Maryland at Alabama: NIT Quarterfinals Preview and Game Thread

Bama Sophmore G Rodney Cooper Soars - Andy Lyons

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After what many consider its most complete game of the season, Alabama welcomes Maryland into Coleman Coliseum tonight for the Quarterfinal round of the NIT tournament. The winner travels to New York and Madison Square Garden to play in the NIT Final Four next Tuesday, April 2nd. The Tide dominated the Stanford Cardinals Saturday to the tune of a 66-54 win that, frankly, wasn't that close most of the game. We saw what Bama is capable of doing when we find consistency in our game. What made this game the most complete we've played this year? Here are the keys I believe contributed to our success:

  • Defense - obvious point is obvious, but our defense cannot be understated. In the game Saturday, we played with our usual intensity and effort. The difference in this game is we did not let up the entire game. Predictably, our offense suffered the same scoring drought that has plagued it in many (most?) games this season; however, the defensive effort never faltered and we were able to maintain a strong lead and regroup on offense. This is a huge stepping stone for us as the guys build confidence in themselves.
  • Stanford made 10 3-pointers, but it took them half their attempted shots (29 of 58 FG attempts were beyond the arc) to get there. This equates to a 34.5% 3P percentage, but also means they went 8-29, or 27.6%, from the rest of the floor, which leads us to...
  • Prior to the game, many analysts pointed to Stanford's post play as a major advantage for the Cardinals, but the results of the game proved differently. Alabama outrebounded the birds 38-32 and Moussa Gueye, Nick Jacobs, and Devonta Pollard stayed out of foul trouble.
  • Speaking of personal fouls, Alabama finally played more disciplined and kept the bigs out of foul trouble - which is huge considering the lack of depth inside this year due to injuries and youth. Not only did they get to the line 26 times compared to Stanford's 9 trips, but they took advantage shooting a very respectable 84.6% overall and contributing 22 points to the score. Further, the Tide went 8-10 from the free throw line in the final 5 minutes as Stanford attempted to chip away at the lead; this means in the first 35 minutes of meaningful game time Alabama shot 14-16 from the line, a very good 87.5%.

Maryland, however, is a bit different. The Terps are typically seen in postseason play, going 5 of the last 10 years into the NCAA tournament. Historically they have 1 National Championship, 2 Final Fours, 4 Elite Eights, and 13 Sweet Sixteens. This season they have struggled a bit, but still hold wins over NCAA tournament teams NC State and Duke (whom they beat twice this season). They will certainly be a step up from Stanford, even at a #4 seed, and will present challenges to this Tide team.

Terps playing their best basketball:

Since opening postseason play in the ACC Tournament, Maryland has played some of its best basketball, winning four out of the last five behind the play of Dez Wells and Nick Faust. Wells is averaging 19.4 points per game on .586 (34-58) shooting, while Faust is averaging 12.8 points per game. As a team, Maryland is shooting .476 from the field, .386 from 3-point range and .797 from the free throw line.

Over the past 10 games, Faust is shooting .500 (43-86) from the field, .442 (19-43) from 3-point range and averaging 13.2 points per game. He has scored in double figures in seven straight games. Wells, meanwhile, is averaging 18.3 points per game over the last nine and shooting .564 (61-110) from the field in that span.

Maryland will have an advantage in the post:

Turgeon mentioned that, with Allen out, the front court could actually receive plenty minutes. Alabama only rotates one player taller than 6 feet 8, so the opportunity is there for Alex Len, James Padgett, Charles Mitchell and Shaq Cleare to make their mark.

Defensive challenge?

It isn't often that the Crimson Tide faces a team that is holding opponents to a lower field-goal shooting percentage. Alabama opponents' field-goal shooting percentage is .402. Maryland opponents' rate is .393.

This will be a rebounding challenge for the Tide. Its average rebounding margin is minus-0.5. Maryland's average rebounding margin is plus-8.8.

What is the Tide's edge? It has an average turnover margin of plus-1.9. Maryland comes in at minus-4.2.

Maryland and Alabama are similar teams in many ways:

Both teams start a 7-footer, two guards and two players that swing between guard and forward.

Both teams can go smaller. The second-seeded Terps (24-12) resorted to five guards last week in a 62-52 second-round victory over Denver.

Both teams are young. Maryland has one senior - forward James Padgett, who comes off the bench - and starts a junior, three sophomores and a freshman. That lineup makes the Tide look experienced with two juniors and three sophomores.

Both teams play aggressive defense. Alabama's numbers are better - it has held opponents to 58.4 points per game compared to Maryland's 64-point average, and in the past five games, the gap is wider (52.8 vs. 67.4) - but a deliberate half-court offense keeps the Tide's defensive numbers down.

Coach Grant:

"They mirror us in a lot of ways in terms of the way they press, having guys that play multiple positions, playing with a lot of effort and I think they are one of the best defensive teams in their conference. From a versatility standpoint, they are a deep team with a lot of moveable parts."

Coach Grant speaks to UA Media (Rolltide.com):

On what his team has done better in the postseason:

"I haven't had the opportunity to sit back and reflect. We just played Saturday and we play again on Tuesday, so I'm in preparation mode trying to see what we need to do to get a win. But if you just look at the numbers, we've done the same thing we've done all season and that's defending well. I think the numbers say that. In the two NIT games, we've rebounded the ball well. Any time you do those two things in a game, rebound and defend, you are going to have a chance. Areas that the numbers say we have to get better is I'd like to see us take care of the ball better. Our assist-to-turnover ratio needs to get better."

On Maryland going to a five-guard lineup vs. Denver:

"They are capable of that. They have a very deep and versatile roster and those are things we've talked to our guys about. They have the ability to go with five guards like they did against Denver, or go traditional with two bigs. They have good size and physicality. They have played a lot of different ways during the course of the year, so that's something that we have to be prepared for."

On teams that Alabama has played this season that remind him of Maryland:

"They mirror us in a lot of ways in terms of the way they press, having guys that play multiple positions, playing with a lot of effort and I think they are one of the best defensive teams in their conference. From a versatility standpoint, they are a deep team with a lot of moveable parts."

Alabama Leaders (Rolltide.com):

Junior guard Trevor Releford leads UA in scoring (15.1 ppg) and steals (2.1 spg), while sophomore guards Trevor Lacey (11.5 ppg) and Rodney Cooper (10.1 ppg) also average in double figures.

Sophomore Guard Levi Randolph

On Maryland's leading scorer Dez Wells:

"We watched a little bit of film (Sunday) and he is a really good player. He can get to the rim, can shoot the ball and is really fast. He is a good defender too. I am sure we will go over it more (Monday), but from what I've seen he is a very good player."

On Maryland beating Duke twice this season:

"We just need to do what coach asks us to do and play our style of play. The rest will take care of itself."

Junior Guard Trevor Releford

On Maryland beating Duke twice this season:

"Maryland is a good team. They can beat anyone on any given night and we just have to be ready."

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