The top-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide welcomes No. 2 Maryland to Tuscaloosa on Tuesday night with a trip to New York City on the line. The Crimson Tide have reached the NIT semifinals six previous times, while Maryland has done so twice.
Alabama took down Northeastern and Stanford by double-digits to reach this point. The Crimson Tide have used balanced scoring in each game, with Levi Randolph scoring 29 points on 10-of-16 shooting to lead the way. Defense has been the primary catalyst for Alabama, as Northeastern and Stanford were both held under 0.85 points per possession.
The Terrapins also cruised through the first two rounds, taking out Niagara and a tough Denver squad. Dez Wells has been on fire for Maryland, putting individual offensive ratings of 135 and 138 in each game. The transfer from Xavier has hit on 11 of 17 two-pointers during the tournament and has limited the turnovers that usually plague his game.
This quarterfinal matchup is likely to be a clash of tempos. The Terrapins play at a much faster pace, averaging six more possessions per game than Alabama. That may be good news for the Crimson Tide, who have performed better offensively when the pace has picked up. Their defense isn't affected by tempo, so Maryland may be playing into their hands by getting into a track meet.
That Alabama defense is among the best in the country. The Crimson Tide are 19th-nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency and were second in the SEC during conference play. Their primary strength is forcing turnovers, and that is trouble for a Terrapins offense that struggles to hold on to the ball.
Maryland will need to make up for those lost possessions by crashing the glass. The Crimson Tide struggle on the defensive boards, while the Terrapins excel at creating second chances. The balancing act between turnovers and offensive rebounds could ultimately decide who moves on.
Here is a full NIT bracket (via ESPN.com):
A complete quarterfinal schedule is below (all times Eastern):
Tuesday, Mar. 26
No. 2 Maryland vs. No. 1 Alabama, 7:30 p.m., ESPN/WatchESPN
Wednesday, Mar. 27
No. 3 Iowa vs. No. 1 Virginia, 7 p.m., ESPN2/WatchESPN
No. 3 BYU vs. No. 1 Southern Miss, 8 p.m., ESPNU
No. 4 Providence vs. No. 2 Baylor, 9 p.m., ESPN2/WatchESPN