Tide Opens Tuesday

Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried has Crimson Tide basketball fans thinking NCAA, not NIT. But in the early season, it is the NIT–specifically, the pre-season NIT–that is one of the nation's most prestigious tournaments. And Bama opens its 2005-06 season Tuesday hosting Miami of Ohio in the first round of the pre-season NIT.

Alabama will have two new starters and will be playing in what looks like a new home, although Coleman Coliseum has had "merely" $28 million worth of improvements since the end of last season. Every aspect of Coleman may not be completed when the Crimson Tide opens its season Tuesday night, but everything needed for play should be ready to go.

Alabama, ranked 15th in the nation in pre-season polls, will host Miami of Ohio at 7 p.m. CST Tuesday in the opening round of the pre-season NIT. Subsequent games will be determined after the first round.

Tickets are availab le at the coliseum box office or by calling (205) 348-2262.

Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried said, "I think everybody is excited. It's time for a new season and we've got a lot of challenges. I think everybody is ready to try to tackle those challenges. We've got a tough test Tuesday. Miami of Ohio is an excellent team. They won the Mid-America Conference last year and they're very, very well-coached, so we know we'll have our hands full."

The Tide coach said, "I think they're (Miami-Ohio) a very good defensive team, fundamentally sound. They aren't going to be a team that beats themselves. You've got to play well to win. They've got a great guard in William Hatcher, a terrific guard. But we just need to make sure that we are ready to play and we're going to have to play well to win."

Alabama is coming off an 85-64 exhibition game win over Spring Hill College in Mobile, a game that was not considered impressive.

Gottfried said, "The good thing about that game was that we got to play in front of an audience in a different gym which I think helped us. Even if it wasn't a true road game it was outside of our home and I think that probably helped us a little bit. I think our emphasis has been defensively since that game. We had a lot of defensive breakdowns and defensive errors, and that's what we've probably concentrated on (at practice this past week) more than anything."

Alabama's players were asked about the opening game. Here is what some of them had to say:

Point guard Ron Steele said, ""I'm excited. It's the first game. We've got the new coliseum. And we finally get a chance to play a game that counts, so I'm really excited."

As for the Spring Hill game, Steele said, "I think it was a good game for us to play because we got a chance to watch the film and just see every area we need to improve upon a lot especially before we start league play and some of the non-conference games like Tuesday night. So I think it was a good experience for us to get a chance to play in a game situation."

Senior poweer forward Chuck Davis said, "Everybody is enthusiastic. We're ready to get started. It's been a long summer and fall preparing for the season, it feels like it's been a long time coming, so everybody is ready to get started, get out there and play the game, play against some good competition and see what we're going to be about this year."

Many Alabama fans are anxious to see the Tide's top signee from last year, former prep All-America Richard Hendrix. On making his college debut, Hendrix said, "I am ready to go, ready to get out there on the court and make some things happen. I like the intensity of the college game. The speed is a little bit faster and of course we have a lot better players. But everything's been a great experience. I'm just ready to get started."

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