Alabama tips off basketball season tonight

Alabama tips off its basketball season tonight against South Dakota State--who is fresh off its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance--at 8 p.m. in Coleman Coliseum.

It's going to be a busy weekend in Tuscaloosa.

Before No. 1 Alabama plays host to shifty quarterback Johnny Manziel and No. 15 Texas A&M Saturday, the Crimson Tide's men's basketball team will tip off its season against South Dakota State in Game 1 of the 2K Sports Classic benefiting the Wounded Warrior Project tonight at Coleman Coliseum. The game will be televised by ESPNU at 8 p.m. CT.

Last season, the Jackrabbits were 27-8 and made their first-ever NCAA Tournament run, losing just 68-60 to Baylor in the first round. They return four starters.

Alabama, who finished 21-12 last season, is coming off its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006. The Tide finished the year with a 58-57 loss to Creighton in the second round.

SDSU's most dangerous player is senior point guard Nate Wolters, who led his team last season in scoring (21.2 points per game) and assists (5.8 apg). Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said he reminds him of Eric Maynor, whom he coached while at VCU.

"He's probably a preseason player of the year, potential All-American candidate," Grant said. "He's an excellent player…He makes the game easier for his teammates."

Tuesday, the Tide played Stillman in an exhibition game and after a shaky start, ended up winning 76-68. Junior point guard Trevor Releford, a three-year starter, did not start the exhibition game, but was instead replaced by sophomore Trevor Lacey.

"He's put himself in position to be better physically," Grant said of Lacey. "He's lost some good weight and mentally, he's a lot more confident in what he can do."

When asked the status of his point guard situation, Grant simply said he has 10 guys who can play multiple positions. It's unknown who will start tonight against the Jackrabbits.

Many are anxious to see true freshman forward Devonta Pollard, who scored 15 points and had seven rebounds in Tuesday's exhibition, make his college debut.

Thursday afternoon, Grant gave an injury update on a few players. He's "hopeful" senior guard Andrew Steele (groin) and junior center Carl Engstrom (foot) will be ready to play, but redshirt freshman guard Retin Obasohan (stitches in his finger) is doubtful. None of those three played Tuesday against Stillman.

As part of the Wounded Warrior Project, Alabama will host veteran Bradley Ford, 42, of Dadeville, Ala., who was a member of the 3rd Infantry Division, the first conventional unit to cross the border into Iraq and enter Baghdad in 2003. He was injured in 2005 when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb.

"It's an honor to be involved in this tournament," Grant said.

Alabama will play West Alabama in Game 2 of the 2K Sports Classic at 4 p.m. Sunday. Next week the Tide will travel to New York City to play in Madison Square Garden for the championship rounds along with other tournament hosts Purdue, Villanova and Oregon State.

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