Big Game: No Frills Needed

Alabama basketball Head Coach Mark Gottfried is interested in the football coaching search just like anyone else working in the University of Alabama athletics department right now, but the Alabama basketball team is a huge story of its own in Tuscaloosa after a 7-0 start and its ascension into the top five in both the AP and coaches polls.

Gottfried joined a few reporters for pizza after his Tuesday press conference, and about equal time (at best) was spent chatting about the ongoing football coaching search as his squad's tough challenge against Notre Dame (6-1) Thursday night. After all, there might be a tie-in between the two events, as Mal Moore is scheduled to attend the basketball game on Thursday night.

The game merits national attention in its own right, especially after Notre Dame's 81-74 upset of 23rd-ranked Maryland Sunday night. It was Maryland's first loss of the season. Alabama was beaten by Notre Dame 78-71 last year in Coleman Coliseum, and is returning the trip in the home-and-home series Thursday night at 8 p.m. Central. The game will be televised by ESPN.

In last year's game, Alabama lost track of Fighting Irish guard Colin Falls, who went for 24 points against the Tide last year including a barrage of second-half three pointers. Gottfried said he was "embarrassed" watching a tape of last year's game and Bama's ineffective transition defense.

"We were our own worst enemy in that game," Gottfried said.

Alabama point guard Ronald Steele was ailing with a bad back in the game a year ago, too. This year the back is better, but knee tendonitis has made Steele an unsteady presence in the Tide lineup. When he has played – like the 35 minutes he logged against Tennessee State on Saturday – he has been "gimpy" and not as explosive as he would like.

Rest hasn't healed the tendonitis. In fact, Gottfried has been told playing Steele and letting him work through the pain might be the best treatment. His condition is not expected to worsen.

"That's what we have been told," Gottfried said. "We have been encouraged to play him and hopefully that's going to improve. We sat him nine days and maybe that was counterproductive, to be honest. It's frustrating when you get a first team all-American guard and he can't play like a first team all American guard."

Notre Dame's only defeat is a two-point loss to Butler in the NIT Season Tip-Off, 71-69.

"I think this is an NCAA tournament team we're going to play Thursday night. There's no question in my mind about that," Gottfried said.

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