Alabama-Duke Preview


Duke came as close as it could to having its historic home winning streak against non-conference opponents snapped Sunday against Vermont.

The sixth-ranked Blue Devils will hope to have an easier time Wednesday night against Alabama in another of their comfortable environments - the NIT Season Tip-Off.

The Blue Devils (5-1) have won 13 straight games in the tournament dating back to 1996 and have won 26 straight games across all regular-season tournaments. A win against the Crimson Tide (3-1) at Madison Square Garden would give them a chance to play for their fifth Tip-Off tournament title and first since they last participated in 2009.

A down night effort-wise seems unlikely after Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski ripped into his team following Sunday's 91-90 win over the Catamounts.

"We played like a team that thought we would just show up and win," Krzyzewski said. "That's how you get beat."

With the score tied at 90, Rodney Hood hit his second of two free throws with 5 seconds left to give Duke its 106th straight win over a non-conference foe at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

"We didn't win this game," Hood said. "We kind of deserved to lose the game, and we got lucky."

"Kind of" might be an understatement considering Vermont shot 64.8 percent from the floor. Duke has allowed nine opponents to shoot 60.0 percent or better in the last 15 years and gone 3-6 in those games.

Hood scored 22 while Jabari Parker's 26 marked his sixth straight 20-point performance.

Parker's success on the court was immediate, and his understanding of how other teams gun for the Blue Devils has now followed.

"Every team is going to face us like we're the best, because on paper it says that and across our chests it says that," Parker said. "We just have to be prepared to treat teams, every time, to be competitors and be the best that we can be because they're not going to shy up on us."

Parker's 23.0 points per game combined with Hood's 21.8 make up one of the NCAA's highest-scoring duos.

Duke is 7-1 all-time against Alabama, though the schools haven't met since 1986.

The Crimson Tide are looking to return to the NIT Season Tip-Off final for the first time since 2011, when they lost in the championship game to Wichita State. They won last year's 2K Sports Classic at the Garden.

While Duke squeezed in a game between tournament rounds, Alabama hasn't taken the court since its 75-58 regional-round win over Georgia State on Nov. 19 in Tuscaloosa.

"Madison Square Garden is one of the most famous arenas in the country," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "Any time you get a chance to play there it's a privilege and an honor. We're excited to have a chance to go back and compete at that arena."

Trevor Releford (18.0 points per game) scored a game-high 19 against Georgia State while Retin Obasohan (15.5) added 18. Fellow guards Levi Randolph (11.3) and Algie Key (10.3) round out a backcourt with four players averaging double figures and shooting 50.0 percent or better.

The Crimson Tide have held opponents to 41.8 percent shooting and 29.3 percent from 3-point range. They've won three straight since their season-opening loss to Oklahoma on Nov. 8.

Extending their winning streak to four would snap a 12-game losing streak against top-10 opponents.

The Duke-Alabama winner gets the winner of the night's first semifinal, No. 4 Arizona vs. Drexel, in Friday's championship.

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