NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After a disappointing end to the regular season with losses to teams who played in the SEC Tournament’s Wednesday of Woe, otherwise known as the opening round, there have been numerous post-mortems written about the University of Alabama basketball team, with a surprise ending.
There’s still at least one game to play.
The game will go on, but it won’t be played in front of fans. The league announced after Wednesday’s opener between Georgia and Ole Miss that fans will not be in attendance for the remainder of the tournament.
Fans did attend the opener and the later session between Vanderbilt and Arkansas.
Earlier Wednesday the NCAA President Mark Emmert announced the NCAA men’s and women’s tournament will also be played in front of no fans. Only “essential staff and family family attendance” will be able to view the games.
The decision also affects all campus sports activities, according SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey.
“In light of recent developments beyond our control related to the spread of the coronavirus, including a recommendation from the NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel, and after consultation with our member universities, we have made the difficult decision to hold the 2020 SEC Men’s Basketball Tournament in Nashville without spectators beginning with games of Thursday, March 12,“ Sankey said Wednesday. ”Effective immediately, the policy will also apply to other SEC Championship events and on-campus regular season games scheduled through at least the end of March.”
The Crimson Tide opens its Nashville run in a familiar spot, as the No. 9 seed against No. 8 seed Tennessee. A win would lead to a matchup with top-seeded Kentucky but Alabama coach Nate Oats isn’t looking that far ahead.
“Let’s get back to playing good basketball,” Oats said at his Tuesday media opportunity in Tuscaloosa. “You’d like to be playing your best basketball when the SEC Tournament comes around and last week (in losses to Vanderbilt and Missouri), we just weren’t, for numerous reasons.”
One of those reasons was injury. Junior forward John Petty Jr. missed the Vanderbilt game with an elbow injury and returned but was ineffective against Missouri. Without his perimeter shooting, along with Herb Jones’ injured wrist, the Crimson Tide was unable to spread the floor with shooters and the result at Missouri was the worst offensive output of the year.
“Petty being back is great,” Oats said, indicating that he expected more production from the junior forward. “He looked much better in practice today, he was hitting threes in practice so hopefully he looks much better on Thursday than he did (last) Saturday.”
Jones was absent in Alabama’s regular-season loss to Tennessee, a game which the Crimson Tide led by as many as 15 points in the first half but lost 69-68 after the Volunteer’ inside game dominated the second half.
“(Yves) Pons is the (SEC) Defensive Player of the Year and I think he’s the best athlete in the league,” Oats said. “But he had eight offensive rebounds against us, went for 14 (points) and 14 (rebounds.) John Fulkerson had 22 points. They rebounded 56 percent of their missed shots in the second half. They destroyed us on the boards. We can’t have that.
“Herb being back should help (with the rebounding) but we need a better effort from everyone. We need more from (Alex) Reese. He’s as frustrated as anyone with the way he’s been playing and he’s looked a lot better in practice.”
Alabama has won its first game in SEC Tournament play for four consecutive years going into Thursday’s noon contest.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @cecilhurt