ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 12: Tony Mitchell #5 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts during their 58 to 72 loss to the Kentucky Wildcats in the semifinals of the SEC Men's Basketball Tournament at Georgia Dome on March 12, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
The NIT is often viewed as the "little brother" of postseason tournaments. But that doesn't mean valuable experience cannot be gained by taking part in this 32-team backup plan. Take for instance second year coach Anthony Grant and his Alabama Crimson Tide. The Tide tallied 21 wins on the season, won the SEC East outright at 12-4, and still were snubbed of an NCAA tournament bid solely because of an admittedly bad RPI ranking. It happens.
Thankfully, the No. 1 overall seed in the NIT comes with home court advantage in the first three rounds. Considering 'Bama went 16-0 year at home, it's no surprise Grant's team dismantled Coastal Carolina and edged out New Mexico in the first two rounds to stay alive. The latter of which set up a Wednesday date with the Miami Hurricanes for a chance at the (Not-So) Final Four. Even though March can be a tricky month, we're talking about playing a Miami team that knocked off the following four schools on the road all season: Florida Gulf-Coast, North Carolina Greensboro, Wake Forest, and Boston College. That's it. Does this honestly sound like the resume of a team that's going to miraculously snap Alabama's 19-game home winning streak in an elimination setting?
But don't expect the Tide to stop rolling once it gets to Madison Square Garden for the finals. In postseason play, a place where winners and losers can often be decided more on invididual talent and player match-ups, Bama's NBA-caliber forward duo of JaMychal Green (1st Team All-SEC; 15.5 ppg) and Tony Mitchell (2nd Team All-SEC; 15.5 ppg) can hang with anybody in the field from an athleticism standpoint. The clip below (still waiting for a good HD replay of the dunk) illustrates exactly what these two guys are capable of. Green violently swats a shot attempt on D, setting up a wide-open windmill dunk from Mitchell at the other end. Poetry in motion:
Each guy has at least one more year of eligibility remaining (Green is a junior, Mitchell a sophomore), so the pair should be back on campus in the fall. We regret not filling out an NIT bracket this year too, but if we could travel back in time in the DeLorean, we'd go 'Bama all the way.