NIT Match-Up Has Very Little History

One can't help but wonder if C.M. Newton, head of the NIT, thought about that 1979 Alabama-Northeastern game in Newton's last year as coach of the Crimson Tide. Sunday night it was announced that Bama, a number one seed, would host Northeastern, a number eight seed, in the first round of this year's National Invitation Tournament.

Alabama (21-12) will host Northeastern (20-12) at 8 p.m. CDT Tuesday in Coleman Coliseum, where Newton's Crimson Tide defeated the Northeastern Huskies by 88-73 on Dec. 4, 1979. Coach of the visitors in 1979 was Jim Calhoun, who would go on to fame – and infamy – as head coach at Connecticut. It is the only previous meeting of the Tide and Huskies in men's basketball.

Tuesday's game will be televised on ESPN2. John Saunders and Bob Knight will be the television announcers.

The winner of the first round game will play the winner of Stanford vs. Stephen F. Austin at a time to be determined.

Northeastern was winner of the Colonial Athletic Conference regular season with a 14-4 record, but lost in the CAA Tournament to James Madison by 70-57.

On Monday, Alabama Coach Anthony Grant reiterated his appreciation to be in the NIT with a chance to extend the season. "Our focus is on trying to win the championship, trying to advance," Grant said. He noted that Bama has a short turn-around, having lost its final game to Florida on Saturday, 61-51 in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. The selections were announced Sunday evening.

"Our mood has to be, ‘Ready to Go,'" Grant said.

Grant said the top two players for Northeastern are senior guards Joel Smith and Jonathan Lee. Smith, 6-4, 180, averages 16.1 points per game. Lee, a 6-2, 200-pound point guard, averages 13.8 points per game.

The Northeastern player who will be most noticed by fans in Coleman Coliseum, though, is Reggie Spencer, a 6-7, 210-pound sophomore forward who has been the only Northeastern player to start all 32 games this year. Spencer is from Tuscaloosa. The former Hillcrest High School star averaged 9.8 points and a team-leading 6.1 rebounds per game.

Northeastern averages 69.7 points per game, while giving up 68.5 points per game.

Alabama is led by All-SEC guard Trevor Releford, averaging 15.4 points per game.

This will be Alabama's 12th NIT appearance. The first was in 1973, when it was a very big deal with a 32-team NCAA Tournament (compared to 68 teams today), and the Tide's coach was C.M. Newton.

Among SEC teams, only Tennessee, which is in the NIT field for the 13th time, has more appearances. Bama has an all-time record of 21-14 in the event. The 21 wins is tied with South Carolina for the most by an SEC team in the NIT.

Bama has advanced to the NIT Final Four in Madison Square Garden in New York on six previous occasions, the most recent two years ago when the Tide lost to Wichita State in the championship game.

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