Bama will 'dance' after all

The field is set, and to the surprise of many, Alabama will be playing for an NCAA Championship. Alabama was selected as a No. 10 seed in the Midwest, where it will open up on Friday against No. 7 Indiana in Boston.

With Bama players and coaches gathered around the set, the room was quiet as the show came on.

After Alabama's name came up on the screen, the TV was turned off, and the agony of hope quickly turned into celebration as tears were released and joy spread.

When the initial celebration subsided, Antoine Pettway led the team in a prayer thanking God for a second chance.

"It was very emotional for us," guard Mo Williams said. "You could hear a pin drop. It doesn't matter if we were playing a No. 1 seed, I'm just glad we're in."

A first-round SEC Tournament loss to Vanderbilt left many people wondering about Bama's chances, but coach Mark Gottfried figured all along his team would be selected.

"Two years ago we were in a situation like this and we weren't selected," Gottfried said. "There was a message sent. You need to go out and put your fanny on the line (by playing tough non-conference teams). If you don't, you shouldn't be rewarded. If you do, you should.

"It's clear our schedule helped us."

Bama's players had spent the last 72 hours wondering what their destiny would be, whether it be NCAA or NIT. Going through practice earlier in the afternoon was even tougher, as clearly the show was in the minds of players before and during the session.

Tide Head Coach Mark Gottfried has maintained for weeks that his team's tough out-of-conference schedule deserved to be rewarded with an NCAA bid. (AllSport)

"It was a scary feeling," senior guard Terrance Meade said. "The (selection) committee basically controlled our future.

"I'm glad we got in. When you play teams that make you a better team, you get rewarded."

The first-round matchup against Indiana will pit two former Alabama players against one another. Indiana coach Mike Davis ('80-'83) played for Alabama before Gottfried arrived. During Davis' Tide career, Alabama played in the NCAA Tournament twice ('82 and '83).

Gottfried played for Alabama from 1985-1987. The Tide participated in the NCAAs every year of his tenure. Gottfried and Davis know each other very well.

"It makes for an interesting matchup because of the (Alabama) ties," Gottfried said. "But when you play the game, it doesn't have much bearing on it."

Indiana leads the all-time series over Alabama 2-0.

Tide fans still remember that first meeting with chagrin. In 1976, an undefeated and eventual National Champion Indiana team squared off against the Tide in the 2nd round of the NCAA Tournament and squeaked by with a 74-69 victory.

It turned out to be a storybook season for Indiana and then-coach Bobby Knight, and center Kent Benson was the Hoosier star. He and Leon Douglas battled all night, with Tide fans convinced they saw more than a touch of bias in officiating.

Following the NCAA championship game, Knight and his players made it clear to the media that the Tide had given them their best game all year. Alabama finished 23-5 that year.

In 1978, the Tide traveled to the Indiana Classic in Bloomington, Ind., and lost to the Hoosiers by a 66-57 margin. The Tide, coached by C.M. Newton, finished that season 17-10.

A win over Indiana on Friday would mean a matchup of the winner of No. 2 seed Pittsburgh and No. 15 seed Wagner on Sunday.

Other teams in the East bracket include No. 1 Kentucky, No. 3 Marquette, No. 4 Dayton, No. 5 Wisconsin, No. 6 Missouri, No. 8 Oregon, No. 9 Utah, No. 11 Southern Illinois, No. 12 Weber State, No. 13 Tulsa, No. 14 Holy Cross, and No. 16 IUPUI.


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