Three keys: Alabama vs. Creighton

The University of Alabama will make its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2006 when the Crimson Tide tips off against Creighton at 12:40 p.m. CT on Friday.

In 2006, Alabama won their first-round game over Marquette, but it’s going to take a strong defensive effort to slow down the Blue Jays and notch another victory. Here are three things that must happen in order for the Tide to get past the opening game:

Slow down McDermott

Alabama’s not going to stop Creighton sophomore Doug McDermott. Nobody has been able to accomplish that feat all year. The Missouri Valley Conference player of the year is averaging 23 points per game, good for third in the nation. However, the Tide need to slow the game down, limit his shots and double-team McDermott when possible. JaMychal Green, Nick Jacobs, Levi Randolph and Rodney Cooper may all have the responsibility of defending the Blue Jays star at one point or another.

Don’t allow easy points

There’s a reason Creighton is shooting over 50 percent from the field on the year. The Blue Jays like to take advantage of turnovers and missed shots and turn them into easy points on the other end. Both teams like to play at an up-tempo pace, but Alabama needs to be more methodical on offense, limiting its turnovers. The Tide will still press and apply pressure on defense, but it has to take care of the ball and get back after missed shots. Every shot must be contested.

Shoot it from the outside

This has been Alabama’s Achilles’ heel since Anthony Grant arrived in Tuscaloosa. Everybody expected the outside shooting to improve with this year’s freshman class, but that hasn’t been the case. The trio of Cooper, Randolph and Trevor Lacey have all shown flashes, but inconsistency has ultimately plagued them. Against a Creighton team that is averaging 80 points per game, the Tide’s freshmen are going to have to step up and knock down some shots from beyond the arc.