The Alabama basketball program had a long hour of watching the NCAA Tournament bracket as it was unveiled on Sunday, but unlike some programs that narrowly missed the field of 68, the Crimson Tide staff reacted with reflection, not with anger.

“This is a situation that we don’t have anybody else to blame,” Alabama head coach Avery Johnson said. “We are in the NIT because we weren’t good enough, weren’t consistent enough. We took a step back …

“In the NIT, we can work on becoming a better basketball team.”

The Crimson Tide will host MEAC regular-season champion Norfolk State (21-13) in its opening round game on Wednesday night at 6 p.m. The game will be televised on ESPNU.

After the NCAA Selection Show, which saw seven Southeastern Conference teams selected in the field, Johnson met with each Crimson Tide player individually to discuss Alabama’s 18-15 season.

“Obviously we were all disappointed we didn’t make it,” Johnson said. “A lot of the guys were disappointed for (senior) Riley Norris, who came back for this (fifth) year. We all wanted him to make it.

“(So) it was a little bit of a somber mood. We addressed what we should do next.

“We worked extremely hard but due to a combination of tough losses and some inconsistency, we were unsuccessful. We were a very poor second half team this year. We looked at our plus/minus for the second halves of games, we were No. 240 in the country. That has to improve.”

“The NIT gives us a chance to continue practice, play games against a live opponent and continue to develop better habits, better leadership, better chemistry, more discipline, more communication, work on our defense. We took a step back defensively this year.

We’ve got to be a better free throw shooting team. And we’ll be in situations where we’ll some real game situations where we can work on just becoming a better basketball team.”

Alabama narrowly missed making the NCAA Tournament field for a second straight season, finishing as the second team out of the 68-team field. Other teams that narrowly missed gaining one of the 36 at-large bids were the remaining NIT No. 1 seeds UNC-Greensboro, Indiana and TCU.

“I thought we were one victory away, especially against the right opponent,” Johnson said.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.

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