MBB Update | Alabama settles into Indianapolis ahead of Saturday game

The team faces Rick Pitino’s Iona squad on Saturday.


Alexander Plant | @aplant63, Sports Editor

The Alabama men’s basketball team arrived Sunday in Indianapolis, Indiana, to prepare for the NCAA Tournament. Coach Nate Oats said that the team cleared the initial COVID-19 protocols and has been practicing for the last two days. Since they arrived, the players participated in two practices, a workout and an optional shootaround.

No. 2 seed Alabama men’s basketball is set to face legendary head coach Rick Pitino and No. 15 seed Iona on Saturday. Oats said that his plan heading into the game is to try not to over-coach.

“Don’t screw it up,” Oats said of his thoughts on the coaching plan. “I think coaches can get in the way a lot more than they can help [the team] out. You’ve got to pump them up with a ton of confidence. Back in my days in Buffalo, I had to convince them that we were going to beat Arizona. Coaches can do a lot of tinkering in a week, which I think can be kind of stupid.”

Oats said that Kentucky head coach John Calipari reached out to him after the SEC Tournament and gave him advice on how to prepare for March Madness. Calipari is a three-time NCAA coach of the year and a veteran Final Four coach. He’s taken 6 teams to the Final Four and won the National Championship in 2012.

“[Calipari] has always been good to me,” Oats said. “I always admired him. I respect the job he did this year, this was not an easy year for him. He kept his kids competing. Anytime anyone wants to give me advice I’m open to it.”

Oats gave his compliments to Pitino, saying that he’s one of the best college basketball coaches of all time. Although Iona is not one of the most threatening teams in the tournament, sophomore guard Jaden Shackelford said that the team is not overlooking any opponent.

“I feel like our guys are locked in. It’s going to be different for all of us this year,” Shackelford said. “Coach has prepared us, I feel like we’re ready. We started the standard that we’re just going to go 1–0. Since then we haven’t lost. We just have to go in and play our games.”

Both Shackelford and senior forward Herb Jones said that the isolation in Indianapolis has been interesting. The two and Oats gave their compliments to the accommodations to the hotels and service while being there.

“The bubble has been pretty good to us so far,” Shackelford said. “We’re just glad to be here, we’re having fun so far. We’re just excited to be here.”

For Jones and seniors John Petty Jr. and Alex Reese, this is their second NCAA Tournament appearance. Jones said he understands what March Madness is truly about.

“We just focus on the game at hand and we will focus on the next game afterwards,” Jones said. This isn’t like the SEC tournament… It’s win or go home.