Alabama not taking Iona lightly in NCAA Tournament opener

Tide set to take on Iona College on Saturday, March 20 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

Alabama not taking Iona lightly in NCAA Tournament opener
Alabama coach Nate Oats cuts down the net after Alabama won the SEC Tournament championship for the first time in 30 years. (Source: WBRC)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WSFA) - The last time the Crimson Tide took the courts, they won the SEC championship. But that is in the past – and their new focus: 15-seeded Iona College.

“I’ve had a chance to watch quite a few Iona games. They’re good,” said head coach Nate Oats on the Gaels. “I mean, talk about winning in March with experienced guard play. They’ve got two fifth-year seniors that are both really good starting at the 1 and the 2. And obviously they’re coached by Rick Pitino who’s gonna do a great job, so the coaching staff is gonna have to make sure we’re on top of our game as well.”

Alabama arrived in the NCAA bubble earlier this week. Obviously, with the coronavirus still a concern, things haven’t been the same as years past, but the guys say they’re just grateful to be there.

“I feel like our guys are locked in. This is an opportunity that not many of us have had,” said sophomore guard Jaden Shackelford. “(John Petty Jr.) and Herb (Jones) have been here before, and Reese, so they can tell us a little bit about it, but it’s gonna be different for all of us this year.”

“It’s just a whole different experience, but it’s very interesting,” added senior forward Herb Jones. “I feel like it’s pretty fun because it’s a once in a lifetime chance that we get to do this. I’m pretty much embracing it all.”

Although the vibe of the tournament is different, the goal is the still same: to continue winning basketball games.

“Not too long ago we started this standard where we were just going 1-0, and since that standard we haven’t lost, so I feel like if our guys just lock in and not focus on the statistics or anything like that, we should be fine,” said Shackelford. “We’re not underestimating anybody. We’re going in respecting our opponent and hopefully we come out victorious.”

Tipoff against Iona College is 3 p.m. on TBS.

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