Tide Vs. Creighton In NCAA Tourney
Alabama will make its first trip to the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament Coach Anthony Grant as the Crimson Tide faces Creighton on Friday in Greensboro, N.C. Bama is the number 9 seed and Creighton, the champion of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, is number. Not to look ahead, but the winner faces the number two overall seed and top seed in the Midwest Regional, North Carolina, next Sunday. That is, assuming the Tar Heels can get past the winner of the play-in game between Lamar and Vermont.
"We are excited to be included in the NCAA Tournament this year," Grant said. "I think our guys worked extremely hard through the course of this year. This was a goal we set at the beginning of this season – to put ourselves in a position where would could play in this tournament at the end of this year. I'm really happy for JaMychal Green, as a senior, to have a chance to experience the NCAA Tournament and a chance to continue his career as long as we can continue to win."
The tournament appearance is the Tide's 18th in program history but its first since 2006. Creighton is making its 17th appearance and eighth in the last 14 years.
"Obviously we have great respect for Creighton knowing what they've accomplished over the course of the year," Grant said of the Tide's opponent. "As we get more information on them, we will begin to prepare our guys for what lies in front of us. We are going to focus on doing the best job we can in preparing for them."
Creighton was 28-5 on the season and was second in the league in regular season play. Bama, which was left out of the tournament last year, was 21-11. Creighton leads the nation in field goal percentage (.509) and also ranks third in three-point percentage (.425) and assists per game (17.9). Sophomore forward Doug McDermott – the son of Bluejays Coach Greg McDermott -- ranks third nationally in scoring (23.2) and has been named MVC Player of the Year, MVC Tournament Most Outstanding Player, and an All-America after setting a school-record for points in a season (765). He's joined in double-figures by senior point guard Antoine Young (12.5 ppg., 4.4 apg.). The Bluejays also boast the MVC Defensive Player of the Year, Gregory Echenique, who averages 9.8 points. 7.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.
Alabama was one of only four Southeastern Conference teams selected for the tournament. Kentucky is the number one seed in the tournament, despite losing in the finals of the SEC Tournament on Sunday. Vanderbilt, which defeated the Wildcats to win the SEC Tourney crown, is a a five seed. Florida, which elimintated Bama from the SEC Tournament Friday by a 66-63 margin, is a seven seed.
Grant said it was disappointing that more SEC teams were not selected, adding he expected five or six to make it into the NCAA Tournament.
In addition to the three SEC teams in the tournament (Bama was 0-4 against those three), Alabama defeated Wichita State, a five seed; Purdue, a 10 seed; and Detroit, a 15 seed; and the Tide lost to Georgetown, a three seed, and Kansas State, an 8 seed.
Grant said that he was particularly happy for JaMychal Green, Bama's lone senior, for Bama to be in the NCAA Tournament.
Green also appreciated it. "It's the best thing in the world," he said. "It's what you work for – to play in the tournament."
Green admitted he got worried as the tournament selection show droned on with no mention of the Tide until the final segment. "All I could think about was last year," he said. Bama's 2011 team was left out of the tournament despite an overall record of second in the SEC.
Junior guard Andrew Steele said, "When we heard our name, we were very excited."
Although many teams watch the selection show with fans, Grant keeps his team sequestered from fans and media during the announcement proceedings.
Grant said "over the next 24 hours," his staff would be gathering information on Creighton through videotapes, analysis of statistics, and perhaps through contact with teams that have played the Bluejays.
Alabama is expected to practice Monday-Wednesday in Tuscaloosa, then go to Greensboro.
Ticket information as well as the time and television network for Friday's contest will be announced as it becomes available.
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