March 22, 2011 9:31:00 AM
There''s plenty of Madness that goes on outside the NCAA tournament.
The trick to enjoying it is not getting caught up in the fact you''re not playing in the "Big Dance" and that you still have a chance to win a championship.
Tierney Jenkins isn''t about to let her first -- and last -- chance to play following the Southeastern Conference tournament end. The senior forward will lead the University of Alabama women''s basketball team against the Toledo Rockets in the Sweet 16 of the Women''s National Invitation Tournament at 7 tonight at the John F. Savage Arena in Toledo, Ohio.
"I think we''re playing really well," said Jenkins, one of four seniors who is in her first postseason action. "We''re playing as a team and we''re hitting on all cylinders."
Alabama (18-14) is coming off road victories against the University of Memphis and Northwestern. The Crimson Tide remained in Chicago on Sunday after beating the Wildcats. Jenkins and her teammates had an opportunity to enjoy some of the perks of postseason play, as they spend some of Monday shopping. They arrived in Ohio on Monday night and will try to make history tonight. A victory would mark the first time Alabama has won three games in the postseason since it advanced to the Final Four of the NCAA tournament in 1993-94.
Jenkins, who was named a first-team All-SEC performer by The Associated Press, is enjoying her first postseason experience. She said the confidence the team has gained from its stay in the WNIT will help the younger players reach the ultimate goal, which is to get back to the NCAA tournament.
"I am sure by the time this freshman class is seniors they will be in the NCAA tournament," Jenkins said. "We feel we lost a lot of games we should have won and that we are a good team. We want to prove it in the WNIT."
Jenkins'' last-second layup helped Alabama edge Northwestern 72-70. She finished with a team-high 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for her 20th double-double of the season.
The Crimson Tide also has forced 46 turnovers in the past two games. Alabama matched its season-high with 19 steals at Northwestern.
Toledo (25-8) is coming off a 67-52 victory against Auburn.
"Our team is playing really well right now, and we want to continue this postseason run as long as we can," Alabama coach Wendell Hudson said. "This will be another quick turnaround for us, as we will be playing our third game in six days, but we will be prepared when we hit the court (tonight)."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.