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Alabama, Auburn hope to continue ‘magic’ in Birmingham

As Alabama and Auburn prepare for Saturday’s second-round games in the NCAA Tournament, the two teams face different challenges.

The No. 1-seeded Crimson Tide rolled past Texas A&M-Corpus Christi with All-American Brandon Miller failing to score.

It turns out, he may have been hurt.

Meanwhile, the Tigers have to overcome the nation’s No. 1 team – Houston.

Alabama and No. 8 Maryland meet at 8:40 p.m. in Birmingham’s Legacy Arena. The Auburn-Houston matchup is at 6:10 – also in Legacy Arena.

Miller, the Tide star, had a groin injury in Thursday’s win and was held out of today’s practice.

However Head Coach Nate Oats said he should be OK for Saturday.

“I think he’s going to be all right,” Oats said. “He seemed like he was moving all right. It obviously bothered him. He didn’t shoot it particularly well, but he seemed like he was moving decent.

“It obviously wasn’t one of his better games to open, but I think knowing Brandon and how tough he is, physically, mentally, I think he’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”

The Tigers have turned the Birmingham arena into their home away from home. In fact, Head Coach Bruce Pearl admired the crowd in this football-crazed area.

“This is Birmingham, Alabama,” he said. “This is football country, and we dominate and I’m really proud of that.

“But we looked like a basketball state today.”

The Tigers are coming in after an up-and-down last four games but Pearl said the Cougars’ style of play reminds him of the SEC.

“We played really well three of the last four times we played,” he said. “Can we continue to play that well? I just think the biggest thing is Houston’s physicality, their ability to go get the ball, their length and their athleticism.

“That will remind my Auburn team of the most athletic, physical, tough teams in the SEC that we’ve had our hands full with.”

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