The University of Alabama basketball arrived for the EA Sports Maui Invitational after a trip that took nearly 18 hours start to finish, covering almost 4,700 miles.
The Crimson Tide stepped off its final airplane flight late Thursday, local time, which was early Friday morning in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama (1-1) will have until Monday to rest up from its long travel before facing Oregon. While Alabama needed nearly a full day’s travel to make it to Hawaii, the Ducks were playing a late-Friday home game before taking their much-shorter flight to the tournament. Oregon beat Cal-Irvine 84-77 to improve to 2-1.
Both unranked teams have suffered unsightly defeats this season, with Oregon losing at home to Oakland and Alabama dropping its home opener against Mercer.
The Crimson Tide bounced back from that loss to beat Florida A&M 89-48 in a runaway victory last Wednesday.
Alabama will play either No. 1 North Carolina or host Chaminade in Tuesday’s second round. Seventh-ranked Texas, No. 8 Notre Dame, Indiana and St. Joseph’s round out the other side of the bracket in one of college basketball’s most prestigious early-season events.
Alabama head coach Mark Gottfried believes he’ll learn a lot about his team at the tournament.
“That we can win three in a row, that’s what you want to learn,” Gottfried said after the FAMU game.
“It’s a great field. We’ve got a great first game playing Oregon.”
Freshman guard Andrew Steele has seen many of the schools in the Maui field on television in past seasons.
“It’s very exciting,” he said.
“It’s a business trip. We want to take it one game at a time.“
“We feel like we can really compete with these guys. These are some of the best teams in the nation at this tournament.”
Gottfried inserted sophomore center Justin Knox into the starting lineup for the Florida A&M game after he played little against Mercer. Knox, a Central High School graduate, grabbed a career-high 12 rebounds in his first career start. Gottfried said Knox
“probably” will continue to be in the starting lineup.
“What you want to do is give guys an opportunity,” Gottfried said.
“He took advantage of his opportunity.”