Could Creighton Or Princeton Spoil Heavy Favorite Alabama’s Run To Houston? South Regional Might Surprise

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Even though the Alabama basketball program has been treading water from a public relations standpoint, it hasn’t affected its play on the court. Through all the drama, Brandon Miller and the No. 1 seed Crimson Tide are two games away from reaching the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament.

Want to join the Tide in Louisville for the Sweet 16 round, or —fingers crossed — Houston for the Final Four? StubHub has college basketball fans covered with the easiest place to buy/sell tickets to all the biggest games.

Standing in Alabama’s way of taking this crazy roadshow to Houston are three teams — San Diego State, Creighton, Princeton — that have found different ways to land in Louisville. Princeton is playing the role of Cinderella and, crazy as it sounds, the No. 15-seeded Tigers are a team that should scare folks in the South Region.

I am not saying Princeton will reach the Final Four, but the Tigers should certainly concern Creighton fans on Friday. The powder keg that is Alabama basketball has certainly put them in the spotlight. But there is a scenario that has the Crimson Tide sitting at home for Final Four weekend.

Alabama Is Clearly The Best Team. But Is Brandon Miller Healthy?

This is the main concern at the moment for me, not the overwhelming negative national sentiment towards Alabama. After watching freshman Brandon Miller play on Saturday, it was obvious that coach Nate Oats is trying to play it safe with his star player. Miller is nursing a groin injury, and there were times during both games in Birmingham where he didn’t look like himself. Those moments were overshadowed by some of the shots he made on his way to 19 points against Maryland.

Brandon Miller #24 of the Alabama Crimson Tide against Texas A&M Aggies during the 2023 SEC Basketball Tournament final on March 12, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The Alabama training staff has done a good job at getting Miller healthy, and the five days of rest before taking the court in Louisville hopefully will clear these questions up. If Alabama can get the same type of shooting from Jahvon Quinerly that it saw in Birmingham, that will take some of the pressure off Miller.

As for the off-court drama that follows Alabama, the team has put the outside noise on the back burner. Sure, there will be a few more questions asked in Louisville from reporters who haven’t been around Alabama over the past month, but this doesn’t seem to bother the team. It’s not the players’ fault that the Alabama communications department did a bad job at handling the tragic incident.

I have a feeling sophomore center Charles Bediako is going to be the guy we’re talking about Friday night.

San Diego State Is Ready For A Dogfight Against Alabama

Unfortunately for the No. 5 seed Aztecs, they haven’t been tested yet in the NCAA Tournament; apologies to College of Charleston and Furman. Matt Bradley is obviously SDSU’s best player, averaging 13 points per game. But this team does go deep into the bench, which might be their best chance at an upset of Alabama. They consistently play nine guys, with Darrion Trammell and Lamont Butler leading the backcourt.

San Diego State's Lamont butler
Lamont Butler #5 of the San Diego State Aztecs moves the ball against Mike Bothwell #3 of the Furman Paladins (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

A positive for the Aztecs is they were tested during the regular season in games against Arizona and Arkansas. Still, San Diego State will have to play out of its mind on defense if they want to battle Alabama in the paint. We’ll see if they can find some offense inside the Yum Center on Friday, while the defense tries to figure out a way to stop Brandon Miller and Jahvon Quinerly.

The Slipper Might Just Fit Princeton For One More Game

If you had Princeton defeating No. 2 Arizona and then following it up with a win against Missouri, credit to you. The Tigers have captivated audiences over the last two games, overshadowed by the No. 16 seed Fairleigh Dickinson upset of Purdue. There’s a reason why the Princeton-Creighton game is scheduled for 9 p.m. Friday on TBS; it puts the Tigers in the national spotlight. Television executives decided to put Alabama in the Louisville opener, pushing in their chips on Princeton potentially pulling off another upset.


The Tigers’ last Sweet 16 appearance came in 1967; Creighton will be playing in its fifth. Let that sink in for a minute. Take a minute to appreciate how hard Caden Pierce plays for Princeton, and watch when he goes crashing towards the basket for a rebound. As for Tosan Evbuomwan, he continues to play like one of the best bigs in the country, on the grand stage of the NCAA Tournament to boot. But he has a very tall task on Friday night, battling against Creighton’s 7-foot-1 Ryan Kalkbrenner, who will certainly cause trouble around the basket.

Princeton's Ryan Langborg celebrates
SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA – MARCH 18: Ryan Langborg #3 of the Princeton Tigers reacts after the 78-63 victory over the Missouri Tigers in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Golden 1 Center on March 18, 2023 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Princeton has played at the highest of levels over the past two games, shooting like a team that could go back and forth with Creighton all night. If you give Cinderella enough room to shoot, she’ll have you staring at her all night long as she hops in her chariot, headed for the Elite Eight.

The Creighton Bluejays Are Right Where They Belong

Some folks seem to forget that Creighton was ranked ninth to open the season, along with being the favorite to win the Big East. If it weren’t for Ryan Kalkbrenner missing a few games earlier in the season because of an illness, they might have earned a higher seed. But don’t let the No. 6 fool you: this team can hoop, and the Bluejays might be the only team truly good enough to send Alabama home from Louisville.

Creighton seven-footer Ryan Kalkbrenner
DENVER, COLORADO – MARCH 19: Flo Thamba #0 of the Baylor Bears defends against Ryan Kalkbrenner #11 of the Creighton Bluejays during the second half in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Ball Arena on March 19, 2023 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Sophomore guard Ryan Nembhard destroyed No. 3 Baylor with a career-high 30 points, while Creighton shot 46% from behind the arc. Also, while you’re making your gambling picks this week, don’t forget about Trey Alexander, who dropped 17 points against the Baylor Bears. And the 7-foot-1 Ryan Kalkbrenner is a force in the paint, drawing enough attention from Baylor for his teammates to go off.

If there is one team to be truly scared of in Louisville, besides a good underdog story like Princeton, it’s definitely Creighton.

When the final buzzer goes off inside the Yum Center in Louisville on Sunday afternoon, I expect Alabama to be preparing for a trip to the Final Four. But don’t sleep on the other three teams in the South Regional. We’ve seen crazier things happen in March.

Written by Trey Wallace

Trey Wallace is the host of The Trey Wallace Podcast that focuses on a mixture of sports, culture, entertainment along with his perspective on everything from College Football to the College World Series.

Wallace has been covering college sports for 15 years, starting off while attending the University of South Alabama. He’s broken some of the biggest college stories including the Florida football “Credit Card Scandal” along with the firing of Jim McElwin and Kevin Sumlin. Wallace also broke one of the biggest stories in college football in 2020 around the NCAA investigation into recruiting violations against Tennessee football head coach Jeremy Pruitt.

Wallace also appears on radio across seven different states breaking down that latest news in college sports.

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