As Usual, Alabama Counts On Defense
Just as in the NCAA Final Four, a bracket quirk has what appears to be a possible championship game being played in the semifinals. Alabama and Colorado at the two number one seeds that made it to New York. The winner of Tuesday's game will face either Wichita State or Washington State in the championship game Thursday. Washington State and Wichita State meet in the first game Tuesday at Madison Square Garden with tipoff at 7 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. central).
The Crimson Tide is making its sixth trip to the NIT Final Four in fabled Madison Square Garden and has advanced to the title game once, during its last trip in 2001.This year's edition of the Tide advanced to New York City by virtue of home wins against Coastal Carolina, New Mexico and Miami to build a 24-11 record this season.
"It's one of the greatest atmospheres in college basketball to be able to play in the Garden," UA head coach Anthony Grant said. "Our guys are excited about the opportunity to play in the Garden and what's at stake – a chance to play for a championship. When you look at the history and the great players and great teams in the NIT, to have the opportunity to compete for a championship – I'm excited about it and I know our guys are as well."
Colorado has an offense that ranks in 11th in the nation in scoring at 80.1 points per game with Alec Burks averaging 20.5 points per game to rank 18th nationally in scoring. He is also one of just four players in the nation to average more than 20 points, 6.0 rebounds and 2.5 assist per game.
"They're very explosive and over the course of the season they averaged about 80 points a game and have some very explosive scorers," Grant said of the Tide's next opponent. "Our goal will be to try and get as prepared as we can and understand what we need to do from a defensive standpoint to have success and then offensively, attack their defenses. For us it will be the same as it has been all year.
Colorado racked up wins over Texas Southern, California and Kent State to amass a 24-13 overall record heading into Tuesday's game. Its high-octane offense will face a defense that has been equally successful as the Tide has limited opponents to 59.2 points per game, the eighth lowest average in nation.
That defense averages 9.4 steals per game with five players ranking in the top 10 in steals in the Southeastern Conference this season. Offensively, the Tide has been led by freshman Trevor Releford in the postseason with 18 points per game after scoring a career-high 22 points in the win over Miami.
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