Stuart McNair

Alabama basketball team expected to get post-season opportunity in NIT

Top seeds in NIT get home court advantage in early games

It’s a busy day in college basketball. There are championship tournaments, including in the Southeastern Conference where Kentucky (winner over Alabama on Saturday) meets Arkansas in Nashville. After that comes the announcement of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Bracket, which includes conference champions and the at-large selections.

Alabama is not going to be one of those at-large choices for the 68 spots in the NCAA tourney.

Later, the NIT, a tournament for 32 teams that did not get into the NCAA Tournament, will announce its pairings.

There are any number of places where there is an aversion to accepting an NIT bid. Coaches will say they want to be in it because of the additional practice time afforded, but, please?, how much would a few extra practices at the end of this season help a team next season?

For some, the NIT is a reward, or at least some recognition.

Avery Johnson tok over as Alabama’s coach last year and if he is able to put the team into post-season play for the second consecutive season, that would be an accomplishment. And, perhaps, it could play into motivation for a higher expectation, i.e. the NCAA Tournament, next season.

Alabama is expected to receive an NIT invitation, and the Crimson Tide is expected to accept it.

There is no delay in starting.

The first three rounds of the NIT are played on campus sites with the four survivors going to New York for semifinals and finals in famed Madison Square Garden on March 28 and March 30.

First round games are played Tuesday and Wednesday and second round games Thursdayt and Monday, March 20. Quarterfinals, still on campus sites, are Tuesday, March 21, and Wednesday, March 22.

Obviously, it is an advantage to have a home court. There are projections showing Alabama being both a home and a traveling team for first round games. This week is spring break at Alabama, which might play into the “seeding.” Traditionally, since the NIT went to playing early rounds on campus sites, the team most likely to sell the most tickets has gotten home court advantage.

Not every NIT entrant is at the whim of the NIT selection committee. When former Alabama Coach C.M. Newton ran the tournament, he instigated a rule whereby if one of the one-bid conferences had its regular season champion eliminated in its conference tournament, that the regular season champion would receive automatic entry into the NIT.

Last year Alabama had to go to Omaha to play Creighton in the first round of the NIT and the Crimson Tide was beaten, 72-54.

Bama also made the field in 2015, defeating Illinois in Tuscaloosa, then losing at Miami.

The Tide first made the NIT in 1973 when the tournament was more highly regarded. At that time only conference champions could make the NCAA Tournament field and the NIT – with all its games in Madison Square Garden – was a major attraction.

Newton was Alabama coach of that 1973 team that went to New York and defeated Manhattan on a last-second long shot by Glen Garrett, then upset a very talented Minnesota team. Bama lost to Virginia Tech in the semifinals and to North Carolina in the consolation game that was played in those days.

Alabama has played in 14 NITs and has made it to the championship game twice, but lost both times – to Tulsa in 2001 and to Wichita State in 2011.

Alabama has made the most appearances of any SEC team in the NIT and has the most victories by an SEC school at 23. Bama’s all-time NIT record is 24-17.

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