Next NIT Challenge Is From Maryland

In November of 2011 in the opening round of the Puerto Rico Classic, Alabama defeated Maryland, 62-42. That has about as much relevance to Tuesday night's NIT quarterfinals match-up of the Tide and Terrapins as did the first Alabama-Maryland basketball game, a 27-21 Maryland triumph in the first round of the Southern Conference Championship in Atlanta in 1925.

Alabama (23-12) will host Maryland (24-12) in the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament at 6:30 p.m. CDT Tuesday at Coleman Coliseum. The winner advances to the semifinals in New York's Madison Square Garden.

The Crimson Tide of Coach Anthony Grant, by virtue of its number one seed, has played two previous home games in advancing to the quarterfinals, defeating Northestern by 62-43 and Stanford by 66-54. The Terrapins of Coach Mark Turgeon are the number two seed in the bracket and advanced to Tuesday's game by beating Niagra 86-70 and Denver 62-52 in College Park, Md.

(Basketball followers in Alabama may recognize Turgeon's name from his first head coaching job at Jacksonville State 1998-2000. Turgeon, however, is a native of Kansas and played basketball at Kansas.)

When Alabama and Maryland met in Puerto Rico at the start of last season, the star for Bama was the since-departed Tony Mitchell, who had 17 points. Trevor Releford, now a junior guard for Bama, had 10 points. The Terps did not have anyone score in double figures in San Juan. Maryland returns two starters from that team, sophomore guard Nick Faust and senior forward James Padgett.

The most notable thing about this year's Maryland team is that the Terrapins defeated Duke twice, including 83-74 in the ACC Tournament March 15.

Maryland's normal starting lineup includes 6-5, 215-pound soph wing Dez Wells, who is averaging 13.2 points per game; 7-1, 250-pound soph center Alex Len, averaging 11.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game; and 6-6 soph guard Nick Faust, averaging 9.5 points per game. Beyond that, it's anyone's guess. The Terps have the ability to play with two post players, but Maryland has also been effective with four- and even five-guard lineups.

Maryland has played very well of late with Wells averaging 19.4 points and Faust 12.6 in the most recent five games.

Bama, which has won 12 consecutive home games going into Tuesday night, is led by Releford, averaging 15.1 points per game; Trevor Lacey, 11.5; and Rodney Cooper, 10.1.

Grant said he is "really impressed" with Maryland. He noted that the Terrapins had been "very competitive in their conference" and that Maryland goes about 10 deep in its playing rotation.

He said Maryland's play mirrors that of Alabama "in some ways," including a pressing defense and being "one of the best defensive teams in their conference." The Terps have allowed 64 points per game this year, while Alabama has given up 58.4 points per game.

Grant said Alabama's play in the NIT has been "pretty much as it was in the regular season." Bama has averaged 64 points and allowed an average of 48.5 in the first two games. Bama has rebounded well, 37-27 against Northeastern and 39-36 against Stanford.

Grant added he would like to see fewer turnovers. Bama turned it over 12 times in each game.

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