NIT Participants Thinking Defense
Alabama and Colorado were both number one seeds when the National Invitation Tournament field was announced. The Crimson Tide and the Buffaloes have lived up to expectations, making it to the semifinals. Bama and Colorado will meet in the second of two semifinals games Tuesday night. Wichita State plays Washington State at 7 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. central time) followed by Alabama vs. Colorado at approximately 9 p.m. EDT (8 central) in Madison Square Garden. ESPN2 will televise the game.
Coaches and players met the media Monday. First year Colorado Coach Tad Boyle didn't waste time in putting his finger on the issue.
"We can score the ball," Boyle said. "That is going to be the interesting thing about our game with Alabama because they are so good defensively and we're pretty explosive offensively, so who wins that battle. They are a heck of a team. They are as athletic as any team we've played all year long at all five spots. They present a lot of challenges for us.
"Interior defense is always an issue for us. We have to do it as a team. JaMychal Green is a heckuva player. The (Chris) Hines kid can get down there and do work. The thing we have to do with Alabama is to limit them to one shot per possession because they are so good on the backboards - offensive rebounds, tipped dunks and putbacks. They just go get it."
Boyle said Alabama reminds him of his fellow Big 12 member Kansas State. "Number one, he said, "they are physical and athletic. They guard well. They are very well schooled. They can cover a lot of ground quickly and they are a good basketball team. K-State comes to mind. We played Georgia earlier in the year, a long, long time ago back in November. Georgia is a lot like Alabama in terms of their athleticism."
Colorado senior guard Cory Higgins also pointed to the Bama defense. "We have to limit our turnovers, limit their transition, and try to keep them off the glass," he said. "They reminded me of Missouri with their pressure and Kansas State the way they attack the glass."
The Colorado scoring star is Alec Burks, who has averaged over 25 points per game in NIT games. Asked about the Crimson Tide, Burks said, "They have one of the best defenses in college basketball. We have to rebound and play defense hard, lessen our turnovers, control the tempo.
"They kind of remind us of Missouri the way they play defense. Missouri is all over you just like Alabama."
Alabama Coach Anthony Grant is looking at it from a different perspective. He said Colorado is "outstanding in their ability to score the basketball. I think the biggest challenge is they are a team that has been led by an outstanding senior in (Cory) Higgins. They have one of the best players in (Alec) Burks, a first-team all-league performer. He's been on a tear as of late. They have other guys who have the ability of being extremely explosive. They have the (Levi) Knutson kid who I think led the Big12 in three-point field goal percentage with about 48 per cent, and the front court is extremely skilled with guys who have the ability to be explosive. For us we've had success on the defensive end. The biggest challenge will be trying to contain their team."
Bama junior forward JaMychal Green, who played in Madison Square Garden in a post-high school all-star game, said, "I think we have to defend well. They have a lot of guards and put their guards in certain positions. Sometimes they have guards one through five. It's going to be tough because they are all talented and they can shoot and dribble. We have to play team defense and stop the key players."
Senior wing player Charvez Davis echoed the theme. "We have to stop their offense," he said. "They are a transition team. They like to run. They score 80 plus points per game so we have to rebound, defend and stop them in transition."
Grant said the NIT performance is not about sending a message to the NCAA for leaving Bama out of the national championship tournament.
"I'm not really into sending messages," Grant said. "Our thing is we're trying to win the next game we play. This is a great opportunity to compete for a championship.
"I think it's a great building block for our team. We have a team full of guys that have never played in the post season. Obviously to have a chance to compete for a championship this late in the season is a great step in the right direction for our program. It's something hopefully we can use to continue to put us in a position to where we can do bigger and better things as we progress."
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