NEWS Alabama's NCAA Tournament appearance shows Tide 'making progress' under Johnson

  • Thread starter By Alex Byington Sports Writer
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By Alex Byington Sports Writer

#1
TUSCALOOSA — Wimp Sanderson’s Alabama teams made the NCAA Tournament nine of his 12 years at the helm, though the 1988 appearance later was vacated.

Mark Gottfried led the Crimson Tide to five straight NCAA Tournament appearances between 2002 and 2006, breaking what had been a six-year drought in his fourth season as head coach.

Now, in his third season, Avery Johnson has joined the fraternity of Alabama men’s basketball coaches to make the Big Dance, snapping the school's five-year absence by making the field this season.

But for an athletic department where national and conference championships are yearly goals for the most prominent sports programs, what does making the NCAA Tournament mean for the Crimson Tide?

“I think it means they’re making progress, there’s no doubt about that,” Sanderson said Monday. “I think getting to the NCAA (Tournament) — I don’t think it should be — is looked upon as proof of the advancement that your team is making when you haven’t been to the NCAA in quite awhile. …

They got where they expected to get, and that’s the NCAA Tournament, so I think that’s the first step.”

With word coming down Sunday night, Alabama (19-15) is back in the NCAA Tournament field for the first time since 2012 — as the No. 9 seed in the East region bracket, where the Crimson Tide will play eighth-seeded Virginia Tech (21-11) at about 8:20 p.m. Thursday at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.

“This is one of the great times of the season in March. This is when all the great teams come alive,” Alabama freshman guard John Petty said Sunday night. “So going into this game, we figure we’re going to be the underdogs, so we’re just going to get prepared for Virginia Tech and get ready to play them.”

The winner advances to play either No. 1 Villanova (30-4), LIU Brooklyn or Radford on Saturday. No. 16 seeds LIU Brooklyn (18-16) and Radford (22-12) meet in a play-in game today in in Dayton, Ohio, with the winner meeting Villanova on Thursday.

For the current crop of Crimson Tide players, making this year’s 68-team field is a welcomed relief after two years of watching its bubble burst on Selection Sunday.

“We really just wanted to be in the field,” junior guard Avery Johnson Jr. said. “Because at the end of the day, the NIT is not our goal — it’s a goal for other teams, but for our program we want to make an NCAA Tournament run. So we felt like in the first (two) years, we set the foundation and with this recruiting class and the guys coming back … we felt like we could make a run."

Alabama won two games in the SEC Tournament in St. Louis, including a victory over Auburn, to secure the at-large invitation. Auburn, too, is in the tournament.

Alabama and Auburn make the NCAA Tournament together for the first time since 2003. This season is just the seventh time both programs have made the same tournament field since the early 1980s.

“I feel like we’re just showing that this is a multi-sport state,” said Petty, a native of Huntsville. “Absolutely, we’re great in football, but we’re showing people we can do it in basketball, too. So this will be great for our state.”

Sophomore forward Braxton Key credits the coach. “Coach Avery’s doing a great job," he said. "I know a lot of people give him a hard time, but I think he’s doing a great job with us. … It’s just a great milestone to reach, and hopefully we can have a good little run here.”

By Alex Byington Sports Writer
Alabama's NCAA Tournament appearance shows Tide 'making progress' under Johnson
 

alabama mike

Probably At A Ballgame
#2
This is a good first step in the right direction for the team. The casual fan does not realize how far this team was from being considered for the NCAA in the past few years. We still need to be more consistent but with a young team that is expected. Hopefully, next year, the Tide will take that next step with a higher seed and win a couple of games. This year, I do believe a win is possible but after that it looks like we will face a very good Villanova program. A huge difference between a team and program.