Wichita State run leaves Tide just short of NIT title

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 31: Gabe Blair #32 of the Wichita State Shockers goes to the hoop against Chris Hines #44 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the 2011 NIT Championship game on March 31, 2011 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

The Crimson Tide basketball team lost 66-57 to the Wichita St. Shockers on Thursday night in the final game of the 2011 NIT.

The loss was due primarily to the same flaws Alabama has had to overcome all season, namely a complete inability to knock down open 3-pointers. Even with those flaws exposed, Bama was within 4 points with less than 5 minutes remaining in the game, but at that point the Shockers caught fire and went on an 11-1 run that effectively put the game away.

There's no point in focusing on what lost this game--it was more or less the same things that caused Bama's other losses this year. Instead, now is the time to take one last look back at what the 2010-2011 Alabama basketball team accomplished. With a roster lacking top-end talent, perimeter play-makers and most of all shooters, the team finished with 25 wins overall, an all-time record 19 home wins, and a 2nd-place finish in the SEC.

Most importantly of all, perhaps, was that we saw the players as well as the fan base completely buy in to Coach Grant and his Process. The players and fans now believe in this program and what it can accomplish. The corner was turned this year, and for that we should be forever grateful for the contributions of Chris Hines, Charvez Davis and Senario Hillman. Those seniors won't be a part of the team next year or beyond, but they deserve credit for being the group that laid the foundation for what is to come.

With one final look back at what we accomplished, we can now look begin to look forward. Alabama's three biggest stars from this season have each committed to return next year. JaMychal Green, Tony Mitchell and Trevor Releford--each an All-SEC award winner--will form the nucleus of next year's squad. Andrew Steele, Ben Eblen, Charles Hankerson and Carl Engstrom, assuming no attrition from among that group, will likewise return and battle to fill roles vacated by the departing seniors. They'll have plenty of stiff competition, though, as at least four newcomers, and possibly more, will be joining the team this summer.

There will be plenty of time to discuss next season, though, as there are about 200 days between now and the start of practice in October. We'll have much more in the coming weeks and months about the Tide's outlook and developments for next season, including updates and analysis on the newcomers and possible news about additional newcomers who may sign in the late signing period beginning in just two weeks.

For now, we'll let arguably the team's biggest leader heading into next season have the final word. Andrew Steele spoke for the team as well as us here at RBR when he said, via Twitter:

Thanks for all the support! This was just the beginning...

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