Nate Oats: 'I told them they can celebrate 30 minutes'

Alabama became the first team in this year's NCAA Tournament to take down a 1-seed with their win over UNC to advance to the program's second-ever Elite Eight.
Mar 28, 2024; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide forward Grant Nelson (2) blocks North Carolina's RJ Davis (4) in the fleeting seconds of the game to save Alabama'a lead.
Mar 28, 2024; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide forward Grant Nelson (2) blocks North Carolina's RJ Davis (4) in the fleeting seconds of the game to save Alabama'a lead. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Imagine only getting 30 minutes to celebrate making it to the Elite Eight for just the second time in program history. Well, that was all the time head coach Nate Oats gave the Alabama men's basketball team to celebrate after knocking off 1-seed North Carolina in the Sweet 16, effectively ruining many March Madness brackets.

"We've got a short-lived celebration," Oats said in the postgame press conference. "I told them they can celebrate for about 30 minutes. As soon as they media is out of the locker room, we've got to get moving on to Clemson."

Of course, the Crimson Tide deserve the celebrate big for their win over the Tar Heels, but Oats is right, they can't dwell on this win, they need to prepare for the next game.

Marks Sears has been the best player on this team all season long, but it was North Dakota State transfer Grant Nelson who stepped up for the Crimson Tide in the Sweet 16. Nelson ended the night with 24 points, 12 rebounds, and five blocks, his most important block came with about 25 seconds left when he blocked a layup from RJ Davis to protect a two-point lead. That two-point lead was also thanks to Nelson as he shot the go-ahead three-point play on a layup and one.

While Sears still had a solid game with 19 points and four rebounds, the Tar Heels had an answer for him in the second half opening up the door for Nelson to score 19 of his 24 points.

"When you have your leading scorer (Sears) and best player to tell you run plays for somebody else, we used the word Mudito we stole from Coach Murphy with softball, that's the definition of Mudito," Oats said, "Vicarious joy through Grant's great game."

Oats talked about the word this team has used all season, especially in the NCAA Tournament. This word has helped them get through tough games, tough streaks throughout the season, slumps, and anything else that the team has struggled with.


"Our word has been 'next' this whole tournament -- next play, next play," Oats said. "They hit it. I told them, that's on me, next play, next play, we'll figure it out."

Focusing on the next play was crucial for the Crimson Tide in their game against North Carolina because when the Tar Heels had a lead with a little under four minutes left, Oats called a timeout to get his team back in thier "next" mentality. Clearly it worked because the Crimson Tide were able to go on a run and take back the lead that they never gave up again.

Alabama is going to their second-ever Elite Eight in program history and they are playing a Clemson team that is almost as hot as this Crimson Tide team. The Tigers took down 2-seed Arizona in a 77-72 victory to punch their own ticket to the Elite Eight.

These two teams faced off earlier this season in the ACC/SEC Challenge where the Tigers took down the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa 85-77. Oats spoke about how his team was going to be up all night after the win putting together a better game plan for Clemson.

Alabama is known as a football school, but thier basketball program is making a name for themselves this season. If the Crimson Tide wins, they will make it to the Final Four for the first time in program history. Everything is going right for Alabama right now and hopefully, they can continue to ride this hot streak.