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March 15, 2012

Tide sticking with same game plan for Creighton

GREENSBORO, N.C. | For the Creighton basketball team, the view of the University of Alabama seems to begin and end with the first two letters on the Crimson Tide jersey. The "A" stands for "athletic" and the "L" for "long."

"We've definitely got to take care of the ball," Creighton point guard Antoine Young said during today's media session at the Greensboro Coliseum. "I think their length and athleticism cause a lot of problems for a lot of teams."
Alabama in NCAA Midwest Region
Where: Greensboro (N.C.) Coliseum
When: 12:40 p.m. Friday
Records: Alabama 21-11, Creighton 28-5
Radio: 95.3 FM

"Alabama's length and athleticism across the board is something that we really haven't seen this year," Bluejays coach Greg McDermott said. "They can disrupt things on the perimeter. (Trevor) Releford is great on the ball. (Levi) Randolph causes a lot of havoc on the ball. And yet they still erase a lot of mistakes because of (JaMychal) Green's ability to block shots and change shots in the paint. So they're different than what we've seen, without question.

Crimson Tide fans, attuned to their team's roster, might wonder at Creighton's impression. Alabama's freshman group - especially Randolph and Rodney Cooper - are relatively long and athletic. If they play, Moussa Gueye and Carl Engstrom do add a presence on the back line. But this version of the Crimson Tide - call it Alabama 2.1 - is less athletic than any configuration that included the now-suspended Tony Mitchell, and certainly lacks the freakish physical talents it had last year with Mitchell and Senario Hillman.

Still, Creighton is preparing, if not for 40 minutes of hell, then at least for some brusque defensive treatment.

"We have (used) a couple of different strategies," said Doug McDermott, the son of the Creighton coach and the team's star player. "There have been times when we put seven or eight defenders out there against five of us, so that's made it tough."

"They're going to put a lot of pressure on us full-court," Young said. "We have got to probably put in a football play book of sets just for that."

The picture that gets painted by the Creighton players, though, isn't wholly accurate. The Bluejays aren't the Magic-era Lakers, but there are athletes on the roster. Gregory Echinique, a burly 6-foot-9 center, had two years of Big East seasoning at Rutgers. Will Artino, a reserve forward, is 6-11.

The styles do contrast. Both teams insist they won't change in this game.

"Defense is our identity," Green said during the Alabama session.

"We sort of thrive on making stops and creating offense from that," Trevor Lacey said in the Alabama locker room. "That's just who we are."

Alabama, meanwhile, respects Creighton and its 80-point-per-game offense, but doesn't react as if the Bluejays are from another basketball planet.

"I think they may be a little more offensive-minded, but that's not a bad thing," said Crimson Tide forward Andrew Steele. "They're very similar to what teams like Florida and Vanderbilt like to do."

Ultimately, both teams are going to try to do what they do best.

"We're not going to change anything that we do," Greg McDermott said. "We're going to shoot a bunch of 3s, we're going to try to jam it inside, we're going to try to fly it up and down the floor, just like we have played all year.

"You can't change anything at this stage of the game."

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.

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