(8) Creighton vs. (9) Alabama: Midwest Region
Creighton 28-5, 14-4, MVC (Conference Tournament Champions)
Alabama 21-11, 9-7 (At large)
Time: 1:40 p.m. Friday
Location: Greensboro Coliseum in Greensboro, N.C.
Winner will face: (1) North Carolina or (16) Vermont/Lamar, Sunday
Creighton No. 19 AP; No. 20 ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll
Line: Alabama -1½ (O/U 131½)
Players to Watch
Creighton: F Doug McDermott, 6-7 So. (23.2 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 61% FG); G Antoine Young, 6-0 Sr. (12.5 ppg, 4.5 apg, 2.1 rpg); C Gregory Echenique, 6-9 Jr. (9.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.6 bpg). Young – the Blue Jays’ only senior who sees significant minutes – was strangely absent from any of the four All-MVC teams. Young was second on the team in scoring, second in assists and second in steals and hit game-winning shots to give Creighton victories over Long Beach State and Indiana State.
Alabama: F JaMychal Green, 6-8 Sr. (14 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 54.4% FG); G Trevor Releford, 6-0 So. (11.9 ppg, 2.7 apg, 48.1% FG); G Trevor Lacey, 6-3 Fr. (7.1 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 1.8 apg). Green has played well since serving a 4-game suspension. In the five games since, he has scored 69 points and grabbed 43 boards, including a 22-point, 10-rebound performance in the Tide’s 3-point SEC quarterfinal loss to Florida.
Why Each Team Dangerous
Creighton: McDermott is a very difficult guard. He can score inside and outside and he makes plays for his teammates. The Blue Jays lead the nation in field goal percentage at 50.9 percent, and they’re third with a 42.5 3-point percentage. They have also made 521 of their 712 free throws this season. It’s not just McDermott who can beat opponents. Young is a great slasher and playmaker, Echenique can score in the paint and Grant Gibbs, Ethan Wragge and Jahenns Mangiat all shoot over 40 percent from deep.
Alabama: The Tide really defend, particularly from the perimeter. Opponents are shooting just 38.8 percent against Bama, including just 28.5 percent from the 3-point line. If they can keep the Blue Jays from going off from deep, they’ll have a shot at staying in this game. Alabama is young but really athletic, even after the expulsion of Tony Mitchell. Releford, Lacey and Andrew Steele will give the less physically talented Jays some trouble.
Why Each Team is Vulnerable
Creighton: The Jays’ defense is average. It has surrendered 68 points or more 14 times. Creighton allowed opponents to shoot 43.8 percent from the field and 35.6 from the 3-point line. It only forced 8.6 turnovers per game in MVC play. Opponents also get to the foul line over 17 times per game against the Jays.
Alabama: Bama really struggles to put the ball in the basket. It has scored 70-plus points just once since the beginning of February. For the season, the Tide are shooting just 45.2 percent from the floor and 28.5 from the 3-point line. They made only 129 3-pointers all season, fewest in the SEC and among the fewest in the nation. Despite its size and athleticism, Alabama only out-rebounded opponents by 2.2 per game during the regular season. It averages just 10.8 offensive rebounds per game, which is 203rd nationally.
The Bottom Line: As good as Alabama’s perimeter defense has been, it can’t slow Creighton’s offense. This is one of the easiest picks (against the spread) of the first round.
The Pick: Creighton 79, Alabama 69
Greg Against the Spread This Season: 198-150-6
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