Alabama Hosts NIT First Round Game

In 1973, only the conference champions went to the NCAA Tournament, which had a field of 24. For the next most deserving teams, the NIT -- the nation's oldest post-season college basketball tournament -- took 16 teams.



On March 8, 1973, Coach C.M. Newton's Alabama team was in Athens, Ga., and defeated the Georgia Bulldogs, 78-70 to finish with a 22-8 record and 13-5 SEC mark, including two wins over Georgia. A few hours later as the Crimson Tide charter flight landed in Tuscaloosa, the pilot came on the intercom with a message:

Alabama had received an invitation to the NIT. In those days, all 16 teams went to New York and played in Madison Square Garden and it was a prestigious opportunity.

Today the NIT is not so much, not with the NCAA Tournament having expanded to 68 teams. But the NCAA event does not include just the best teams. It takes champions from a number of conferences whose representatives are almost always one-and-done.

The NIT, now run by the same C.M. Newton who took the 1973 Bama to New York, does have some interest, though. That is partly because the tournament takes those teams who win the regular season championships in their leagues, but don't get into the NCAA Tournament because of failing to win the conference tournament title and the automatic invitation that goes with it.

And this year there is more interest in the NIT (though it still pales to the NCAA Tournament) because a number of teams expected to get into the NCAA field were left out.

Alabama is one of those. Ironically, this year's invitation to the NIT also came after Bama defeated Georgia for the second time in a season. (This year it feels a little like salt in the wound since Georgia got into the NCAA Tournament.)

Sunday night it was announced that 6 p.m.CDT Tuesday, Alabama will host Coastal Carolina in a game that will be televised on ESPNU.

Alabama has a 21-11 record. The Tide has never played Coastal Carolina in men's basketball.

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said, "We're excited about an opportunity to play in the post season. we're very grateful to be a number one seed and have the opportunity to play at home. We have a short turnaround with a Tuesday night game."

Grant said the team was disappointed not to get an NCAA bid, but that the team has to "move on."

Coastal Carolina is one of those teams that won its regular season championship, but lost the NCAA invitation by not winning the conference championship. Coastal Carolina is coached by Cliff Ellis, who formerly coached at Auburn.

He said the NCAA Selection Committee has "a tough job" and that he "respect(s) the decision that was made."

Tickets may be purchased on-line (rolltide.com). The Alabama ticket office will open at 9 a.m. Monday. Those who have courtside seats on the floor have the right to reserve their seats at $10 each by ordering by noon Tuesday. All others are general admission, $8 except youth and students, $4. (The NIT mandates that all tickets, including student tickets, must be purchased.) There is no reserved parking except handicapped.

Alabama is one of four NIT number one seeds, along with Colorado, Boston College, and Virginia Tech. Those were teams all disappointed to not be selected for the NCAA Tournament.

Ole Miss was perhaps a surprise. The Rebels had a 20-13 record, including a late season win over Alabama that may have cost the Tide an NCAA berth. Ole Miss will play California in the first round. No other SEC team made the NIT field. Five SEC teams, all from the Eastern Division, made the NCAA field. They are Kentucky, Florida, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, and Georgia.

Anthony Grant's alma mater, Dayton, made it. Dayton will play College of Charleston, the defending NIT champion.

Teams play at campus sites for the first two rounds (March 15-16 and March 18-21), then four teams go to Madison Square Garden in New York for the semifinals (March 29) and finals (March 31).

BamaMag Top Stories