basketball Edit

Know the foe: An opposing look at Alabama basketball's matchup at Creighton

Creighton Bluejays guard Baylor Scheierman (55) dribbles up the court with guard Trey Alexander (23) in the second half against the Central Michigan Chippewas at CHI Health Center Omaha. | Photo: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports
Creighton Bluejays guard Baylor Scheierman (55) dribbles up the court with guard Trey Alexander (23) in the second half against the Central Michigan Chippewas at CHI Health Center Omaha. | Photo: Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports (Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports)

Alabama has another top-10 test Saturday after it fell to No. 4 Purdue in Toronto on Dec. 9. The Crimson Tide will travel to Omaha, Nebraska for a true road clash against No. 8 Creighton.

The Bluejays (8-2), present another formidable force in the paint and balanced scheme on both ends of the floor that will give the Crimson Tide all it can handle. Just like it did against Purdue, Alabama will need an energetic and gritty performance if it wants to put itself in a position to pull off an upset.

TideIllustrated’s Jack Knowlton spoke with Jon Walker, who covers Creighton for the Omaha World-Herald, to get some insight on Saturday’s matchup.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.


What can Alabama do to establish its tempo against a balanced Creighton team?

Anybody who watched Creighton’s loss to Colorado State, which we've since found out is going to be pretty good this year, but we didn't know at the time, that was their statement win and they did it by forcing the Jays into a lot of misses. Creighton was 6-for-29 from three and it lost by 20. Colorado State had an enforcer on the inside to limit Ryan Kalkbrenner. Alabama showed that it wasn't scared to run through the trees when it was playing Purdue so I wouldn't expect the Crimson Tide to come to Omaha and be scared of the challenge.

How have the Bluejays responded since that loss to the Rams?

I think it might have been good for this team. They had Andrew Nembhard leave. They had Arthur Kaluma leave in the offseason. Baylor Scheierman, Trey Alexander and Ryan Kalkbrenner came back and they got Steven Ashworth from Utah State, their now true point guard, in May, so a late transfer. That Colorado State game made them all mesh together. We saw their lineup round out in their big win over Central Michigan. Isaac Traudt and Mason Miller, two guys who have been competing for the four-spot, have found their niche in the offense. Miller started and Isaac came off the bench against Central Michigan and they combined for 35 points on 14 shots. So if they can do that and you get the usual production from the other guys they're going to be a tough out.

How do you expect Creighton to guard Mark Sears and try and take him out of the game?

You'll see three guys primarily guard him. It'll either be Alexander or Scheierman and if the primary matchup they want is Trey, then you'll probably see quite a bit of Francisco Farabello as well. He's a really good defensive guard, kind of their Swiss Army knife. Whatever they need a little bit of, they'll put him in and have him do it. So a mix of that and trying to force mid-range shots with a 7-foot-1 center around the rim is going to be Creighton’s defensive philosophy. It'll be interesting because Purdue had a little bit of success in the first half letting Alabama shoot it. The Tide have proved that to be costly at other times and this Creighton team is all about running opponents off the 3-point line or forcing teams into really bad 3s.

What does Creighton need to do to stave off the Tide at home?

They've got to be able to slow down the guard play. Mark Sears is no joke. He's shown that, averaging 20-plus. That's the player to stop and you'll see so many different attempts to create mismatches. They'll try Ashworth on him. They'll try Alexander, they'll try Scheierman and see what conglomerate works. Both of these teams are going to run the floor. I think you'll see 50 threes put up in this game. So the key for Creighton is just guard play and if the Bluejays can keep up and keep fresh with guys like Farabello. You could also see Josiah Dotzler come into play if both teams are really running laps up and down the court.

How can Alabama pull off the upset on Saturday?

You have to try and affect as many 3-point shots as you possibly can and have an enforcer on the inside or a scheme that works to seal Ryan Kalkbrenner out of the paint. Creighton's offense begins and ends with 3-point shots. Alabama is probably not going to have an enforcer because it's so tough to have a matchup for Kalkbrenner, so then you have to turn your attention to try and get Creighton to miss as many shots as possible.