Latest Team Rankings
Free Rivals Alerts
|College Teams||High Schools|
March 24, 2013
Newton likes what he sees from Alabama basketball
TUSCALOOSA | No one at Coleman Coliseum on Saturday had a greater interest, or bigger personal investment, than C.M. Newton.
Newton, a longtime Tuscaloosa resident, is both a decorated former head basketball coach at the University of Alabama and chairman of the selection committee of the National Invitation Tournament. So it's no surprise that Newton was pleased not only with the Crimson Tide's 66-54 victory over Stanford to advance to the NIT's quarterfinal round, but also with an enthusiastic crowd of 6,148 for an 11 a.m. game on the opening weekend of spring break.
"It was a good atmosphere for basketball, and I think a well-played game by both teams," Newton said. "I think Alabama really played well for 40 minutes, and I know Stanford is a well-coached team.
"Without the students, you have to depend on the old, hard-ankle basketball fan to come out and support you. I think there will be a good crowd Tuesday. Maryland is an outstanding team."
Maryland and Alabama will play for a berth in the NIT's final four in New York City. The Crimson Tide will be seeking its seventh trip to the NIT's semifinal round, with the first three of those coming under Newton in 1973, '77 and '79. UA finished second in the 2011 NIT under current coach Anthony Grant.
The NIT in the 1970s was a different tournament than it is now.
"Back when I was coaching here, you had to win the conference championship to go to the NCAA tournament," Newton said. "There were only 16 teams. If you didn't win the conference championship you could go to the NIT, but you weren't guaranteed a chance to go to the NIT."
For a time, the NIT was as prestigious as the NCAA tournament. As the NCAA field expanded and March Madness evolved, the NIT became an afterthought. Newton was tasked with making it relevant again after the NCAA took over the NIT. Under his guidance, it has become a 32-team event with all teams seeded, and every regular-season conference champion that doesn't get an NCAA tournament invitation is guaranteed an automatic bid.
Instead of schools bidding for home-court advantage, as became the norm in the NIT's previous incarnation, teams now earn the chance to host games. As a No. 1 seed, Alabama has hosted Northeastern (for a 62-43 first-round victory) and Stanford. Maryland will visit as a No. 2 seed.
"We play it at the site of the best-seeded team, unless they can't host for some reason," Newton said.
Newton knows Alabama hasn't been able to attract major-conference opponents such as Maryland for regular-season games. He attributes that to the scheduling strategies of some past coaches.
"If you're willing to go to their place, they're willing to come to yours," Newton said of the top-tier teams. "I was willing to go on the road, unlike Wimp (Sanderson) or Mark (Gottfried), to play these games. They wanted people to come here.
"It will be really good for Maryland to come in, for college basketball and for Alabama, because they're going to be in the Big Ten next year. That's one of the beautiful things with the NIT, you play games like this."
Newton has no doubt about the value of a trip to New York for the NIT's round of four, should Alabama defeat Maryland.
"If you can get to New York and get to the final four, it's really worth it for your players," Newton said. "I think it really helped Alabama a couple of years ago to get to New York with a young team.
"It's a true championship now, and I'm really proud of our committee for making it a championship tournament. It's a good, fair tournament."
Reach Tommy Deas at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0224.