Alabama will not be going to the Big Dance this year, instead returning to the NIT as one of four top seeds.
The Crimson Tide (21-12), which lost to Florida in the SEC tournament semifinals Saturday, was not one of the 37 teams to get an at-large bid in the 68-team NCAA tournament field announced Sunday.
It did get a No. 1 seed in the 32-team NIT field and will host eighth-seed Northeastern of the Colonial Athletic Conference in an opening-round game at 8 p.m. Tuesday. The game will be televised on ESPN2.
The Crimson Tide has appeared in the NIT 11 times, finishing as runner-up in 2011.
Alabama made its 19th appearance in the NCAA tournament last season, losing as a No. 9 seed to eighth-seeded Creighton, 58-57.
Head coach Anthony Grant would not say whether he felt the Tide, which was ranked 60 in the RPI and 79 in strength of schedule as of Sunday afternoon, was worthy of an NCAA bid. Alabama had no wins against teams ranked in the RPI top 50 and suffered four losses to teams outside the RPI top 100, including three at home and on the road at Auburn — the worst major conference team in the country in nearly every metric including 254th in RPI.
Northeastern (20-12) was the regular season CAA champion but lost to James Madison in the conference tournament final. The Huskies went 1-3 against the RPI top 100 and defeated Belmont, split with JMU and lost to La Salle, which all made the NCAA tournament.
Should Alabama defeat Northeastern, it will face the winner of Stanford and Stephen F. Austin, the fourth and fifth seeded teams in the region, in the second round. Maryland, Ohio, Denver and
Niagara are also in that region.
This season, Kentucky is headlining another tournament.
Kentucky and Tennessee also missed the NCAA cut, marking the first time in 39 years that the Wildcats, Crimson Tide and Volunteers were left out of the same NCAA tournament.
The Wildcats (21-11) are also a No. 1 seed in the NIT, along with Southern Mississippi and Virginia.
The Wildcats, who struggled to live up to lofty preseason expectations, went 4-4 in their final eight games without freshman star Nerlens Noel, who had his season ended early with a knee injury that required surgery.
Kentucky, which played in the last two Final Fours under fourth-year coach John Calipari, becomes the 20th defending national champion to be left out of the NCAA tournament field and first since North Carolina in 2010.
The Wildcats will play at eighth-seeded Robert Morris on Tuesday because Rupp Arena is unavailable to the Wildcats. The second and third round of the NCAA tournament is being played in Lexington.
Alabama was likely done in by late road losses at Florida and Ole Miss — which made a surprising run to the SEC tournament title. The Tide beat Tennessee in the conference tournament but lost a rematch with the Gators on a neutral court.
“We felt like we needed to play our way in and we weren’t fortunate enough to do that. We’re thankful to have a chance to participate in the postseason,” Grant said.
Southern Miss (25-9) lost in double overtime to Memphis in the Conference USA title game with an NCAA bid on the line. The Golden Eagles will host Charleston Southern on Wednesday.
“We believe we should have been in the NCAA tournament, especially when you see some of the other teams that got in,” Southern Miss coach Donnie Tyndall said. “But there’s still opportunity for us and I believe we’ll bounce back.”
Virginia (21-11), which was blown out by North Carolina State in the ACC tournament quarterfinals, hosts Norfolk State on Tuesday.
Tennessee (20-12) is a No. 2 seed and hosts Mercer on Wednesday.
Maryland, Baylor and Massachusetts are also No. 2 seeds, with the Minutemen in line to host third-seeded Iowa if both teams advance.
“It’s definitely a good thing for us to be able to continue playing. That’s always an honor and a blessing,” Iowa junior Devyn Marble said. “We’re looking forward to it and making sure we stay focused and take care of business. We’re going to come in with the same focus and mindset we’d have if they were a Big Ten team.”
Florida State will face Louisiana Tech on Tuesday, and Saint Joseph’s will host St. John’s in an intriguing matchup in Philadelphia.