Stanford at Alabama: NIT Round Two

Alabama Head Coach Anthony Grant looks for win number two against Stanford today. - Andy Lyons

Tipoff between the top-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide and fourth-seeded Stanford Cardinal is set for 11AM and will be televised on ESPN.

I have to start by saying that, if you have even a passing interest in this game and you live anywhere near Tuscaloosa, you should get in your car right now and go. I just purchased tickets online about twenty minutes ago, and do you want to know how much it set me back? For me to take both my kids to watch Alabama play basketball cost me a grand total of $20.50. That's it.

And since it's a general admission game, the usual oligarchical structure to seating is practically nonexistent, so the early birds will get the worm. I can't wait, and neither should you. Go on, already. Get in your car and drive. You can read the rest of this later this afternoon after you get back home.

OK, now that we've got those folks out of the way, let's take a look at what Alabama will be facing in this one.

If you're still sitting here reading, I'm sure that I don't have to remind you of what happened the last time these two teams faced each other. Stanford entered that game as a number one seed and a favorite to take home the title, but eighth-seeded Bama wasn't having it. That magical night, along with the ensuing win over defending national champion Syracuse, marked the high point of Alabama basketball in the NCAA Tournament.

My, how times have changed.

You know how Alabama's season has gone, so I'll focus little on it here. It should be noted that Stanford won the 2012 NIT championship, beating Minnesota 75-51 for the title. This year, Stanford (19-14, 9-9 PAC-12) comes to Tuscaloosa after grabbing an unimpressive 58-57 home win versus Stephen F. Austin Tuesday night in the first round of the NIT.

In Tuesday's victory, junior forward Dwight Powell had 23 points and nine rebounds (Powell, who was named the PAC-12 Most Improved Player, leads the team this season with 15.3 points per game). Sophomore guard Chasson Randle (13.7 ppg) and junior forward Josh Huestis (10.6 ppg) also average in double figures for the Cardinal. Huestis leads the team with 9.1 rebounds per game, and Powell has 8.4.

Alabama (22-12, 12-6 SEC), on the other hand, advanced to the second round of the tournament with a 62-43 win over Northeastern Tuesday night.

On paper, this one seems to generally favor the Crimson Tide. After all, Alabama has the stronger RPI (58 to 65), the better overall and conference records, the more dominant opening-round victory, and the home court.

But don't sleep on the Cardinal. Head coach Johnny Dawkins' squad is easily capable of walking out of Coleman Coliseum with a win. If you've been watching the NCAA tournament, you know that one of the big stories of the opening round was a couple of upsets by Pac-12 teams (Oregon and Cal), and you should also know that this Stanford teams has victories this season against both of them. They may have been inconsistent, but they have the tools they need to go far in this tournament. In short, this bird can fly.

It's been suggested by a few that Alabama didn't seem very excited about playing in this tournament when they took the court Tuesday night. If that's true, let's hope they've gotten that out of their systems by now. A loss here wouldn't necessarily be devastating for the program or its head coach, but it would certainly do nothing to quiet the questions about the direction of each that have arisen since December.

Again, if you can get to this one by tipoff, I urge you to do so. Your team could use your support. I hope to see you there.

And as always, hope for the best. Roll Tide.

Tipoff between the top-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide and fourth-seeded Stanford Cardinal is set for 11AM and will be televised on ESPN. Saturday's contest can also be heard on the Crimson Tide Sports Network with Chris Stewart and Bryan Passink. You can also follow the action from live tweets on the team's official Twitter page @AlabamaMBB.

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