There is no reason to sugarcoat it. For some teams, playing in the National Invitation Tournament is a disappointment. For Alabama, though, it is an achievement.
Although there was some talk of Alabama making the NCAA Tournament in Coach Avery Johnson’s first season, the Crimson Tide – which was able to defeat some NCAA Tournament teams this year – was unable to close the deal against some lesser lights. But when Bama’s name was called for the NIT Sunday evening, Johnson said he is “thrilled” that his team is playing in the post-season.
Alabama (18-14) is the fifth seed in its eight-team bracket and will play the No. 4 seed, Creighton, at Creighton (Omaha, Neb.), also with an 18-14 record, at 8 p.m. CST Tuesday. ESPN will televise the game.
Johnson said there had been “no expectations” of post-season play when he took over a team that returned no players who had averaged in double figures last year. The Crimson Tide was picked 13th in the 14-team Southeastern Conference.
But Alabama over-achieved to great extent, including an 8-10 SEC record. The Tide had wins over teams that are in the NCAA Tournament, including Texas A&M and Notre Dame.
Johnson said it is his hope that participating in the NIT this year will help the Tide make it into the NCAA Tournament next year.
This will be Alabama’s 14th appearance in the NIT. Last year Bama blasted Illinois in Tuscaloosa in the first round, but was ousted by Miami in Miami in the second round.
The first three rounds of the tournament are played on campus sites with the semifinals and finals played in Madison Square Garden in New York.
Alabama and Creighton have played only once, in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament in Greensboro, N.C. The Blue Jays took a 58-57 decision.
The winner of the Tide-Creighton game will play against the winner of St. Bonaventure vs. Wagner at a time and site to be determined.
The NIT is contracted to accept all regular season Division I conference champions who do not win their conference tournaments and the automatic NCAA Tournament bid that goes with it, there were 17 of them. That means there were only 15 at-large slots available for teams like Alabama.
Among those at-large selections are three other SEC teams – South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia. LSU might have been selected, but the Tigers’ administration announced Sunday afternoon that it would not be participating in post-season play.