By Drew Hill
Special to the Tuscaloosa News
Alabama women’s basketball has reached plenty of its goals so far this season, but making it to the postseason was a top priority. After Monday night’s invitation to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, the Crimson Tide can cross that off the list.
UA was part of the 64-team WNIT field announced following the NCAA Tournament selection, and will be playing the Mercer Bears at Coleman Coliseum on Thursday, March 16.
“I think any time you get to postseason play, it’s definitely exciting,” Alabama coach Kristy Curry said. “It is certainly another building block as we move forward, and into the future.”
It is the second straight year Alabama has received an invitation, but this time around, the Crimson Tide is happy that it will play in its most familiar venue as well, right at home in Coleman Coliseum.
“Obviously, you always enjoy defending your home court if given that opportunity,” Curry said. “Regardless, we’re excited to continue to play.”
Last year, UA wasn’t fortunate enough to begin in Tuscaloosa, and it was bounced with a 53-52 loss at Tulane in the first round of the 2016 WNIT. It wasn’t satisfying, especially since it was the Crimson Tide’s first postseason appearance under Curry. However, now the Crimson Tide will have the benefit of playing at home.
UA is 12-6 on the season this year in Tuscaloosa, with all six losses coming to conference opponents. Alabama began the season 11-0 at home, and defeated Kansas and Georgia Tech during that streak, but Curry’s team made a bigger push down the final stretch.
Mixed with wins and losses, the last two weeks of the regular season brought a heap of quality competition to the Crimson Tide, giving Curry’s team extra confidence and momentum before playing another opponent outside of the conference.
“Night in and night out (the SEC) is one of the toughest leagues in the country, and it definitely prepares you for postseason play,” Curry said. “We took a day off after the SEC Tournament, and we’ve gone back to work to continue to improve.”
Alabama saw improvement in nonconference, conference, and road records this season, which helped its seeding in the WNIT this year. The Crimson Tide received an upgrade in its resume after a run to the SEC Tournament quarterfinals, featuring a blowout win over Vanderbilt, and a third-straight win over the Tennessee Lady Volunteers.
Even after the strong finish, Curry is not taking any future opponents lightly. Mercer is a team that finished 25-6, and have done a considerable amount of damage on the road this season at 11-3. The Bears tied with Chattanooga for the best record in the Southern Conference this season, and lost in the championship of the conference tournament.
“It’s about taking all of the experiences that we’ve had, and I think our team understands how close it was to making the NCAA Tournament,” Curry said. “So certainly we’ve had a lot of experiences we can draw from going into postseason play. It’s a field for the WNIT that very, very good, and we have a chance at a 21-win season.”