Top-seeded Alabama and No. 4 Stanford find themselves two wins away from Madison Square Garden and the NIT semifinals, and they will meet Saturday in the second round in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The Crimson Tide cruised past eighth-seeded Northeastern 62-43 in the first round while the Cardinal relied on a missed Stephen F. Austin shot to survive 58-57 in its opener.
Alabama hasn't lost at home since Dec. 30 against Tulane and would love to earn one more home game with a win. Stanford struggled to a 5-6 road record this season. The winner will meet Maryland in the quarterfinals.
TV: 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
ABOUT STANFORD (19-14): The defending NIT champion Cardinal didn't miss the NCAA Tournament by much, but now that Stanford is back in this event, its players seem eager to repeat. "Every year is a different year," junior forward Dwight Powell, who led the team with 12 points in the opener, told reporters after the game. "We're in this tournament, and we're going to try to win it." Last season's NIT most outstanding player, junior guard Aaron Bright, scored 11 off 3-for-6 3-point shooting against Stephen F. Austin. Bright has turned the ball over only three times in his last 156 minutes. The reward for defeating the nation's top-ranked scoring defense in Stephen F. Austin? Another air-tight defense in the Crimson Tide.
ABOUT ALABAMA (22-12): The 22nd-ranked Crimson Tide defense continues to give teams fits, forcing 15 turnovers against Northeastern and holding the Huskies to 33 percent shooting. Alabama also plays sound perimeter defense, which should give it a big advantage against sometimes trigger-happy Stanford. SEC first-team member junior guard Trevor Releford leads three Alabama players averaging double figures with 15.2. He's also fourth all-time on the Crimson Tide single-season steals list with 66. Sophomore guards Trevor Lacey and Rodney Cooper lead out the scoring threesome with 11.6 and 10.2 points, respectively, but against Northeastern, sophomore guard Levi Randolph (7.7) led the way with 13.
1. The Cardinal have won six straight NIT games.
2. Alabama is 22-14 all-time in the NIT, giving it the most victories of any SEC team in this event.
3. The Crimson Tide have won both meetings. The schools haven't met since 2004 when eighth-seeded Alabama bounced the top-seeded Cardinal from the NCAA Tournament.
PREDICTION: Alabama 64, Stanford 60