Both Creighton and Alabama stumbled down the stretch of the regular season and in their respective conference tournaments. Both programs had solid 2015-16 seasons compared to their previous season, posting 18-14 records and finishing in respectable places in their conferences. However, both will wonder what might have been. Now the Bluejays and the Crimson Tide have a chance to play for an NIT title and build towards next season.
How to watch, listen or stream
Game time: 9 p.m. ET
Radio: 1620 KOZN AM (Creighton)
Odds: Creighton -8 (via OddsShark)
Three Things to Watch
1. Contrasting styles
Creighton has the well-known style of a high-tempo offense. Creighton is a team that likes a higher number of possessions and a fast-paced game. Alabama is the exact opposite. The Crimson Tide struggle to score at times and pride themselves on defense. This is the exact same scenario that played out when these two programs met in the NCAA Tournament in 2012, a game CU won 58-57 thanks to a defensive stand at the buzzer.
2. The health of Creighton
The health of the Bluejays is well-documented. Mo Watson has been battling a groin injury while Cole Huff, Isaiah Zierden, and others have also found themselves sitting out practice. That didn't seem to bother Huff against Seton Hall though when he put up 35 points on 11/16 shooting. When asked about his performance in a shoot around early this week, coach McDermott half-jokingly questioned if practice was, perhaps, overrated.
When teams miss out on the NCAA Tournament and have to settle for the NIT, you might question their motivation heading into what some might deem a 'meaningless game'. However, both of these teams were not projected to make the NCAA Tournament prior to the season. The NIT should offer a chance for the teams to show what they're capable of in a respectable post-season tournament that has been around for 70+ years.
4. Added bonus: Creighton NIT history
While not having made the NIT since 2009, Creighton does have some interesting history with the NIT.
NIT 2006: Having already beaten Akron, No. 2 seed Creighton played host to No. 3 seed Miami on March 20. Tied at 52 a piece, Miami sunk a free throw as a result of a controversial blocking foul. Down one with the ball and just over two seconds remaining, Creighton guard Johnny Mathies drove to half court and hoisted up a shot while colliding with a Miami defender. Surely it was a foul, right? No call was made. Fans roared in protest, the referees sprinted to the locker room while being pelted with plastic water bottles from the stands. Then-head coach Dana Altman chased after the refs across the court, having to be held back by his team and assistant coaches. Public address announcer Jake Ryan called on the arena to rise above the bad call and refrain from throwing objects on the court. Ryan was then subsequently the target of more plastic bottles. The anger in the arena was palpable. To this day, bottle caps are removed from beverages. Is that a result from the Miami 2006 game? I don't know, but I like to think so. Every Bluejay fan remembers Miami 2006.
NIT 2009: A capacity crowd, despite a tornado warning at tipoff, saw the Bluejays take on the bluebloods of Kentucky in the second round. It was one of those rare occasions where little Missouri Valley program Creighton got the chance to host a thoroughbred like UK. The game featured 13 lead changes, with neither team leading by more than five points. The magic ran out though when Kentucky's Jodie Meeks sank two free throws with 10 seconds remaining. Creighton's Booker Woodfox was just off the mark on his three-pointer, ending what was a thrilling game. Kentucky's Billy Gillespie would be fired five days later.