Alabama Basketball Plays One At A Time

Alabama Football Coach Nick Saban has made everyone—fans and reporters—aware of the dumb question syndrome. One type question that most reporters can't help but ask at some point is the one that involves something that didn't happen. "What if it had?" It's asked because sometimes it elicits an interesting answer.

And so Alabama Basketball Coach Anthony Grant had to handle such a question as his Crimson Tide team prepares for its first round Southeastern Conference Tournament game against South Carolina in New Orleans Thursday. Tipoff is expected to be about 2:30 p.m. CST.

Alabama just missed qualifying for one of the top five spots in the overall SEC standings, which would have resulted in a first round bye. Grant was asked if that near miss was disappointing.

The Tide coach said it had been a goal to make the top four. "But we didn't do that," he said, "so we've got a chance to play ourselves into an advancement situation. We're dealing with a team (South Carolina) that had a great game against us last time we played them and it will be very challenging for us. We've got to be able to prepare and focus on the task at hand."

As the fifth seed in the tournament, Bama opens against the 12th seed. The Gamecocks won only two games in SEC play. One of them, though, was in the early part of the season at Columbia, when South Carolina upset the Crimson Tide, 56-54. That loss went a long way in knocking Alabama out of the top four in the SEC regular season.

What Alabama must avoid now is not having another loss to the Gamecocks, one that could adversely affect Bama's NCAA Tournament hopes.

Alabama is 20-10 overall and South Carolina is 10-20. Bama finished 9-7 in SEC play while the Gamecocks were 2-14.

Alabama finished regular season play on a down note, a 60-51 loss to Ole Miss in Oxford.

Asked about the rebound factor, Grant said, "We'll see. We've got our next game Thursday so I think this time of year, it's a new season. We're into the postseason now and so it's a fresh start. Everybody's 0-0, so we've got to move forward and be prepared for our next game.

"I think our guys are excited about it and its going to be very challenging. But it's the postseason and I think every team across the country this time of year has to be excited to play in these tournaments."

Grants players have likely been given a reminder of how Bama lost to South Carolina in the first meeting.

The Tide coach said, "I thought they played with great energy. Throughout the game, I thought that their energy was probably better than ours. They really rebound the ball really well; they had 19 offensive rebounds in the game against us. They just played more aggressively on both ends of the floor."

He said his biggest concern Thursday against South Carolina "is they did a very good job from a defensive standpoint. We turned the ball over 15 times and had difficulty consistently scoring. They really hurt us with their energy, getting out in transition and just making effort plays. I don't think there was any particular match-up or particular battle that sticks out. Their defense is kind of a hybrid, so from a match-up standpoint, obviously we're going to do what we do. I think it's more of just the contrasting styles. A lot of things they do, you've got to be able to make plays against that with the way that they play and their defense when it's at its best, really creates opportunities for them offensively."

Grant doesn't expect his team to be thinking about the NCAA Tournament.

He said, "The thing we've always talked about is that nothing is promised to us. Right now the only thing that we know is we've got one game in the SEC tournament, so we'll take it one day at a time."

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