Alabama Opens Up NIT Against Creighton
The Crimson Tide didn't make it into the NCAA Tournament field of 68, but they are playing postseason basketball, and it all starts Tuesday night against the Creighton Blue Jays.
The last time these two teams played was in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, the last time the Tide made it to the Big Dance, and the Blue Jays were able to squeeze out a 58-57 victory over the Trevor Releford-led Tide squad. Will it be a similar result, or will Alabama get their revenge from four years ago?
One thing that has most definitely changed since then is the absence of Doug McDermott, Creighton's main scoring threat from four years ago. However, his father, Greg McDermott, is still the head coach, and the Blue Jays can still shoot the ball extremely well.
For starters, this Creighton team is led by junior guard Maurice Watson. Watson leads this team from the floor with 14.2 points/game, but his most impressive stat is his 6.6 assists/game, good enough for 10th in college basketball. Along with his ability to distribute the rock, his assist/turnover ratio is a solid 2.0 (3.3 turnovers/game). He's the main ball handler on this Blue Jays team, but he takes care of the ball and gets his teammates involved as well as anyone else in the country; all the while averaging 14.2 points. He's a special talent, and the Alabama guards will have their hands full containing his production.
This could potentially be the final game for senior guard Retin Obasohan, so expect him to show out to extend his playing career at least one more game. The Blue Jays give up 73 points/game as a team, so Obasohan should have plenty of opportunities to use his athleticism and attack the basket. He was kept in check during the Tide's match-up in the SEC Tournament against the Ole Miss Rebels, so he'll be looking to do what he can to get Alabama the victory.
However, it's been a pattern over the course of the season that even if Obasohan has a great game, it doesn't exactly correlate to a win for the Crimson Tide. Alabama needs production from the rest of the team, and that starts with junior forward Shannon Hale. In spurts, he looks like a sure-fire NBA player, but he has too often just disappeared entirely from the stat sheet this season. Having two players on the court who can score the basketball at any given time helps out any basketball team, and would be even more important for the Tide.
Another player who has shown he can play at an extremely high level is Justin Coleman, as we saw in this past Ole Miss game. Should he settle down and grab eight or ten points while getting the ball around to the open players on the court, that would take a ton of pressure off Obasohan and Hale, and would open up the Tide offense, something head coach Avery Johnson wants to play the game.