Tide lands in New York, begins big preparations

Tide+lands+in+New+York%2C+begins+big+preparations

Laura Owens

The Alabama men’s basketball team touched down in New York City on Sunday in anticipation of its sixth National Invitation Tournament Final Four appearance Tuesday in Madison Square Garden.

Getting there two days early was strategic on head coach Anthony Grant’s part, seeing as some of his team hasn’t been to New York City before.

“We’ll hopefully have a chance to give the guys some time where they can experience a little bit of New York,” he said. “Basketball opens up a lot of opportunities for you to travel and experience things you wouldn’t have a chance to do, so certainly we’re going to try to take advantage of that as much as possible within the framework of making sure we’re prepared.”

The players realize the trip, though exciting, is more of a business trip than for pleasure.

“It’s going to be an exciting trip for me, seeing as I’ve never been,” said sophomore forward Tony Mitchell. “But I’ve still got one goal on my mind, and that’s winning the NIT championship.”

Not only is being in the Big Apple a big opportunity, but it’ll also be a big stage for the team to play in Madison Square Garden.

“I think MSG is a big stage for anybody because everybody wants to play at Madison Square Garden when you’re a little kid,” said freshman guard Trevor Releford.

Mitchell said, “It’s a big stage. A lot of good teams play there. The Knicks still play there. It’ll be a good test for us to go play.”

The team’s opponent, Colorado, is averaging 80 points per game and is making about 48 percent of its field goals. The Crimson Tide’s defense has been holding its opponents on average to 59 points on 38 percent shooting.

“The approach won’t be any different,” Grant said. “We’ll get prepared in terms of what we need to do offensively and defensively to have success against Colorado’s team. They’re very explosive. You’ve got some very explosive scorers that do a very good job and are well coached.”

Releford, who’s from Missouri, has seen one of the players before when he was in high school. Colorado’s Alec Burks is also from Missouri and competed against Releford throughout high school after the two played together for about five years.

“I’ve talked to him,” Releford said. “I’m looking forward to playing against him. He can score in any kind of way. He’s a tough defender, too, so he’s going to bring it.”

Earlier this year, the team played in the Virgin Islands in the Paradise Jam Tournament. Releford said he believes having gone on a big trip for one tournament helped prepare the team for this tournament.

“I think that trip helped us out a lot this year because we know when we get there, we’re going to want to go out and stuff, but you have to know it’s a championship, so the rest of that can wait,” he said.

Grant said the trip may challenge his team to stay focused but that they’re aware of what they need to do to win.

“I think our guys have been focused on that,” he said. “They understand that this opportunity is one that we need to make sure we’re prepared for and do the best that we can to put ourselves in a position for that. I think we’re excited about it.”

The tipoff for the game against Colorado is at 8 p.m. with coverage on ESPN2.