You might not think of Alabama as a basketball power, and it's not in the way that Kentucky is. However, as we explored last week, perpetual struggling is not the natural state of the program.
Perhaps "maddening inconsistency" is a better way of putting how the Crimson Tide has fared of late. This is a team that is a master of the respectable loss, with losses of 10 points or fewer to Duke, Wichita State, UCLA, and Florida. It also fell to a lousy CAA team Drexel and a terrible USF team in the non-conference. In conference play, it has losses to Georgia and Auburn, and it got blown out by Missouri and Tennessee.
The loss to Auburn is particularly galling, as the Tigers are the conference's third-worst team in the Pomeroy ratings. It's also the second win over Bama in as many years for AU, which only has five SEC wins total since the beginning of last season. Even Arkansas, which largely lost the ability to win outside its home state years ago, consistently wins at Auburn; a week ago, Bama lost there by 19.
It's not a stretch then to think that Anthony Grant might be running out of time in Tuscaloosa. Things started out promisingly there, with him nearly winning the NIT in his second season and making the NCAA Tournament in his third. The team fell back to the NIT again last year despite winning 12 SEC games (a lack of good non-conference wins was the culprit there), and at the current rate, it might not even make that field this year.
Grant has a good track record as an assistant and as a head coach at VCU to help prop him up, and Alabama isn't nearly as impatient about the hard court as it is about the gridiron. That all works in his favor. However, merely being a former Billy Donovan assistant doesn't make one a great head coach necessarily—ask John Pelphrey—and it's what's happening at Alabama that matters the most.
Grant's predecessor Mark Gottfried got a midseason pink slip after missing the NCAA Tournament in consecutive seasons, with him missing the NIT in the second of those. He also had a sudden inability to beat Auburn crop up, with him losing four of his last five to the Plainsmen. If Grant misses the NIT this year, he'll be 20 games away from following Gottfried's exact trajectory of NIT-no postseason-fired.
Based on that past precedent, Grant probably will be back next year barring an all-out collapse. His NIT campaign last year was better than Gottfried's last NIT season, and he still has time to try to pull out of this year's tailspin (though six of the last ten are road games). Of course, Gottfried had five NCAA Tournament appearances to Grant's one.
Things don't get easier with this week's matchups being a trip to Arkansas followed by a trip to Florida. With the Hogs reeling a bit themselves, that's even more obviously the better chance of the two to get a win. Stopping the bleeding is the first step, and if it can't be done, another one of those inexplicable November or December losses next year might be his last.