There are 32 games on Thursday and Friday, one of the most exciting 48-hour segments on the sports calendar.
We won’t be able to get individual previews up for every game, but we’ll cherry pick some of the more compelling matchups during the tournament’s “second” round.
In this post, we preview the Midwest Region’s 8-9 matchup between the Creighton Fighting McDermotts of the Missouri Valley Conference and the Alabama “Yes We Play Basketball Too” Crimson Tide of the SEC.
Creighton-Alabama Game Info
- Seeds & Region: #8 Creighton v #9 Alabama in Midwest Region
- Creighton-Alabama Date: Friday, March 16th
- Creighton-Alabama Tip Time: 1:40 ET
- Creighton-Alabama Location: Greensboro
- Creighton-Alabama TV: TNT
- Creighton-Alabama Announcers: Jim Nantz and Clark Kellogg
- Creighton-Alabama Point Spread: Alabama -1.5
- Tickets: Creighton-Alabama Tickets
- Tickets: All Greenboro Sessions
- Tickets: Midwest Regional Tickets in St. Louis
This is just your classic prolific offense versus stingy defense matchup that should provide an interesting contrast in styles.
Led by sophomore Doug McDermott, the Bluejays boast one of the nation’s most efficient offenses, but Alabama ranks in the Top 10 in defensive efficiency as well. Creighton ranks in the Top Five in three-point shooting, but Alabama ranks in the Top Five in three-point defense. The difference might be Creighton’s ability to get to the free throw line, because opponents have posted a relatively high free throw rate against the Crimson Tide this year.
On the other end of the floor, Creighton’s defensive shortcomings will allow us to see just how poor Alabama’s offense really is. If Gregory Echenique can hold his own inside against JaMychal Green and Nick Jacobs, I like the Bluejays’ chances to advance.
Predicted Winner: Creighton
Creighton's Doug McDermottCreighton Bluejays Team Capsule
- Conference: Missouri Valley
- Record: 28-5 (14-4 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 7-3
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 3-1
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Long Beach State, San Diego State, Wichita State
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Wichita State
- Player to Watch: Doug McDermott (6’7″ F, So.) – 23.2 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 61.0 FG%, 49.5 3P%
Creighton Bottoms Line:
The Bluejays bounced back from a three-game losing streak in early February to win their final seven games, including Arch Madness. Creighton boasts one of the most prolific and most efficient offenses in the country, ranking fourth on KenPom. They are third in both two- and three-point shooting at 55.5% and 42.5%, respectively, and they are also in the Top 50 for turnover rate.
If you haven’t had the chance to see Doug McDermott play, I implore you to check him out. His shooting percentages and overall efficiency numbers are off the charts, and he can beat teams both inside and out. The Bluejays also have a tough, veteran point guard in Antoine Young, who can attack the basket and has shown the propensity to make clutch shots.
Inside, Rutgers transfer Gregory Echenique provides a strong rebounding and shot-blocking presence inside. Creighton also has three other members of the rotation who make over 40 percent from three-point range, and Grant Gibbs does a little bit of everything for this squad.
The area where Creighton is most vulnerable is on the defensive end, where they rank in the middle of the pack in adjusted efficiency. Interestingly, they rate highly in defensive rebounding percentage and opponents’ free throw rate, but they are next to last in turnover rate and struggle to defend the three-point line. However, the Bluejays can score with the best of them and could be poised for a Davidson-esque run with McDermott playing the role of Steph Curry.Alabama Crimson Tide Team Capsule
- Conference: SEC
- Record: 21-11 (9-7 conf)
- Last 10 Games: 6-4
- Record vs. Tournament Teams: 4-6
- Wins vs. Tournament Teams: Detroit, Purdue, VCU, Wichita State
- Losses vs. Tournament Teams: Florida (2), Georgetown, Kansas State, Kentucky, Vanderbilt
- Player to Watch: JaMychal Green (6’8” F, Sr.) – 14.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 1.4 bpg, 54.4 FG%
Alabama Bottoms Line:
It has been virtually the same formula for the Crimson Tide this year where they are among the best in the nation on the defensive end but struggle to score points.
Alabama ranks ninth in adjusted defensive efficiency, with Top 50 marks in two-point defense, three-point defense, steal percentage, and block percentage. The main area where they struggle is their opponents’ free throw rate, but make no mistake, the Tide can lock people up on the defensive end. Offensively it’s another matter. Then rank 135th or worse in all four factors and make just 28.5 percent from beyond the arc. Overall, they rank 109th in adjusted offensive efficiency.
JaMychal Green leads the team in scoring and rebounding, but a suspension in the middle of the SEC season had his future with the team in doubt. He rebounds at a high rate on both ends of the floor, draws a lot of fouls, and is an effective shot-blocker. Point guard Trevor Releford scores 11.9 points per game and is second in assists with 2.7 per game.
Five other Alabama players score between 5.3 and 7.1 points per game, but just two of them (Andrew Steeler and Nick Jacobs) make at least half of their shots. Jacobs has an impressive offensive rebounding percentage and is a decent shot-blocker as well, and he’s seen more playing time after the dismissal of Tony Mitchell.
Related: Jump to our Midwest Region Bracket Breakdown
See our other individual game previews:
- South Region: #5 Wichita State v #12 VCU
- South Region: #4 Indiana v #13 New Mexico State
- South Region: #7 Notre Dame v #10 Xavier
- South Region: #8 Iowa State v #9 Connecticut
- South Region: #6 UNLV v #11 Colorado
- West Region: #5 New Mexico v #12 Long Beach State
- West Region: #8 Memphis v #9 Saint Louis
- West Region: #7 Florida v #10 Virginia
- West Region: #6 Murray State v #11 Colorado State
- West Region: #4 Louisville v #13 Davidson
- East Region: #5 Vanderbilt v #12 Harvard
- Midwest Region: #5 Temple v #12 Cal/USF
- Midwest Region: #7 St. Mary’s v #10 Purdue
- Midwest Region: #4 Michigan v #13 Ohio
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