'Not soft' Alabama Crimson Tide propelled itself into the Elite Eight

Alabama Basketball took down 1-Seed North Carolina on Thursday night because it was the mentally toughest and best-coached team.

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On Thursday night in Los Angeles, the Alabama Crimson Tide did not start well. Too many early Tide turnovers and hot shooting by the Tar Heels led to a 10-point Carolina lead midway through the first half. The Crimson Tide steadied and clawed back to gain multiple first-half leads. A late push in the half pushed North Carolina to a 54-46 lead at the break.

The second half was entirely different with a determined and effective Alabama defense limiting North Carolina to just 33 points. In the end, Alabama prevailed by effort, determination, and belief, along with some bold strategy by Nate Oats.

In the Crimson Tide's first two NCAA Tournament games, Mark Sears scored 56 points. When Alabama couldn't frequently stop North Carolina in the first half, Sears and Rylan Griffen hit big shots. A tribute to Sears is when the Tide needed points late he encouraged Nate Oats to go the Grant Nelson. Nelson responded by playing the best game of his career, scoring 24 points along with 12 rebounds, five blocks an assist, and a steal.

With balanced scoring a key to the win, Rylan Griffen and Aaron Estrada put in 19 points each and Mark Sears scored 18. Griffen also did an outstanding job defending Carolina's RJ Davis.

What Alabama was on Thursday night was tough, a far cry from claims the Crimson Tide has 'frail' guys who play soft. Nate Oats pointed out after the game that those claims by Charles Barkley were wrong. Check out a couple of minutes of Nate's post-game comments in the video below.

How big was this Alabama Crimson Tide Sweet Sixteen win? As Nate Oats said, without meaning disrespect to Charleston and Grand Canyon, until Alabama beat North Carolina it had not done anything in this NCAA Tournament. The Alabama program's only other Elite Eight appearance was two decades ago. Thanks to Hannah Stephens for some much-needed perspective detailed below.

When Alabama advanced to the Elite Eight in 2004, Grant Nelson and Mark Sears were two years old. Rylan Griffen was three months old. Sam Walters had not been born. Now Alabama Basketball is one win away from a Final Four. One more point from Hannah, 11 years ago Nate Oats was a high school coach.

For Nate Oats and the Alabama Crimson Tide, there is no 24-hour rule. Oats gave his team 30 minutes to celebrate and then on to preparing for Clemson. Clemson beat Alabama by eight points in November in Coleman Coliseum. The Tigers beat North Carolina in the regular season and their NCAA Tournament resume this season is stronger than the Tide's, with wins over New Mexico, Baylor, and Arizona.

Nate Oats and Alabama will be ready for Clemson.

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