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Bama Heads To NIT Final Four

A 79-64 victory at home over Miami last night has earned Alabama a trip to Madison Square Garden for the NIT semifinals.  The win pushed Bama’s record at Coleman Coliseum to a sterling 19-0 this season.

Once again, Alabama’s defense was the difference.

“With what these guys have accomplished all year, we couldn’t accept anything less than finishing it out the right way,” Anthony Grant said.  “When we did not get invited to the NCAA (tournament), it was painful for our seniors.  So to see those guys so happy a week-and-a-half later, I am excited for them.”

So does a trip to New York prove that Alabama should have been invited to the Big Dance all along?  Only if you’re ready to say Washington State, Wichita State and Colorado — who’ll all join UA in NYC — deserved bids, too. 

For every argument in favor to the Tide getting in, there was an equal argument for keeping them out: their RPI, their strength of schedule, their 5-11 road record.

No, what this NIT run proves is that Grant’s team improved as the season went along and continues to do so.  The coach deserves a tremendous amount of credit for that.  It also proves that Bama has some darn good on-court leaders who have been able to rise above the frustration and disappointment of not getting an NCAA bid to focus on the task and opportunity set before them.

As Jon Solomon of The Birmingham News writes today, the run will also certainly up the expectations for Crimson Tide basketball in 2011-12, whether that’s fair or not:

History tells us the odds are 50-50 of turning the Big Apple into the Big Dance.  It’s even less for SEC teams, who have gone to the NIT Final Four seven times in the past seven years, more than any conference.

Since 1985, when the NCAA Tournament expanded to 64 teams, 48 percent of NIT Final Four participants reached the NCAAs the following season.  The odds are much lower among SEC teams (31 percent).

In other words, it’s best for Bama to keep focusing on the present.  And up next for the Tide will be a game with Colorado at 9pm ET on Tuesday.



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