-2 in the SEC) checks in at No. 37 in the NET rankings and No. 42 in the KenPom.com rankings. ESPN’s Joe Lunardi has them as the third team out of his projected tournament field.
The Crimson Tide is tied for second in the nation in adjusted tempo (76.2 possessions per game) and ranks No. 3 in the nation averaging 83.1 points per game. However, if you think things are going well at the moment, imagine where they could be.
According to KenPom, Alabama ranks No. 330 of 353 teams with a -.091 “luck rating.” The website describes the metric as the “deviation in winning percentage between a team’s actual record and their expected record using the Correlated Gaussian Method.” Positive numbers indicate “luckier” teams, while negative numbers — like the one Alabama has — show teams that are presumedly better than their record indicates.
“When you look at how some teams have shot against us — Iowa State hits all those 3s, poor shooting team; Missouri comes in and goes 31 out of 31 at the free-throw line,” Alabama head coach Nate Oats said. “We haven’t seemed to catch teams on their off night. I mean, Penn’s not nearly as good as what they probably played against us.
"So, it’s not surprising that we’re that low in luck index. We just have caught breaks, and I do think our team’s a lot better than what our record indicates… We’re starting to play well at the right time. If we can get on a run here, I think all that stuff will catch up."
The luck rating doesn’t have any effect on the KenPom ranking metric, but it is worth noting that Alabama is among the best of the nation's unfortunates according to the website.
The Crimson Tide has the fourth-highest actual ranking among teams in the bottom 50 in terms of luck. Ohio State has the biggest discrepancy between actual ranking (No. 14) and luck rating (No. 336). Meanwhile, Purdue is also hard-done with an actual ranking of 31 and a luck rating of 341. Texas Tech, which is No. 25 in KenPom's actual rankings, is just eight spots ahead of Alabama at No. 322 in the luck index.
Of Alabama’s 11 wins, 10 have come by double-digits, the only exception being an eight-point win over Furman. Meanwhile, only two of the Crimson Tide’s defeats have come by 10 or more points, including the uncharacteristic hot-shooting performance from Iowa State mentioned by Oats. Alabama was a made free throw away from sending Penn to overtime and controlled most of the game in a two-point loss at Penn State
“I know for a fact that we’re a better team than our record,” guard John Petty Jr. said emphatically. “And I feel like other people know. That’s why our opponents take us as seriously as they do.
“I mean, we’re still getting better. We’ve got work to do, so we’re in here grinding.”
This weekend presents a rare opportunity for Alabama as it matches up against a team even unluckier than itself. Kansas State (8-10, 1-5 in the Big 12) ranks No. 337 with a -.106 rating in the luck index. The Wildcats have lost five of their last six games. However, six of their 10 defeats have come by less than 10 points, including four which have been decided by five or fewer points.
“This team’s much, much better than their record, too,” Oats said. “You look at two games ago what they did to West Virginia, this is one of West Virginia’s best team’s they’ve had in a long time. (Kansas State’s) more than capable of beating anyone.
“They have not been fortunate kind of like how we haven’t, so I think it’s two teams that are much better than what their record shows. I think it’s going to end up being a pretty good game here.”
Kansas State will be without two of its forwards as freshman Antonio Gordon and redshirt junior James Love III will both be suspended for their roles in a brawl during a game against Kansas earlier this week. Gordon is averaging 5.0 points and 3.9 rebounds, while Love is averaging 0.0 points and 1.0 rebound per game.
Alabama and Kansas State are set to tipoff on Saturday at 5 p.m. CT inside of Coleman Coliseum as part of the Big12/SEC Challenge. The game will be televised on ESPN2.