Basketball team grateful for NIT appearance
After learning their fate on Sunday, head coach Anthony Grant and the Alabama men’s basketball team have moved on and are mentally preparing for their National Invitation Tournament first-round matchup with Northeastern on Tuesday night.
“We’re appreciative again for an opportunity to continue our season,” Grant said. “We’re thankful to the NIT selection committee for choosing us to participate in their tournament and giving us a No. 1 seed, a chance to play at home.”
Grant and the Crimson Tide (21-12, 12-6 SEC) aren’t taking any opponent for granted, starting with their opening round matchup, the Northeastern Huskies.
Northeastern won the Colonial Athletic Association regular season title, and finished the season 20-12 overall and a 14-4 mark in league play. Senior guard Joel Smith leads the team with 16.1 points per game and is shooting 43 percent (83-of-193) from beyond the arc.
“We have a very tough opponent in Northeastern. I had a chance to look at a little bit of film on them, and I’m very impressed with what I see,” Grant said. “They were the CAA regular season champions with 14-4 in the league, and made it to the conference championship. They are led by a couple of veteran seniors that are very good guards. We have a short turnaround, and we have to get prepared for a very challenging game.”
The Tide will be making its 12th NIT appearance in program history, owning a 21-14 record. Alabama appeared in the NIT in 2011 after earning a No. 1 seed. The Tide reached the NIT finals, falling in the championship game to Wichita State.
Along with that experience, Alabama played at Madison Square Garden earlier this season and won the 2K Sports Classic. Junior guard Trevor Releford said that experience could help the Tide.
“Playing at Madison Square Garden is a great experience,” Releford said. “I love playing there and I know that some of our young guys, we are going to take advantage of this tournament and we want to get back there and win a championship.”
Releford and Grant said they didn’t watch the NCAA tournament selection show on Sunday. While Releford admitted the team would have liked to make the NCAA, he said the NIT would be a great opportunity.
“[The NIT] is a great tournament,” Releford said. “We know it’s not ‘The Big Dance,’ but at the same time it gives the young guys on our team the opportunity to get some more experience and play against some good competition. There are a lot of good teams in [this tournament] and it’s a great opportunity for them to excel in their game too.”
The game will air on ESPN2 with tip-off scheduled for 8 p.m. at Coleman Coliseum.