L ast night’s 58-57 loss in the NIT closed another painful chapter in Alabama basketball history. Ironically, it’d be the second year in a row that the Tide’s season was ended in the post-season by that score. (Creighton last year in the NCAA’s, Maryland this year in the NIT).
The mood among the Alabama fanbase in regard to the basketball program is somewhere between mixed to disappointed to encouraged. Making the NCAA Tournament at Alabama should be a yearly goal. But according to analyst Jimmy Dykes on a Birmingham radio show this morning:
“If Carl Engstrom doesn’t get hurt this year for Alabama, Alabama would have been an NCAA Tournament team.”
Bama lost the 7-foot center to a knee injury in December.
Still, with youth all over the floor and only one senior (Andrew Steele), Alabama finished fourth in a 14-team Southeastern Conference field, and did not lose a league game on their home floor.
Next season, assuming Engstrom and everyone else (including the head coach) is back, Bama appears, on paper, to be in a good position to take the next step. The Tide needs forwards to move forward, and securing bodies on the post will be Anthony Grant’s top priority. News of Tulane point guard Ricky Tarrant’s plans to transfer and sit out Trevor Releford’s senior season is encouraging.
Still, until Alabama makes a yearly habit of making the NCAA field of 68, talk of moving forward is nothing but talk.