Norfolk State vs Alabama
When: Wednesday at 6 p.m.
Where: Coleman Coliseum
Records: Alabama 18-15, Norfolk State 21-13
Broadcast: ESPNU
Radio: 95.3 FM


On Sunday, Alabama found out it missed the NCAA Tournament by a small margin. In the later selection show, Alabama was named a No. 1 seed in the National Invitation Tournament for the third time since 2007, when the seeding system began.

“That’s kind of devastating, but at the same time it’s a new opportunity,” Crimson Tide senior Riley Norris said. “I think it’s the right way to send our seniors out, not myself, but our other three seniors. It’s a chance for our younger guys to get more practice.”

That extra “practice” starts Wednesday against Norfolk State, as Alabama looks to win its first NIT game under coach Avery Johnson.

The NIT game is the sixth in the last nine years.

The NIT has made experimental rule changes. The 3-point line will be 1.8 inches farther than the regular season, free throw lane is extended from 12 to 16 feet, fouls reset at the 10-minute mark, which eliminates the one-and-one foul and teams shoot two free throws after the fifth four and the shot clock will reset to 20 seconds after an offensive rebound instead of a full 30 seconds.

“I don’t think it’ll have a major impact on our preparation,” Johnson said.

When he plays Wednesday, Norris will set the program record for most games in a career with 136 games, passing Levi Randolph.

“I haven’t had much to smile about the last couple days but that’s one of them,” Johnson said. “Just knowing that (Norris) is going to play in his 136th game and break Levi’s record, just shows durability and stamina… You can just always count on him.”

The tip against Norfolk State starts at 6 p.m. Alabama won the only previous matchup by 21 points.

The Spartans were the regular-season champions of the MEAC before losing by three in their conference championship.

The Spartans have an experienced starting lineup. Nic Thomas is the team’s leading scorer with 14.4 points a game. Jordan Butler is the team’s leading rebounder. Senior Derrik Jamerson Jr. finished shooting 51.2 percent from 3-point range, which led the nation.

Four of their players were named to a conference team. Head coach Robert Jones was the Coach of the Year for the MEAC.

“They’re an experienced team; they know what they’re doing,” Johnson said. “Really quality depth. Coach Jones has done a nice job with their team… We’re going to have to play really good basketball.”