Pearl spoiled Gottfried's month

Just when it appeared Alabama might be bound for a strong run in the NCAA Tournament, Bruce Pearl blocked the Tide's march and ruined coach Mark Gottfried's March.

The Crimson Tide was seeded No. 5 for the recent NCAA tourney but suffered a stunning first-round upset loss on March 17 to 12th-seeded Wisconsin-Milwaukee, then coached by Pearl. According to a story by Mitch Dobbs for, Gottfried admitted at Tuesday night's Alabama awards banquet that the loss to UWM has been gnawing at him ever since.

''I haven't been feeling real good for about the last three weeks watching the (NCAA) tournament,'' Gottfried said. ''We had a bad game against a good team on a day they were hot.''

Pearl thus accomplished in his first try something UT predecessor Buzz Peterson couldn't accomplish in six tries -- beat Bama. Peterson was 0-6 against the Tide as the Vols' head man. Oddly enough, Peterson's last victory at Tulsa before taking the UT job was a defeat of Bama for the 2001 NIT title. Pearl's next-to-last win at UWM before taking the UT job was a defeat of Bama.

Alabama finished the 2004-05 season 24-8 and ranked No. 21 nationally. The Tide won the SEC West and made its fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Vol fans will be glad to know that Memphis native Earnest Shelton finally has exhausted his eligibility. Shelton, who picked Bama over UT four years ago and had some of his best games against the Vols, missed Tuesday's awards banquet to prepare for the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational all-star competition.

One can only wonder how things might have been different -- for Tennessee AND Bama -- if Shelton had chosen the Big Orange over the Crimson Tide four years ago.

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