"We've had a couple of hard years, but I think we've got 'Bama basketball back where it needs to be and where it's supposed to be," Green said.
The University of Alabama basketball players and coaches had heard the same analysis as the rest of us. They knew the strength of their resume, the status that they had been accorded as a "lock" for the NCAA Tournament. But as the field for the 2012 Tournament was announced on CBS, the regions kept clicking past. First the South bracket was filled. Then the West, and the East, and still no mention of Alabama from the studio host, Greg Gumbel. "All I could think about was last year, sitting in the C.M. Newton Room, waiting and waiting and never getting called," senior forward JaMychal Green said. "The longer we waited, the more nervous we got," junior forward Andrew Steele said.
Coach Anthony Grant beefed up his nonconference schedule significantly after last year’s team was shut out with an identical record and 12 SEC wins but mediocre power ratings. On Sunday, he got the result he was hoping to cap his third season despite some off-the-court troubles that threatened to derail the season. “I didn’t know where we would end up but I felt pretty good about our chances to get in, in light of what we’ve accomplished over the course of the season,” Grant said. “Once our name popped up, there was a sense of joy for our guys.”
Creighton coach Greg McDermott believes the NCAA tournament selection committee let the potential for an intriguing storyline trump a fair seeding for the Bluejays. Creighton (28-5) is No. 8 in the Midwest Regional for its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007 and will play No. 9 Alabama (21-11) in Greensboro, N.C., on Friday. The winner will likely face top-seeded North Carolina (29-5). A Creighton-Carolina matchup would pit stars Doug McDermott of the Bluejays against Harrison Barnes of the Tar Heels. The two were teammates on the Ames (Iowa) High School team that won 53 straight games and made national headlines when Barnes was the top recruit in the country in 2010. "I'm not thrilled about the seed," Greg McDermott said, drawing cheers and applause from the 2,000 fans who showed up for a campus rally Sunday. "The reality of it is, I think, unfortunately sometimes people are after a story. I think we all know what the story is to some extent. "The reality of it is we have to leave home to get where we want to get anyway. So we'll take 'em down one at a time."
Alabama is 9th nationally in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, according to Ken Pomeroy. The Tide is in the top 100 nationally in blocks (73rd), blocks per game (67th), steals (87th), steals per game (88th), and defensive rebounds (90th) and defensive boards per game (93rd). Meanwhile, Alabama is one of the worst schools in the country from behind the three-point arc, shooting 28.5% from long range (331st), attempting only 453 three-pointers (305th) and making only 129 (331st). The Tide scores in the mid 60s, on average (64.9 ppg, 244th). Overall, ‘Bama is 109th in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency according to Pomeroy. The Bluejays, meanwhile, are 5th nationally in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency. They score 80 points per game (7th), score 1.18 points per possession (2nd; Bama’s at 1.02, good for 155th), and do so by shooting the highest field goal percentage in the nation (50.9). Still, CU is 183rd in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency.
Grant said he was fine with the No. 9 seed Alabama received, adding it's more about the matchups at this point anyway. Playing an unknown opponent without much lead time means some last-minute scrambling for the coaching staff. "The next 24 hours will be about gathering as much information as we can through video or dissecting the numbers," Grant said. "Then we will figure out the best way to get that to our guys in a timely fashion."
The Jays' only questionable loss is a home defeat to Missouri State. Otherwise, their resume is excellent. They split with the Wichita State Shockers -- the team that won the MVC regular season title -- with both teams surprisingly losing at home. Creighton's other losses were on the road at Northern Iowa and Evansville. They hold quality wins over Iowa, Northwestern and San Diego State in addition to their win over WSU.
But for an Alabama program that hasn’t tasted the tournament since 2006, just getting the invitation was reason enough for celebration Sunday night. Steele thought back to the stories he heard from big brother Ronald Steele who played on Alabama’s last tournament team. “He said it was the best experience in the world,” Andrew Steele said. After a regular season of incredible peaks and valleys, landing one of the coveted 37 at-large bids added another twist.
While the Alabama basketball program was overflowing with excitement and optimism following Sunday night's announcement that the Crimson Tide will make its 20th appearance in the NCAA Tournament this week, the consensus among the national media was distinctly less optimistic about the Tide's chances in its return to the "Big Dance." After a 21-11 season, Alabama returns to the NCAA Tournament this week for the first time since 2006 in an opening round game against the Creighton Bluejays, who earned their way in after running through the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. While the Bluejays rank among the worst defensive teams in the tournament (No. 202 in the nation in opponent points per possession), they also boast one of the best offensive squads in the nation and one of the best offensive players in the tournament in sophomore Doug McDermott. Most national analysts focused their analysis of the opening round game on McDermott and Alabama's offensive struggles throughout the season.
