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One-Third Done: Alabama's Focus Heading Into Sweet 16

By Katie Windham,


Every Alabama player except Jahvon Quinerly is making his first Sweet 16 appearance, but it is just the next step in the journey.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For the second time in three years, Alabama basketball is in the Sweet 16. Two years ago though, that's where the Crimson Tide's journey ended. But the top overall seed isn't ready for things to be done yet.

Senior forward Noah Gurley said winning the first two games in Birmingham was just the tip of the iceberg ahead of Alabama's Thursday practice at the KFC Yum! Center.

"We’re a third of the way, two out of six games— the more we win, the more possible it seems," Gurley said.

Alabama had two dominant wins to open up the NCAA Tournament with a 96-75 win over Texas A&M Corpus-Christi in the Round of 64 (even though the Crimson Tide didn't play up to its defensive standards in this game according to freshman forward Noah Clowney), and then put on a defensive clinic in the second game with a 73-51 win over Maryland.

Now, the Crimson Tide will face 5-seed San Diego State with a spot in the Elite Eight on the line. The only time in program history that Alabama has advanced farther than the Sweet 16 was in 2004. But this year's team is the first in program history to earn a No. 1 seed.

Jahvon Quinerly is the only player on the current roster who player in Alabama's last Sweet 16 game. According to Gurley, Quinerly's message to the team has been having no regrets–whether that's in practice, team meetings or the games themselves.

"He’s a veteran guy, and he’s the only one in this locker room that’s been there," freshman guard Jadne Bradley said about Quinerly. "He knows what it takes to get there, and he has also lost in this situation, so he wants to give us all the tools and nuggets to help him and help us advance to the next round.”

For Clowney the focus heading into the Sweet 16 is simple: win.

"We’re locked in on the game," Clowney said. "We know what they do. We’ve done our research, our film. We’re gonna have a good practice today, and tomorrow we’re coming in with the mindset to win.”

Nick Pringle said the team is still focusing on the same things it has all season– being defensive-minded, shooting 3s and making shots around the rim.

However, for one Alabama player, the opportunity in Louisville this weekend is really special. Sophomore guard Nimari Burnett played at Texas Tech the year after the Red Raiders made a run to the Final Four. He transferred into Alabama the year after the Crimson Tide made its run to the Sweet 16. He missed his entire first season with Alabama because of an offseason knee injury, and has finally gotten to represent the Alabama jersey on the court this season.

"These are dreams that I’ve had since I’ve been a kid," Burnett. "Dreams that we’ve had since we formed together as as a team. So going through the whole process in college starting at Texas Tech, getting hurt last year and ultimately being here right now is a blessing. It’s a dream come true, and I’m excited for the road ahead.”

The mood in the locker room was light, yet focused as the top-overall seed got ready for its first practice in Louisville and prepares for the next step in the journey toward its ultimate goal.

See also:

Alabama Basketball Sweet 16 Practice Report

Nick Saban Addresses "Wrong Place, Wrong Time" Comments

Previewing Alabama Basketball and the South Regional Sweet 16

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