Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Game Preview - at Creighton

Alabama will return to the court as part of the postseason NIT when they travel to Omaha, Nebraska to play the Creighton Bluejays of the Big East Conference. Game time is 8:00. ESPN will handle the television duties. Some may be bummed to see Alabama in another NIT, but not all NIT teams are equal. I think this is a nice consolation prize for a team that wasn't expected to sniff the postseason. I do think Alabama deserved a home game, but when you're matched up with a team that averages 16-17,000 fans for a game and one key component is putting asses in seats, it's not hard to figure how Creighton won that coin flip. It will be a challenge marching into a hostile atmosphere, but I do like Alabama's chances from a match-up standpoint.

Stats


Alabama
Creighton



66.8 PPG 79.6
67.8 OPP 73.0
.427 FG% .468
.407 OPP .439
50.1 EFG% 53.7
46.4 OPP 49.7
.343 3PT% .352
.328 OPP .352
.640 FT% .702
.669 OPP .690
41.2 FTRATE 37.4
39.8 OPP 33.3
34.7 RPG 36.6
37.9 OPP 35.3
28.2 OREB% 26.6
34.3 OPP 26.2
13.3 TOPG 11.5
12.1 OPP 12.7
20.0 TO% 15.9
18.1 OPP 17.5

Creighton wants to play at a fast tempo (currently 78th in KenPom's adjusted tempo rankings), averaging just under 80 points per game and are ranked in KenPom's top 50 in possession length (top 75 in offensive efficiency) and defensive efficiency. Alabama by comparison is ranked in the 300s at KenPom in both tempo and possession length. So, yeah, the team that controls the tempo is going to have the best chance to win this game.

Three Players to Watch

Maurice Watson Jr. (Jr. 5'10, 170 lb) leads the team in scoring (14.2) and assists (6.5). A 2nd team All Big East player, Watson can be effective in a number of ways. His 32-point, 7 rebound, 5 assist and 2 steal performance in Creighton's upset of Xavier earlier this season is just one example of what he can do. Alabama must make him priority one on defense.

Alabama has had a tendency to play soft in the post at times this season. The result has been opposing post players having career nights, looking like 1st round draft picks. Alabama can not allow Geoffrey Groselle (Sr 7'0, 240 lb) to have that kind of night. Primarily a back-to-the-basket type of player, Groselle is third in scoring (10.7) so he's capable of having a good night offensively, but he also leads the team in rebounds (5.8) and blocks (1.2). 

Another guy to watch is Cole Huff (Jr. 6'8, 215). What I've seen of him, he plays more like a guard in a forward's body. 2nd on the team in scoring (11.5), he shoots the ball well (37% from 3, 79% from FT) and is 2nd on the team in rebounding (4.9). Huff has played very well down the stretch, averaging 17 points in the last six games, including a 35-point showing in their last game vs Seton Hall in the Big East tournament.

I never want to see an Alabama basketball season come to an end. But this team in particular has been a joy to watch, despite the ups and downs. Seeing a guy like Retin develop into a 1st team All SEC performer or Arthur Edwards finally find a system that fits his skill set and genuinely come to love appreciate the opportunity at the University of Alabama or a guy like Donta Hall, whom many of us did not expect much from this season, show flashes of perhaps becoming a dominant defensive player in the very near future. That's been fun to watch, regardless of the postseason destination. The future seems very bright with Avery Johnson in charge, but I hope we have a few more weeks left with this team.

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