Alabama-Creighton Preview

Alabama coach Anthony Grant says his team’s identity is its

defense.

It’s how the Crimson Tide (21-11) earned a trip to their first

NCAA tournament since 2006 and what they will rely on against

Creighton Friday at the Greensboro Coliseum. It should be an

intriguing eight-versus-nine matchup featuring teams with

contrasting styles and strengths.

Led by sophomore forward Doug McDermott, the nation’s

third-leading scorer, Creighton (28-5) is averaging 80 points per

game.

That’s seventh-best in the nation.

But the big question will be if the Bluejays can score at will

against a smothering Alabama defense that allowed just 58.1 points

per game, the fewest in the Southeastern Conference this

season.

”Alabama’s length and athleticism across the board is something

that we haven’t really seen this year,” said Creighton coach Greg

McDermott. ”They can disrupt things on the perimeter. So they’re

different than what we have seen in the Missouri Valley Conference

without question.”

Like many teams from mid-major conferences, Creighton will rely

heavily on the 3-pointer in the NCAA tournament.

They shoot the ball extremely well, hitting 42.5 percent from

beyond the arc and more than 50 percent of their shots overall from

the field.

Doug McDermott, son of the coach, is the Creighton’s

unquestioned leader at 23.2 points per game, the third-best mark in

men’s Division I basketball. He’s a magician when it comes to

finding ways to get off a shot.

The question will be if he’s able to get off those shots against

a long and athletic Alabama team.

Doug McDermott has seen his fair share of gimmick defenses this

season and chances are the Crimson Tide will have something in

store for him.

”Coach Grant just preaching to us just like our defense

intensity is bringing it every day and trying to stop the opponent

from scoring,” said Alabama’s Trevor Releford. ”That’s what we

live off of – our defense. That’s what we’re going to try to bring

to the game.”

Crimson Tide teammate Jamychal Green doesn’t seem too worried.

He said Alabama has seen a lot of great offensive teams this season

including Kentucky and Vanderbilt.

”I believe Creighton is kind of similar to Vanderbilt,” Green

said. ”We just got to do a good job of defending the 3-point line

and it just comes from the will to want to.

”I think that all of us have that will to get the job

done.”

Creighton has worked extensively on its offense this week, at

times practicing against seven and eight defenders on the

floor.

And they’ve worked extensively on breaking the press.

”Dead ball, they like to press a lot, like to deny our point

guard,” said Bluejays guard Antoine Young. ”So they’re going to

put a lot of pressure on us full court on especially on dead balls.

So we have got to probably put in a football playbook of sets for

that. So we’re pretty prepared for that.”

Added the 6-foot-7 Doug McDermott: ”Yeah, Alabama’s definitely

going to give us a much different look with their size. So it

should be a tough challenge, but we just got to be aggressive and

not be scared of making the extra pass.”

For Alabama it’s been a rocky road to get here.

They’ve endured the suspensions to Green, Releford, Andrew

Steele and Tony Mitchell for conduct detrimental to the team.

Releford and Steele missed two games, Green returned in late

February from injuries and a suspension and Mitchell was declared

out for the season.

”Every program at some point during the year, whether it’s

injuries or illnesses or something, you go through adversity,”

Grant said. ”Every coach you talk to says your team’s going to

face adversity and how you handle that adversity. Sometimes that

adversity can come through losing, sometimes it comes through

winning. But that’s just a part of the game. So our team’s no

different.

”And I think our guys have grown and matured over the course of

the season individually and collectively.”

The winner likely has a date Sunday with North Carolina,

providing the Tar Heels can get past 16th-seeded Vermont.

”It’s win or go home now, so we’re just going to leave it all

out there on the floor and whatever happens, happens,” Doug

McDermott said. ”But we feel like we can play with anybody, we’re

real confident bunch of guys, so I think it will go well.”