Tide expects invitation to big dance
by Michael Casagrande
mcasagrande@annistonstar.com
Mar 11, 2012 | 4130 views |  0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
NEW ORLEANS — The lone speckle of crimson in a sea of blue, a group of Alabama basketball players posed for a few Bourbon Street pictures Friday evening.

It was a common sight for the teams eliminated from the SEC tournament earlier that day not far from New Orleans’ famed French Quarter. Even coach Anthony Grant took in the sights briefly.

But today, it’s back to work for the Crimson Tide. The program is expected to hear its name called by the NCAA tournament selection committee for the first time in seven seasons this evening.

Projections have Alabama (21-11) landing as high as a No. 8 seed in one of the four regions when brackets are released starting at 5 p.m. on CBS.

Grant wasn’t jumping to any conclusions immediately following the Tide’s 66-63 loss to Florida in Friday’s SEC quarterfinal. He was “not assuming anything,” before anything is official.

“Obviously, we feel good about what we have been able to accomplish over the course of the season,” he said. “The thing that you know about that tournament is it’s an invitational tournament, so we have to wait and see what happens.”

The typically-reliable measuring stick for tournament inclusion is the Ratings Percentage Index. A CBSsports.com projection of the computer formula had Alabama ranked No. 35 following its loss to Florida.

A year ago, several Alabama players said they were pretty sure they’d made the field with the same 21-11 record, but a lower RPI ranking of No. 60. The last team to make the field was Clemson, owners of a No. 55 RPI rating.

“Last year we felt pretty confident too,” junior Andrew Steele said Friday. “And obviously we were disappointed. We understand we can’t get our hopes up, but we’re hopeful we’ve done enough over the course of the year to get ourselves in.”

Alabama made a run in the NIT after narrowly missing the NCAA field a year ago.

That included three extra home games that built momentum leading into this season. It also served as a final recruiting pitch for then-highly rated prospect, now Alabama freshman Trevor Lacey. Fans chanted his name in Coleman Coliseum last March in hopes he’d pick the Tide over Kentucky.

He did. Now the Huntsville product is eager for the next step.

“Hopefully we’ll get in and get a good seed,” he said. “We just have a chance to play our hearts out, and if we continue to compete like this, we go far.”

Michael Casagrande covers University of Alabama sports for The Star. Follow him on Twitter @UARollTide_Star.
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