Tide Basketball Faces Maryland

Two things to get out of the way: One, this is not the same Alabama basketball team that stunk it up in the Virgin Islands last year. Two, it is not a vacation. Alabama is in San Juan, Puerto Rico, preparing for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Tournament.

Alabama, ranked 16th in the nation in one poll and 15th in the other this week, will play three games in four days beginning with Maryland at 4 p.m. CST Thursday. The game will be telecast by ESPN2 from the Coliseo de Puerto Rico.

Win or lose, Alabama will be playing against a team it met late last season in the National Invitation Tournament. Depending on how things go Thursday, the Crimson Tide will play either Colorado, which Bama edged 62-61 in the semifinals in Madison Square Garden in New York, or Wichita State, which defeated the Tide in the championship game, 66-57.

A primary reason Alabama was in the NIT rather than the NCAA Tournament last year was that the Tide was beaten by Seton Hall, Iowa, and lowly St. Peter's in late year's holiday tournament in the Virgin Islands.

Alabama is 2-0 this year. After a surprisingly easy 74-57 win over Oakland Monday night, sophomore point guard Trevor Releford said he thought one reason the Tide fared so poorly in the Virgin Islands last year was that the players went on "a vacation instead of a business trip."

Alabama Coach Anthony Grant said he didn't think the 2010-11 Bama team really felt it was on vacation, "but didn't have a realization of what we faced."

In any event, he pointed out, "This is a different team – a brand new team in a brand new year."

Grant said he has a "lot of respect for Maryland and its coaching staff," and said the tournament would be a "measuring stick for us.

"When you look at the teams in this tournament it will be a great opportunity for us to find out where we are as team against great competition," Grant said. "It'll be a very tough test, having to play three games in four days. You've got to be ready to go once you get there, which can be difficult with a young team."

The Crimson Tide opened its season with a pair of wins over North Florida (64-44) and Oakland. The Puerto Rico Tip Off will be UA's first game away from home this season where the Tide has won 22 straight games to tie for the fifth longest home winning streak in Division I.

Maryland is 1-0 on the young season under first-year coach Mark Turgeon after opening the season with a 71-62 win over UNC-Wilmington Sunday. Thursday's game will be the fourth between the two programs, but the first since the 1985-86 season. UA is 0-3 against Maryland.

Last season, Maryland posted a 19-14 record last season and averaged 76.8 points per game under former coach Gary Williams. Turgeon's first Terrapin team will have to prepare for a UA defense that is allowing just 50.5 points per game this season and just 59.4 points per game last season, the eighth lowest average in the nation.

Additionally, Alabama returns three preseason All-SEC selections in JaMychal Green, Tony Mitchell and Releford. Green has scored 18 points in each of the Tide's first two games on 56.5 percent shooting and Mitchell was just a rebound shy of opening the season with back-to-back double-doubles with 12 points and nine boards against Oakland and 17 points and 10 rebounds against UNF.

Maryland was led in its opener by Terrell Stoglin's 22 points off the bench with 10 of them coming at the free-throw line. Asthon Pankey and James Padgett also hit double figures with 13 and 12 points, respectively.

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