The 2011 NIT First Round game held in Tuscaloosa, AL. Credit: Kelly Lambert-USA TODAY Sports
After the Alabama Crimson Tide missed the NCAA Tournament field of 68 this year, an NIT bid was very likely in the future. With Tennessee and Kentucky also vying for bids, it didn’t seem likely the NIT selection committee would field two SEC teams for No 1 seeds. But that’s exactly what happened when Alabama and Kentucky both received No. 1 seeds and Tennessee nabbed a No 2. seed. That means Alabama will host the No. 8 seed Northeastern Huskies out of the Colonial Athletic Association. The game is scheduled for Tuesday, March 19th at 8pm CT and will televised on ESPN2.
Northeastern has certainly made huge strides in their program this year. They were the CAA’s regular season champion for the first time since joining the conference in the 05′-06′ season and the program’s first conference crown in 20 years. They also made the CAA’s tournament, their first appearance in the CAA’s postseason championship bracket. They made the final game before losing to James Madison and missing on the conference’s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
Alabama coach Anthony Grant should be somewhat familiar Northeastern’s team, as he coached against them when the Virginia Commonwealth Rams were once a part of the Colonial Athletic Association.
“(Northeastern Coach Bill Coen is) an excellent coach. His teams play hard, they don’t beat themselves.” Grant said. “They are an extremely physical team. They’re typically a pretty balanced team. He’s playing about 11 guys, and he has guys that shoot it, guys that get to the rim. Just a very tough, hard-nosed team.”
Northeastern’s resume isn’t exactly the prettiest one. They have a record of 20-12 with a RPI of 159. The do have a signature victory against Belmont, who made the NCAA field as an 11 seed. Their resume hurts when you look at their bad losses, who have five losses against teams with RPI’s of 200 or more, with two of those losses coming to teams with RPI’s of 300 or more. Their resume is similar to some teams the Crimson Tide faced and lost to in December, like Mercer. Grant said it’s not exactly the same thing because a lot of time has passed since then.
"“We’re a different team than we were in December. Right now it’s apples and oranges, I think. We’re going to get prepared for Northeastern, and we expect them to play their best. We have to be prepared to play our best.”"
The NIT is a bit different from the NCAA Tournament as the sites for the tournament are determined based on seed. The first, second and quarterfinal rounds are held on campus sites. The semifinal and final are held in New York City at the Madison Square Garden. Alabama was the part of the final in the 2010-2011 season when they made the championship game but lost to Wichita State. This year’s team also has been at Madison Square Garden earlier this season on their path to winning the 2K Classic.
“Playing at Madison Square Garden is a great experience.” Alabama junior guard Trevor 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.”
Tickets to the NIT First Round game at Coleman Coliseum are available at RollTide.com, by calling 205-348-BAMA (2262) or by visiting the Coliseum’s ticket office. Besides courtside and baseline seats, all seating is general admission. Tickets are $9 for adults, $4 for children 18 and under and $4 for students (students must purchase at ticket office). Any baseline and courtside seating not sold to regular season courtside and baseline season ticket holders will be sold to the general public for $10 on March 19th at 8am.
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