The number one ranked Alabama softball team banged out 14 hits and smashed four home runs en route to sweeping Kentucky with a 12-2 win, Sunday afternoon at the UK Softball Complex. With the win the Crimson Tide stay perfect at 21-0 and 3-0 in Southeastern Conference play. Sophomore pitcher Jackie Traina earned her second win of the series and belted two home runs to power the Tide to another run-rule victory. Traina allowed two runs on 10 hits and struck out seven in six innings to improve to 12-0 on the season. Traina also went 2-for-2 at the dish, scoring two runs and driving in two.
Barrett Jones has replaced Marlon Davis at right guard in his career, and James Carpenter at left tackle as well. But in a bid to replace William Vlachos at center in his final college season, the University of Alabama's most versatile offensive lineman may have found the ideal home for his widely recognized leadership skills. Presnap communication between offensive linemen begins with the center, and if that communication is inadequate in any way, confusion, missed blocks and blown assignments can result. "I think that Barrett Jones has been a very good leader for us because of who he is. He has leadership qualities. He's got tremendous character. I think he cares about other people, sets a good example for them," UA coach Nick Saban said. "He is playing a position now that sort of enhances his leadership ability because he'll make a lot of line calls and is very involved with what's going on."
Although [Tyler] Love has a year remaining of eligibility, he’s decided to forego it and call it a career. “I’ve been pretty banged up the past couple of years,” Love said. “ It just really felt like it was time to hang it up before I did any more damage to my body and I was just ready to leave. I have a damaged neck, a little banged-up neck, bad L4,” Love said. “I have a little crack in that. I think I’ve had it for like a year-and-a-half, but I found out after the national championship game."
Our coaches were hulking orbs of muscle who all seemed to be police officers, firefighters and construction workers at the same time. They wore T-shirts that said things like, “The Easiest Day Was Yesterday,” and always seemed angry. Part of the yelling was to raise our adrenaline to the controlled frenzy that the sport required. But there was more to it. The coach barked at us to move the sled forward, yelled like there was some opponent ahead of us we couldn’t see. Within a few years a handful of us would be fathers and drop out of college, or finish and go into real estate. One would put a bullet in his head and another would tell us he was becoming a professional wrestler, and we laughed until we saw him on TV getting choke-slammed by the Undertaker.
But there are a lot of people around the league who think [Trent] Richardson, currently rehabbing from knee surgery, is a special talent. Including the Rams. Multiple sources, both inside and outside Rams Park, say the team thinks very highly of Richardson. It's not a unique viewpoint. "He's probably going to be the best player on the board at that point," Razanno said. "If you're picking the best available player, it could easily be him. He's a thoroughbred. And he's more of a home-run threat than Jackson."
College sports have faced no shortage lately of high-profile investigations and penalties. Very few of those cases, though, threaten the integrity of the games the way point shaving does. The vulnerability of college athletes to gambling influences resurfaced last week when Yahoo! Sports reported the FBI is investigating suspended Auburn basketball Varez Ward's possible involvement in an alleged point-shaving scheme. The story also raises the difficult question of how often college games are manipulated in relation to point spreads. "It's very difficult to say how common it is because you don't know how many people are doing it and not getting caught," said David Schwartz, director of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas Center for Gaming Research.
Less than a year ago, the University of Alabama broke a school record when four of its players were chosen in the first round of the NFL draft. In less than two months, the NFL draft's foremost expert believes that record will fall again. According to ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr., five Alabama players - running back Trent Richardson, cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, safety Mark Barron and linebackers Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower - will all go in the first round. And while Kiper's projections are subject to further change before the April 26-28 draft, his most recent first-round prognostication has all five UA players being claimed by pick No. 24, eight choices before the first round even ends.
Leaders of the Pac-12 Conference agreed in principle Saturday to try to end college football's Bowl Championship Series, proposing its replacement with a playoff system that would allow only conference winners to play for college football's national title. "I don't hear anyone saying business as usual is acceptable," said Edward Ray, Oregon State University's president and chairman of the Pac-12 universities' CEO group. "We need change."