"I like our schedule. It's going to be one of the best in the country," said Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried, the 2002 Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year. "We'll play Oklahoma in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. That gives us a tremendous exposure early against a solid opponent. We're playing Ohio State at the Basketball Hall of Fame at the Tip-Off Classic on national television. That will be a great test. Both Providence and Xavier are teams that will be tremendously good throughout the year. Xavier has David West who is going to be a top five player in the country at 6-11. St. Bonaventure is a team that's going to be very good and playing at Utah against Rick Majerus will be a difficult challenge. So we've got a number of opportunities, but I think it's a schedule that this team needed at this point."
Alabama's pre-conference schedule is highlighted by its season opener, a trip to New York's Madison Square Garden where the Tide will take on 2002 Final Four team Oklahoma in the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. That event is considered the "premier" event in college basketball. Alabama plays Oklahoma on Thursday, November 14 to a national television audience on ESPN2. Alabama's game will immediately follow the conclusion of a 6 p.m. CT game between Syracuse and Memphis. Villanova will play Marquette and Texas will play Georgia on Friday, November 15.
he Tide will travel to two other special events. On Friday, November 29 it will play 2002 NCAA tournament team Ohio State in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic in Springfield, Mass. This marks the first game held since the Naismith Hall of Fame has moved into its new building this August.
And Mobilians will get to see how one of their own is doing in his first season of college basketball when Tide freshman Kennedy Winston returns to his hometown area as will Mobile native and head coach Mark Gottfried for Alabama's participation in the Coors Classic where it plays 2002 NIT team Bowling Green on Saturday, December 14.
Among the teams that will play in Coleman Coliseum against the Tide this season are 2002 NCAA tournament teams Xavier (January 4), Kentucky (January 25), Georgia (February 18), Ole Miss (March 2) and Mississippi State (January 15). It will also host 2002 NIT Final Four team South Carolina (March 5) as well as NIT participants St. Bonaventure (December 7) and LSU (February 1).
Alabama will also play a return game at Utah on December 30. The Tide hosted and defeated Rick Majerus' Utes in Tuscaloosa last season.
Helping boost the Tide against a schedule that includes 13 postseason teams is the return of John R. Wooden National Player of the Year candidate Erwin Dudley. The 2002 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year returns for his senior season with a squad that includes All-SEC sophomore guard Mo Williams as well as a fellow senior crew that includes center Kenny Walker and guard Terrance Meade who, like Dudley, have been starters since they were freshmen four years ago. Alabama's team returns the nucleus of last season's squad that cracked the nation's top five and finished the 2002 season ranked No. 8 by the Associated Press and No. 14 by ESPN/USA Today.
Dudley and his teammates will face 11 Wooden Player of the Year candidates this season, including seven who'll come with their teams to Tuscaloosa. Those include Xavier's Romain Sato and David West, Georgia's Jarvis Hayes, Kentucky's Keith Bogans, Mississippi State's Mario Austin, and Ole Miss's Justin Reed. On the road Alabama will face Florida's Matt Bonner and Brett Nelson, and Oklahoma's Ebi Ere and Price Hollis.