"I've always watched the NCAA Tournament and I think I remember every big play I've ever seen," said Richard Hendrix, Alabama's Freshman All-Southeastern Conference forward. "That's why I'm so excited to be playing in it."
Bama earned its fifth consecutive invitation to the national championship tournament and 19th overall. The Crimson Tide, a ten seed, will play seven seed Marquette Thursday in San Diego.
All three players said they were excited to be in the tournament. Hendrix added, "But I also thought we were an NCAA Tournament team."
And when did Hendrix decide that? For weeks Alabama players and coaches have been saying they weren't thinking about the NCAA Tournament, that they were trying to focus just on winning the next game. Only after regular season play was concluded and the SEC Tournament beginning did Coach Mark Gottfried start to campaign for Bama to be selected.
Hendrix said, "When we won our ninth game (against Florida on February 26), I thought we could compete with anyone," he said. "I felt then we were an NCAA Tournament team. But earlier today I was a little worried about some team pulling an upset in a conference tournament and knocking out some other team."
One concern was that if South Carolina defeated Florida in the SEC Tournament championship game the Gamecocks might get Bama's spot. Hendrix said, "I didn't even watch the game."
All-SEC guard Ron Steele said, "We're excited to have the opportunity to play. We worked hard. We were all kind of nervous (watching the SEC Tournament title game, won by Florida). We were excited when they called our name (on the NCAA Selection Show)."
Steele said, "We knew we weren't a lock. Anytime you put something like that into the hands of a committee, you don't know what might happen."
Alabama's team had gathered in private to watch the nationally televised announcement of the 65-team field.
All-SEC center Jermareo Davidson has been a part of the good, Alabama reaching the Elite Eight when it went to the West Coast two years ago, and the bad, when Bama was upset by Wisconsisn-Milwaukee in the first round last year. He said, "I was excited and I didn't care where we went this year. It felt good when they called our name."
Steele said, "Marquette is obviously a good team. They are an NCAA team. They are out of the Big East."
Steele said, "Everyone is pretty rested now. We will practice hard. We're totally focused on Marquette. If we win that game, we'll focus on the next one."
Hendrix said, "For awhile we were playing good. As of late, we've had a couple of close losses. I'm glad to have a chance to go play some more."