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After winning the Southeastern Conference regular season and tournament titles, Alabama will begin its NCAA Tournament run Thursday afternoon. This year's Crimson Tide team is arguably the most talented roster the program's ever had, led by All-American and future NBA talent Brandon Miller.

There is no doubt of the team’s potential, but all of the accomplishments before the big dance become secondary at this point. Teams that were considered locks to make it through the first few rounds have been upset by lower-seeded opponents. And there is usually one team that completely defies expectations.

One of those teams is etched in the history of crimson and white: the 2003-04 Alabama team that made it to the Elite Eight.

That year's team, led by Kennedy Winston, Earnest Shelton and current assistant coach Antoine Pettway, knocked off 1-seed Stanford and 5-seed Syracuse to reach the Elite Eight before falling to Ben Gordon, Emeka Okafor and eventual national champion UConn. 

Still, the Tide's Elite Eight run is one of the most memorable moments in program history. Along with all the talent on the team, there was the coach that led it there: Mark Gottfried.

"That's the beauty of the NCAA Tournament," Gottfried told BamaCentral. "Anybody can beat anybody on a given night. That's why you play the games because nobody knows."

Gottfried briefly recalled how Alabama made its run: a late go-ahead shot by Pettway to defeat Southern Illinois, a 3-point win against the Cardinals, then an 80-71 win over the Orange. Of course, the run came to an end at the hands of the Huskies, and the program hasn't made it that far in the tournament since. 

Of course, this year's team is projected to reach and even surpass the mark set by the Elite Eight team, and Gottfried recognizes the talent.

"I think this is probably the most talented team since the '02 team or the '04 team," Gottfried said. "I don't know that any other team has been this talented."

When asked about the similarities between the two teams, Gottfried said that both teams are "hungry."

"You gotta have some talent, obviously. But when I watch this year's team play, they seem to be very hungry, they seem to have great chemistry, and they seem to play really well together. They have a lot of the things that can contribute to a deep run," Gottfried said.

Nate Oats, who just won his second SEC title (regular season and tournament), said during a press conference that he also believes hunger and chemistry are important, and he cites the runs that Alabama has made in the past along with the runs he's made as the head coach at Buffalo.

"The chemistry and hunger go hand in hand a lot of times," Oats said. "When you got really competitive guys that want to keep playing together as long as they can, you end up with teams that make runs."

When Gottfried was asked what it would take for Alabama to go on a run, the key, which he said Oats is aware of, is to "take care of today"

"Fans will get excited because they're ranked No. 1 and they're gonna start making plans for the Final Four," Gottfried said. "But if you're a coach, you're worried about every day. You want to make sure the practice is good and the next game is good. You can't start getting ahead of yourself. I'm sure the coaching staff feels the same way."

Making each practice count has been a focus for Oats and his program all season. And on Thursday afternoon, the stage is set for the Crimson Tide to put its preparation on display.

See also: Who Will Make a Name For Themselves in the NCAA Tournament? Just A Minute

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