Why Alabama basketball win vs. Florida served as preparation for March Madness

It's fitting that Rylan Griffen's shot didn't fall. Him draining a triple wouldn't have been the right way for Alabama basketball to win the game vs. Florida on Wednesday.

It wasn't gritty enough. It would have been too different from how the Crimson Tide had fought to be in that spot. It would have been too easy.

On a night where No. 13 Alabama didn't use 3-pointers as a constant catalyst for offensive success, the Crimson Tide instead crashed the net and won the game.

As Griffen missed the shot from beyond the arc, Sam Walters and Aaron Estrada each crashed the net. Walters tipped the ball, and Estrada found a way to tap it in the net off the backboard. As a result, Alabama had a three-point lead with seven seconds left in overtime. The Crimson Tide hung on to win the game over the Gators 98-93.

"Crashing is something that we’ve been stressing all week," Walters said. "Really just our whole season, but really throughout the past week. We figured out we needed to crash harder because we are pretty athletic, pretty long. That’s a thing we’ve been trying to work on. That’s something I’ve been working on as well. I was glad to be able to tip it to him so he could score."

That's the type of win Alabama, which scored 56 points in the paint, will likely need to replicate at some point in the postseason, whether it be the SEC Tournament or March Madness. It's the type of result that will better condition the Crimson Tide (19-7, 11-2 SEC) for the postseason.

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That was not the Crimson Tide's best game. Far from it. Alabama didn't play all that well at times. Sure, the lack of 3-pointers falling in the first half in particular wasn't ideal. But the inconsistent defense was even more of a problem.

The Crimson Tide often just couldn't shake Florida. Many times when Alabama started to get offensive momentum, it fizzled almost immediately because the Crimson Tide couldn't get a stop.

Yet Alabama didn't give up on it. The last possession of regulation for Florida, the Crimson Tide forced two missed shots. That defensive effort ultimately resulted in overtime.

"Honestly we didn’t play well in a lot of areas and still found a way to win against a good team," Alabama coach Nate Oats said. "I mean this is a team as hot as any in this league. Got the No. 9-ranked offense in the country. Shoot, we didn’t do a great job on defense. Made them look even better than the No. 9 offense in the country, and we still figure out ways to win."

That's the key to the drill right there — make mistakes and still push through.

The 100-point, blowout wins are nice and fun, but they aren't going to happen near as much in the postseason. That's especially the case the farther a team goes.

So if Alabama wants to make an NCAA Tournament run, it will have to know how to deal with things not going right. It's going to have to believe it can win, even when it's not playing well.

"We can reference these comebacks that we’ve had," Oats said. "It’s hard to win six straight games in March. It’s hard to win three straight. We’ve done it twice. It’s not that easy to win three straight games against really good teams in the SEC Tournament. If we get down in one of those SEC Tournament games or NCAA Tournament games, you reference these games where we’ve been down and came back and win. Give them some belief, some hope."

The win over Florida only sharpened Alabama's belief tool, a vital instrument for March Madness.

Nick Kelly is the Alabama beat writer for The Tuscaloosa News, part of the USA TODAY Network, and he covers Alabama football and men's basketball. Reach him at or follow him @_NickKelly on X, the social media app formerly known as Twitter.

This article originally appeared on The Tuscaloosa News: Alabama basketball: Why Florida game served as March Madness prep