Thursday , Mar , 16 , 2006 C.Y. Ellis

Alabama and Marquette battle in first-round of NCAA Tournament

=== Alabama and Marquette battle in first-round of NCAA Tournament ===

(Sports Network) – The NCAA Tournament’s Oakland Regional kicks off today
with the 10th-seeded Alabama Crimson Tide taking on the seventh-seeded
Marquette Golden Eagles from Cox Arena in San Diego. The winner will meet
either second-seeded UCLA or 15th-seeded Belmont in the second round on
Saturday. For the fifth straight season and the 19th time in school history,
Alabama has been invited to the NCAA Tournament. The team earned its way
into the field of 65 with an at-large big thanks to a 17-12 record. The Tide
is 19-18 all-time in the NCAA Tournament, with its deepest run coming in
2004 (Elite Eight). Last season, however, Alabama was upended in the first
round of the tourney by Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

As for Marquette, it also earned an at-large bid thanks to a 20-10 record and
a 10-6 finish in its first season in the ultra-competitive Big East. The
Golden Eagles were left out of the NCAA Tournament last season after marching
to the Final Four the previous year. This is Marquette’s 24th
appearance in the Big Dance, where it has gone 31-24 all-time, including 14-9
in first-round games. The Eagles have advanced as far as the national
championship game twice in school history, winning their lone title in 1977.

Alabama and Marquette have met on just one other occasion, with the Crimson
Tide posting a 77-75 victory in the 1956 Sugar Bowl Tournament.

The Tide have done a solid job at the offensive end of the court this season,
averaging 70.0 ppg behind 45.3 percent shooting from the field. The team has
also done good work on the boards, grabbing 4.3 rpg more than its foes.
Jermareo Davidson has been a force in the low post and heads ‘Bama in both
scoring (14.1 ppg) and rebounding (9.0 rpg). He has 55 blocks to his credit
and is shooting 47.2 percent from the floor. Freshman Richard Hendrix has
provided a nice complement to Davidson in the paint and is contributing 9.4
ppg and 8.0 rpg. Ronald Steele has been responsible for getting them the ball,
as he is dishing out a team-high 4.1 apg. Steele also ranks second on the team
in scoring at 13.9 ppg and is making good on 40.3 percent of his three-point

Offensively, the Golden Eagles have enjoyed plenty of success this year, as
they are averaging 74.7 ppg on 45.3 percent shooting from the floor and 39.9
percent from long distance. Steve Novak is the team’s top scorer (17.5 ppg)
and rebounder (5.9 rpg), and he is hitting 46.4 percent of his shots from
beyond the arc. He has also been automatic at the foul line, making 72-of-74
free-throw attempts. Dominic James made a name for himself quickly at the
collegiate level, as he was named the 2005-06 Big East Freshman of the Year.
James has done a little of everything for Marquette this season and is turning
in 15.1 ppg, a team-high 5.4 apg and 4.6 rpg. Jerel McNeal adds 11.1 ppg and
4.6 rpg for the Golden Eagles, and also has a team-high 64 steals to his