Tide Basketball Eyes SEC Tourney

Anthony Grant was in a bit of an awkward spot Wednesday as he discussed his Alabama basketball team headed to the Southeastern Conference Tournament. That's because the tournament begins today, but Grant won't know the Crimson Tide's Friday opponent until Thursday afternoon.

Alabama ended the season in grand style last Saturday when Trevor Releford's 55-foot buzzer-beater gave the Crimson Tide a victory over Georgia, and, coupled with some other events, the number four seed in the SEC Tournament, which begins today at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. The top four seeds in the 14-team tournament get double byes, meaning they will not play until Friday.

On the Alabama side of the bracket are South Carolina and Mississippi State, playing tonight. The winner of that game will play Tennessee Thursday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. CDT. On Friday, also at 2:30 central, Alabama will play the winner of the Thursday game. ESPNU will televise Friday's game.

Tennessee, the fifth seed and a team Bama split two close games with, is the expected opponent.

Bama Coach Anthony Grant said he was proud of his team's regular season play, which resulted in a record-to-date of 20-11 overall and 12-6 and tied for second (with Ole Miss and Kentucky) in the SEC. Florida was the regular season champion with a 14-4 record.

Grant said that one of the goals of the team was to be a top four seed and have the double bye in the tournament.

With almost a week between games, Grant said he spent time looking at videotape of Alabama. He pointed out that 17 of 31 games came down to the last four minutes, and many of those "to the last possession or two." He said he was glad that Bama won 11 of those close games. On the downside, he said, some of the mistakes that plagued the Tide in December are still troublesome. Let's figure out how to avoid those mistakes.

"We're looking forward to the SEC Tournament," he said. "We've learned a lot about ourselves and know what we need to improve.

"And we know that when you are playing in a tournament, when you lose, it's over."

Grant said that the sophomores who played this year "are now juniors.

"We're experienced. We've got to be able to respond.

"You don't get a second chance in the post-season."

Grant said that a problem for the Tide has been rebounding. Alabama ranks 13th in the 14-team league in offensive rebounding and seventh in defensive rebounding in conference games, which adds up to ninth in rebounding margin at minus 1.3 per game. Tennessee, the team Bama is most likely to face on Friday, ranks second in rebounding margin at plus 5.5.

"Rebounding has been inconsistent," Grant said. "That is something that has plagued us all year. We aren't going to be the biggest or the most physical, so we have to block out. And it comes down to having the will to fight.

"We have to step up if we're going to have an extended post-season."

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