Greensboro, NC (Betting Express) - The Alabama Crimson Tide and Creighton Bluejays meet in second-round action of the NCAA Tournament as the two teams hit the floor at the Greensboro Coliseum in Midwest Regional action this afternoon.
Anthony Grant's Crimson Tide posted 21 victories this season to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in six years. Alabama finished a modest 9-7 in SEC play this year, but closed the season strong, with wins in five of its last seven games. The team opened SEC Tournament play with a 63-57 win over South Carolina, but the tournament run ended in the second round with a hard- fought 66-63 loss to Florida. The Tide are 18-18 all-time in NCAA Tournament history. Alabama has advanced to the Sweet 16 seven times and the Elite Eight once.
Greg McDemott led the Bluejays to 28 wins in his second season at the helm. Creighton finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference at 14-4, but captured the league's automatic bid after taking home the MVC Tournament title with a thrilling 83-79 overtime win against Illinois State. The Bluejays are making their 17th NCAA Tournament appearance and eighth in the last 14 years.
This is the first time these two teams have met on the hardwood. The winner of this game will move into the third-round against either top-seeded North Carolina or 16th-seeded Vermont.
Alabama will rely on its defensive tenacity in the tournament. The Crimson Tide are one of the stronger defensive units in the nation, ranking ninth among all Division I teams in scoring defense, allowing a meager 58.1 ppg. Out of the team's 32 opponents thus far, only 13 have eclipsed the 60-point plateau. Foes are shooting just .388 from the floor against Alabama, including .283 from three-point range. The strong effort at the defensive end has been a necessity because offensive production has been lacking at times. The team is netting a modest 64.9 ppg. Senior forward JaMychal Green is the team's top playmaker, shooting .544 from the floor and pacing the team in both scoring (14.0 ppg) and rebounding (7.4 rpg). Sophomore guard Trevor Releford (11.9 ppg) has been solid in support, but the scoring pool dries up quickly after that with no other player on the roster averaging more than 7.1 ppg.
The Bluejays employ an opposite gameplan, as it has been offensive proficiency that has fueled their success. Creighton comes into the tournament leading the nation in field-goal percentage (.509), while ranking third in three-point accuracy (.425) and seventh in scoring (80.0 ppg). The accolades have piled up for sophomore forward Doug McDermott. A First-Team All-American, the 6-7 McDermott was named the MVC Player of the Year. He led the conference and ranked third in the nation in scoring (23.2 ppg) and finished second in the MVC in rebounding (8.2 rpg), as well as three-point efficiency (.495). Antoine Young (12.5 ppg, 4.4 apg) complements McDermott and was named an All-MVC Second-Team member. Center Gregory Echenique (9.8 ppg. 7.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg) was named the MVC Defensive Player of the Year.