Can Creighton conquer Alabama?
Avery Johnson’s odds-defying Alabama team has been given another chance to keep the program's newfound momentum going.
The fifth-seeded Crimson Tide will visit No. 4 seed Creighton in the first round of the NIT, with a 9 p.m. ET tip tonight in Nebraska. The victor advances to take on either Wagner or St. Bonaventure.
Online sports book Bovada.lv likes the Bluejays to protect their home floor this evening. Creighton is an 8-point favorite and should lean heavily on its postseason experience (three straight NCAA tourney appearances between 2011-14).
But while the CenturyLink Center’s regular inhabitants can play the pedigree card, Alabama bows to no one. It upset Ole Miss in the second round of last week’s SEC jamboree before falling at the considerable hands of Kentucky.
Johnson recognizes that his group lost five of six down the stretch. At one juncture, though, the Crimson Tide ranked 29th in RPI. Sensational senior Retin Obasohan and company often created havoc on defense, holding opponents to a shooting percentage of 40.7.
Greg McDermott obviously cuts his own imposing figure on the other sideline. The Bluejays came up short against then-No. 5 Xavier, 98-93, on March 5 before getting bounced from the Big East quarterfinals by eventual champion Seton Hall. All year, however, Maurice Watson Jr. (14.2 points per game) guided a twine-tickling offensive attack that specialized in reaching the 80s.
It’s also no coincidence that Bama notched four victories over four top-25 squads, including Texas A&M, Notre Dame and Wichita State. Taking the limited prep time into consideration, bet on Johnson to match wits with McDermott and keep the avian-loving crowd on edge until the end.
TUESDAY NCAA FREE PICK: ALABAMA +8