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NIT picks the Crimson Tide

By Josh Cooper
jcooper@decaturdaily.com · 340-2460

TUSCALOOSA — Alabama learned its postseason destination Sunday, and it’s in the Northeast.

Passed over by the NCAA tournament, the Crimson Tide will travel to Massachusetts for the first round of the NIT. Tip-off is set for 8:30 p.m. Tuesday on ESPN.

“We’re excited about playing,” Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried said. “I know this was not the goal at the start of the season, but if we do have the opportunity to play, I want our players to play as hard as they can, be as motivated as they possibly can and do the very best that they can.”

Alabama (20-11) enters the tournament as the East region’s fifth seed, while the Minutemen (23-8) are seeded fourth.

The higher seeded team hosts games until the 32-team tournament reaches its Final Four, which will be in Madison Square Garden in New York City.

If Alabama defeats Massachusetts, it will play either top-seeded West Virginia or eighth-seeded Delaware State in the second round Thursday at 8 p.m.

Massachusetts finished 13-3 in the Atlantic 10 Conference regular season, which tied Xavier for the top spot. In the conference tournament quarterfinals, the Minutemen lost 74-71 in overtime to St. Louis.

They are led by a strong front court, featuring 6-foot-9, 255-pound center Rashaun Freeman, who averaged 15.2 points a game and 8.3 rebounds, and power forward Stephane Lasme, who scored 13.3 points while grabbing 9.5 rebounds.

Former Kentucky basketball player Travis Ford, who played with the Wildcats during 1991-1994, coaches Massachusetts.

Complicating scouting matters in playing the Minutemen could be the program’s lack of visibility. Playing in a non-power conference limits the amount of videotape available on the Minutemen whereas almost all of Alabama’s games are visible at some capacity.

The Crimson Tide also has little time to scout a team that has won nine of its last 11 games.

“We’re not in any position to complain,” Gottfried said. “We made our bed.

“We need to sleep in it, and we have to make the best of it, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Gottfried said that the status of point guard Ronald Steele (knee injury)for Tuesday’s game is up in the air. The preseason All-American point guard practiced Sunday. Tide center Jermareo Davidson, who has a bad back, will play.

Heading to the NIT

  • Who:Fifth-seeded Alabama (20-11) at fourth-seeded Massachusetts (23-8).

  • When:Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.

  • Television:ESPN.

  • Next round:The winner will play either eighth-seeded Delaware State (21-12) or top-seeded West Virginia (22-9) on Thursday.

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