BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – There’s still a bad taste in the mouths of the veteran members of the Alabama Crimson Tide basketball team. At least that’s the way it sounds from speaking with First Team All-SEC guard Trevor Releford and head coach Anthony Grant Thursday at SEC Basketball Media Days in Birmingham, Ala.
The Crimson Tide went 12-6 in Southeastern Conference play last season and finished in a three-way tie for second place. But the team was passed over by the NCAA selection committee and missed out on the NCAA Tournament.
“We had a great November,” said Grant. “We started off 6-0 and then an injury bug hit us in December and we didn’t perform as well as we should have. During that month we struggled and ultimately that hurt us in terms of the goals we set for ourselves for where we wanted to be at the end of the year.”
Alabama lost three consecutive games to start the month of December, road games at Cincinnati and VCU and a home tilt against Dayton. After beating Texas Tech on the road, the Crimson Tide dropped games against Mercer and Tulane to finish off the month.
That 1-5 record in December was likely one of the biggest knocks on Alabama’s resume when the selection committee was determining the field of 68.
Between season’s end and a few weeks ago when teams hit the hardwood for preseason workouts, Grant hammered into his players the importance of starting strong and beating the non-conference teams this Alabama team is supposed to beat.
“I think that’s been the biggest message of the summer and the start of preseason,” said Releford. “Coach is telling us to be all-in from the first exhibition game. Play it like it’s your last and go out there and dominate.”
Releford admitted that the No. 1 goal for this team—and him as a senior, personally—is to notch a few NCAA Tournament wins this season. Another strong SEC showing is a must. But so too is avoiding a losing record in December for the second season in a row.