You’d probably be stretching things a bit to call the Women’s NIT “March Madness.” That’s equally true of the men’s version. But whether you call it March Mildness or March Moderation, here’s the part that matters for the Alabama women’s basketball team at the moment.
It’s March and the Crimson Tide is still playing basketball and will keep playing into next week’s quarterfinal round after avenging last year’s WNIT elimination and bouncing Tulane, the team that eliminated them from last year’s WNIT, winning 72-64.
That makes three straight wins in March, regardless of whether they came in the WNIT or the UConn Invitational. That’s the sort of momentum Alabama needed, especially with this run piggybacked onto a solid two-victory effort at the SEC Tournament. That run — five wins in six games against quality opposition — sends a message about Alabama, not only to people watching from outside the program. More importantly, it resounds in Alabama’s own locker room.
“I definitely think they are playing with a lot more confidence,” Tulane head coach Lisa Stockton said after the game. “They shot the ball with more confidence. They had a different swagger. You could tell that on film coming in.”
Without doing what would be a fairly lengthy Google search, let’s make the fair assumption that the word “swagger” has not been used in conjunction with “Alabama women’s basketball” in quite some time. That has to be a confidence booster for a team without a single senior, one that has another infusion of talented transfers and recruits coming in next year. Plus, it generates interest at a rare time when the women have the basketball spotlight all to themselves.
The crowd at Coleman Coliseum wasn’t massive, but was enthusiastic. There’s something about the NIT atmosphere where the most passionate fans are in the seats closest to the floor that vitalizes the Crimson Tide’s home arena. (Again, that’s true for the men’s NIT games as well.)
“I really appreciate our community for the way they turned out,” Alabama coach Kristy Curry said. “What a great crowd on a Thursday night. There were so many coaches from our (athletic) department in the stands and it was great to see all those familiar faces pulling for it.”
Three weeks ago, Alabama’s underclassmen could easily have dialed down their intensity and given the old “wait until next year” shrug. Instead, they have decided to wring as much out of this season as possible.
“One thing you can control is your energy and effort,”Curry said. “I’m proud of how they have handled themselves. They’ve been an open book, kept learning. When things don’t go your way, it’s easy to get down on yourselves, and we had some things that didn’t go our way. But they came in every day ready to work and … we are playing our best at the end of the season.”
That is, they are playing that way in March. And while it may not be March Madness yet, that’s just the sort of boost that Alabama women’s basketball needs to make things even more exciting — maybe even Madness — next March.
Reach Cecil Hurt at email@example.com or 205-722-0225.