TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The sour ending to the regular season, losing at Ole Miss with a less than 100 percent effort, is over with. Senior forward JaMychal Green said the team was down and dejected after the loss on the road Saturday, but starting with what he labeled an intense practice on Monday, the team gets a second chance to start over. Against South Carolina on Thursday, Tide coach Anthony Grant will preach the importance of a fresh start, a chance to turn the page on a rocky regular season.
“This time of the year, it’s a new season,” Grant said. “It’s the postseason. It’s a fresh start for everybody.”
Green knows what the postseason basketball is like. So does Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele. Past that, though, the experience dissipates. It may not be the NCAA tournament yet, but the pressure of the SEC tournament in New Orleans will test the young Alabama roster. Trevor Lacey, Levi Randolph, Rodney Cooper and others will have to settle down early and not press. They’ve faced every team they might play in the tournament, but this time it will be different.
“They’re aware of it, but until you experience it for yourself, you really don’t know,” Grant said. “We have a lot of guys that will be playing their first postseason game, their first SEC tournament. Sometimes you have to go with those experiences, but at the end of the day hopefully we have enough experience with our younger guys that they don’t feel like it’s our first time through anymore.”
South Carolina had just two wins in the SEC, but one of them came at Alabama’s success. The Gamecocks won by 2 at home, limiting UA to less than 60 points. Looking back, Grant said it was the 15 turnovers that doomed the Tide, playing carelessly with the basketball. In the rematch on Thursday, Alabama must attack South Carolina’s multi-look defense. Grant said UA must match South Carolina’s intensity on defense, citing a few games during the regular season in which he saw his players come out flat. In postseason play, a lackluster effort isn’t an option. South Carolina showed once it can beat a much more talented Alabama squad, but in an elimination format, anything can happen.
Grant addressed the results of All-SEC voting earlier in the day, choosing not to focus on his team being left off the freshmen or defensive teams. Instead, he complimented the quality of the conference and pointed out that the results are largely a product of Alabama’s team mentality. Only Releford and Green were voted on as second-team selections.
“We applaud them and the recognition they received but, and I think I’ve said this last week, we’ve had a variety of different games with different guys stepping up for us,” Grant said. “It has allowed us to have some success. It’s probably one of the strengths of our team and we’ll have to rely on that.”