Excited for NIT, Alabama basketball wondering what if final stretch went differently

Excited for NIT, Alabama basketball wondering what if final stretch went differently

For a third straight year, Alabama’s headed to the NIT.

There was an outside shot at the big show late in the season before losing three of the final four regular seasons all but doomed the Crimson Tide’s shot at the NCAA tournament.

Coach Avery Johnson understands that. He’s excited for the 8:15 p.m. CT Tuesday visit from Richmond in the opening round of the next-tier tournament.

There’s a little bit of the what ifs that linger.

“If you look at how we finished the season, I think we had three winnable games against Georgia, Texas A&M and Tennessee,” Johnson said Sunday evening. “Those games were all pretty highly contested games. Who knows what would have happened if we won two of those three games or all three of those games or maybe just one more game.”

Alabama (19-14) won two games at the SEC tournament for the first time since 2002 before falling Saturday to eventual-champion Kentucky.

By that point, anything short of a SEC championship would have left Alabama in the NIT. The program has not made an NCAA tournament since 2011-12.

“I look at a Vanderbilt team that obviously advanced to the NCAA tournament,” Johnson continued. “If you look at their resume, I’m so glad they’re representing the SEC … they had a little bit stronger of a non-conference schedule and just looking at, if we would have won a couple more games, you never know what might have happened.”

The Commodores (19-15) have the most losses of any NCAA tournament team in history. On the other hand, it finished with a No. 38 RPI ranking compared to Alabama’s 78. Vanderbilt had three top-25 wins while Alabama’s best RPI victory was against the Commodores.

Johnson isn’t dwelling on what happened with the blown leads in losses at Texas A&M and Tennessee.

“We need to play games,” he said. “If this can help jumpstart our season a little bit for next year, great.”

Johnson also revealed that Alabama will go on a foreign tour in August that will get the young team further experience before a highly-anticipated third season under Johnson.

Last year’s experience in the NIT wasn’t a positive one for Alabama. The Tide took a 72-54 beating from Creighton.

“We are excited,” Johnson said. “We saw some improvement in terms of our road record in the SEC this year. We showed some signs of improvement with our overall record. But at the same time, if we had a better non-conference record, we could be right there knocking on the door. Who knows what could happen?”

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Published at Mon, 13 Mar 2017 01:16:18 +0000