Northeastern (20-12) at Alabama (21-12)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, March 19, 9 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Coleman Coliseum (15,383) -- Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Television: ESPN 2. NIT Record: Northeastern 0-2, Alabama 21-14. Series Record: Alabama leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The top-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide play host to the eighth-seeded Northeastern Huskies in first-round action of the 2013 National Invitation Tournament at Coleman Coliseum on Tuesday night.
Awaiting the winner in the second round is a date with either Stanford or Stephen F. Austin.
Northeastern earned an automatic bid to the NIT after winning its first-ever regular-season title as a member of the Colonial Athletic Association -- its first conference crown in 20 years. The Huskies (20-12) slipped up in the CAA Tournament however, falling in the championship game to third-seeded James Madison, 70-57, thus losing out on a berth to the NCAA Tournament. Northeastern has lost in the opening round in each of its first two NIT appearances.
Alabama was considered a bubble team for the NCAA Tournament, but after defeating Tennessee in the SEC Tournament quarterfinals (58-48), it faltered against top-seeded Florida in the semis, 61-51. The Crimson Tide have not played well down the stretch, losing five of their last eight games to fall to 21-12 overall. Alabama is 21-14 all-time in the NIT.
Alabama won the lone matchup in the all-time series with Northeastern, 88-73, back in December of 1979.
To say Northeastern came out flat against James Madison in the conference title game would be an understatement, as it shot a woeful 5-of-24 from the field in the first half (.208) to get down by a 40-18 margin at intermission. Jonathan Lee led the team with 14 points, but he had four turnovers paired with just two assists. David Walker and Marco Banegas-Flores each netted 10 points in the losing effort. The Huskies' scoring offense may seem rather modest (69.7 ppg), but it was enough to lead an underwhelming CAA. Joel Smith has shown an excellent shooting touch on his way to 16.1 ppg, making 48.5 percent of his field goal attempts overall and 43 percent of his 3-pointers. Lee runs the point, tallying 13.8 ppg and 4.0 apg, while Quincy Ford (12.4 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.3 spg) and Reggie Spencer (9.8 ppg, 6.1 rpg) are solid in the frontcourt.
The Crimson Tide appeared to have a handle on Florida in the semifinal round of the SEC Tournament, as they held a 10-point lead early in the second half, but from there the Gators caught fire, ending the game on a 34-14 run to extinguish Alabama's NCAA Tournament dreams. Trevor Releford led the way in the setback with 12 points, while Trevor Lacey and Nick Jacobs poured in 11 points apiece. Alabama is extremely reliant on its strong defense to win games, as it surrenders just 59.0 ppg but nets only 63.1 ppg itself, and the team has only topped 61 points only once in its last six games. Releford is the team's top playmaker, averaging 15.4 ppg on nearly 49 percent from the field while being named to the SEC's All-Defensive team with 2.0 spg. Lacey chips in 11.7 ppg and 3.1 apg, while Rodney Cooper puts up 10.3 ppg and a team-best 4.7 rpg.
Northeastern is a pesky squad that will likely hang around for the bulk of this bout, but it hasn't seen a defense as suffocating as Alabama's all season long, which gives the Tide a leg up to keep its season alive.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Alabama 62, Northeastern 55
03/19 10:39:20 ET