We are only halfway through the season, but we have had a crazy five weeks of competition so far. Teams and individuals are continuously moving around our rankings and plenty of debate has been sparked. One of those debates is about the Alabama Crimson Tide and where they stand relative to the rest of the nation. After an 8th place finish at Notre Dame last weekend, many of us are curious as to whether or not they could even make it to NCAA's. At The Stride Report, we have the numbers to break it all down...
Five days ago, Citius Mag published an article by Isaac Wood which discussed some of the results from this past weekend (it's a great read, you should check it out). In that article, Wood argued that if Alabama can "score 1-2-3" and "have someone finish in the top 30 and then top 40" then they were going "to get at least second place as a team". But how true is that statement?
Let's suppose that the Crimson Tri (I'm stealing this nickname from Citius Mag) place 1-2-3 at the South Regional Championships. If their 4th scorer (most likely Josh Short) is 30th and their 5th scorer (most likely Garrett Bull) is 40th, then Alabama's team score would be 76 points. Could those final two scorers place better than 30th and 40th? Absolutely. Then again, they could also place much further back. Obviously, no one really knows, so I'm compromising and placing them at 30th and 40th overall.
At Flotrack, Gordon Mack took the 2016 South Region Championship results, removed any athletes that have graduated or are redshirting in 2017, and placed where he thinks Alabama's top five will finish. His predictions? 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 30th, and 38th which is a team total of 74 points.
Let's average out these point projections and assume that Alabama scores around 75 points at the South Region Championships. Historically, how far will 75 points (give or take a point) get you? Here are the scores of the top two teams at the South Regional Championships over the past five years...
Five-year 1st place points average: 51 points
Five-year 2nd place points average: 67.6 points
On average, 75 points will not be enough to place in the top two at the South Region Championships. In fact, only once in the past five years has a team scored more than 75 points and been an Auto-Lock qualifier for NCAA's (Florida State in 2014). If Alabama were to take the top three spots at Regionals, then in order to hit that average of 67 points, their 4th and 5th runners would need to place something along the lines of 25th and 36th. It's still a realistic scenario, but it's certainly not an easy one.
Unfortunately, the numbers don't bode well for the other aspects of this qualifying scenario. Of the five teams that have placed 8th at Notre Dame in the past five years, only two of them have gone on to race at Nationals.
But what if Alabama were to place 3rd in the South region? Those stats could possibly favor them, right?
Well, not so much...
In the past five years, no team that has placed 3rd in the South region has qualified for NCAA's.
Of course, all of this depends on the competition. The main threats to Alabama's Auto-Lock hopes are Middle Tennessee State and Ole Miss. MTSU is looking strong through four runners, but might need to make some adjustments for their 5th man. Ole Miss may not have the firepower that they did last year, but they just put seven guys ahead of Oklahoma State's #5 at the Cowboy Jamboree where the Rebels were second by only two points.
Luckily, we'll get to see Alabama and MTSU face off next week at the Crimson Classic. Two weeks after that, on October 27th, the SEC Championships will show us how Alabama and Ole Miss stack up against each other.
Admittedly, these numbers may seem a bit slanted against the Crimson Tide. However, I don't want you to think that our goal is to defame Alabama. Just look at Auburn in 2008 when they went 1-2-3-23-30 at the South Region Championships to finish 2nd overall and qualify for NCAA's. When you have the best top three in the nation, you're going to have a wicked good squad, and that's exactly what Alabama has.
Actually, when you have the best top three in the nation, you're almost guaranteed to qualify for Nationals. How do we know that? Because as far back as we could find (2005) no team in the recorded history of the South Region XC Championships has ever failed to place in the top two when they had their top three runners cross the line before any other team in the field had their top three runners cross the line. That might ease some tension for Crimson Tide fans...
Just remember (and never forget) that the numbers may tell the story, but they certainly don't write it...