New York Alabama 62, Colorado 61
Alabama is making sure Anthony Grant stays focused on his own team rather than watching his former team’s incredible NCAA Tournament run.
After all, the Crimson Tide are playing for a championship.
JaMychal Green scored 22 points, Trevor Releford scored the go-ahead basket in the closing seconds, and the top-seeded Crimson Tide withstood a late rally to beat fellow No. 1 seed Colorado in the NIT semifinals Tuesday night.
Releford finished with 13 points and six assists for the Crimson Tide (25-11), who advanced to play Wichita State on Thursday night for the tournament title. The Shockers beat Washington State, 75-44, in the other semifinal game at Madison Square Garden.
“We’re excited,” Grant said. “Obviously we’re disappointed when we didn’t reach one of our goals, to go to the NCAA Tournament, but our guys turned the page quickly.”
The irony is that one of the last at-large berths to the NCAA Tourney went to VCU, Grant’s former team. The Rams have turned their good fortune into the feel-good story of March, winning a game in the “First Four” and then upsetting their way to the Final Four in Houston.
Grant has said he’s proud of the job his former players have done this postseason. Jamie Skeen transferred into his program before Grant left, and scored 26 points in the Rams’ upset of No. 1 seed Kansas University. Grant also recruited Bradford Burgess, whose layup in overtime beat Florida State, and Joey Rodriguez, who had 12 points and 11 assists in a third-round upset of Purdue.
The Rams’ success is almost certainly bittersweet for Grant, especially after Alabama was jilted by the NCAA Tournament selection committee. He’s been asked almost as much about them as his current team, one that’s trying to make its own history.
Alabama has been to the NIT semifinals six times and never won the title.
“I’m glad that we have a chance to play for a championship,” Releford said.
Wichita State 75, Washington State 44
New York — Garrett Stutz came off the bench to score a career-high 24 points, and Wichita State romped past Washington State in another impressive performance that put the Shockers in the NIT championship game.
Stutz also had 11 rebounds for Wichita State (28-8), which surpassed the 1954 team for the most wins in school history.
The Missouri Valley Conference often gets more than one team into the NCAA Tournament, but a down year for the conference meant only Indiana State — the team that beat Wichita State in the league tournament — got in as an automatic qualifier. Wichita State was relegated to the NIT, where it has proven that it certainly belongs among the top 68 teams in the country.
Reggie Moore and DeAngelo Casto scored nine points each to lead Washington State (22-13).