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March 15, 2012

UNC questions aplenty for Creighton coach

GREENSBORO, N.C. | University of Alabama head basketball coach Anthony Grant isn't much for outside motivation or bulletin board material, so it has not been a big issue that Creighton coaches and players have fielded far more questions about a potential third-round matchup with North Carolina, even while the Crimson Tide is a 1.5-point favorite in today's matchup with the Bluejays.

Still, Alabama fans have noted, especially in some of the stories out of Omaha early in the week. Alabama radio color commentator (and former player) Bryan Passink even commented on Twitter that there were "a lot of Carolina questions" at Creighton's Thursday press conference.

The difference isn't entirely disrespect. First, the press corps at the Greensboro Coliseum (which is located, by no coincidence, just off Atlantic Coast Conference Boulevard) includes a large contingent of North Carolina reporters. Second, there is a natural story line since Tar Heel star Harrison Barnes played high school basketball with Creighton All-America forward Doug McDermott in Ames, Iowa.

It was clear, though, that Creighton coach Greg McDermott, who has a long history with Barnes as well, had just about reached his limit of UNC questions midway through the press availability.

"Well, for that to happen, we're going to have to beat a very good Alabama team first," McDermott said. "So I haven't looked at one second of Alabama tape at this point. Obviously, my staff has. That's our job. I think every team has somebody looking ahead.

"But if it ends up happening, it's going to be a cool deal."

Defending Green

There has been some popular support for the idea that Alabama has had a hard time readjusting to the presence of JaMychal Green since he returned to the Crimson Tide lineup four games ago. UA is 2-2 in those games, although Green has averaged a double-double (15.0 points, 10.0 rebounds) in those four contests.

On Thursday, UA head coach Anthony Grant spoke in Green's defense.

"I have said this from the beginning of the year," Grant said. "We're a better team when he's on the floor....

"Look at what he's accomplished over his career. Over 1,600 points, and almost 900 rebounds. So he certainly impacts the game."

Status not good

Although Alabama cannot afford to look past the second-round game with Creighton, North Carolina coach Roy Williams, whose Tar Heels will play Vermont in a second-round game, did not have optimistic news about the status of his own star forward, John Henson, at Thursday's press conference.

Henson sprained his left wrist in North Carolina's ACC Tournament quarterfinal win over Maryland and did not play in subsequent games against North Carolina State and Florida State.

"We practiced this morning and John did a little more than he did yesterday," Williams said on Thursday. "We let him in some live situations. He did not shoot the ball left-handed a single time. He did not block any shots left-handed. So I am extremely concerned about it. That's his dominant hand in a big, big way.

"He took one jump hook, right-handed, and it fell about three miles short.

"He felt like he could play (against Vermont)," Williams added. "I'm not convinced."

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

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