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BREAKING NEWS: Alabama coach is planning to…

The influences of Nick Saban, Avery Johnson on Alabama’s Final Four run.

The time off might be beneficial. After losing handily in its opening playoff game, perhaps Alabama basketball could find some answers. Perhaps Nate Oats, the head coach, could locate a road map.

Oats called Jim Boeheim on the Saturday following the Tide’s defeat to Florida—or maybe it was the Sunday, as weekends in March get jumbled up. Alabama looked over the information.

The NCAA Tournament is not always won by the best team. Ask the UA team from last year. Prior to March Madness, Syracuse has dropped four out of six games and twice had a run at it. Frank Martin and South Carolina followed suit, prompting another call from Oats.

Eventually, Oats needed more. His quest for efficiency and a better understanding of his team’s defense powered him. Oats contacted Nick Saban and asked a seven-time national champion what they needed to do.

“He kind of gave me the ‘next’ idea, next, next, next. So guys bought in. We can make this run. Other teams have done it. We have the capability to do it. We’ve got to get back to playing great defense, or start playing great defense, I don’t know if ‘back’ is the correct word,” Oats said. “But we can have the No. 1 offense in the country, we had it for the majority of the year. Let’s put a top-20 defense together and we can make a Final Four. And I think we did that.”

Alabama’s four-game run over Charleston, Grand Canyon, North Carolina and, as of Saturday night, Clemson, was powered by many things. A resounding dedication to defense. A bruising physicality. A most outstanding performance from Mark Sears. Hero ball moments from roll players. At the core of it all was one of the best coaching jobs in program history, and it may not be a discussion.

Oats received inspiration from a variety of colleagues as he led the Tide to five straight conference titles, including their first Final Four, and a Sweet 16 run in his fifth year. Similar to Patrick Murphy’s concept of “Mudita” in softball, which involves selfless buy-in and group joy.

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