Alabama Crimson Tide (19-15) at Virginia Tech Hokies (21-11)
The day is finally here! The Madness officially kicks off today as the round of sixty-four gets started at 9:15 AM PST. Today we look at a matchup in the East bracket when the nine seed Alabama Crimson Tide square off against the eight seed Virginia Tech Hokies.
The Crimson Tide managed to lose fifteen games this year and still get a decent seed on the strength of several big wins. Alabama stumbled down the stretch as they lost six out of their last eight games.
For Virginia Tech, the Hokies might have the best group of wins of any team in the country, but their season was marred by stretches of inconsistency and losses to mediocre teams.
The Hokies are -2-point favorites. The game total over-under is set at 141.5 points. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:20 PM PST from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburg.
The Alabama Crimson Tide are basically a one-man show this year. But oh boy is that one man a good one. The Tide are led by freshman sensation, guard Collin Sexton.
Sexton has been explosive and has shown that if his team needs him to, he can carry them to a victory, near single-handedly. We saw this last week when Sexton ran the entire floor in under four seconds to hit the game-winning shot against Texas A&M. That win might have been a win that the Tide needed to make the tournament.
Alabama had a couple of OK wins in the non-conference against BYU and Texas-Arlington and one big win against Rhode Island. The SEC was a league loaded with good teams, and Alabama managed to find wins against Texas A&M, Auburn, Oklahoma, Florida, and Tennessee. Those wins were enough to get the Tide into the field of sixty-eight, even with the high number of losses.
The losses weren’t all bad for Alabama. Losses to Kentucky, Auburn, Florida, Arizona, Texas, and Missouri are all losses that you can live with. All of those teams are playing in the NCAA tournament. But bad losses to Georgia, UCF, Minnesota, Vanderbilt, Mississippi, and Mississippi State prove that this Alabama team can lose to just about anybody.
These are the fun types of teams to watch in the NCAA tournament. They could make a run to the Final Four, or they could blow up in the first round and lose by twenty points. They will need to play a great game to hang with a Virginia Tech team that has proven it can play with anyone in the country.
The group of wins that Virginia Tech has piled up looks pretty dang impressive. They beat the defending national champion North Carolina Tar Heels. They beat Duke. And they hold what might be the biggest win, maybe of any team this year, when they beat the number one overall seed Virginia on their home floor.
The Hokies also added decent wins against NCAA tournament teams such as Clemson, N.C. State, and Radford. This team has shown on multiple occasions that they should never be overlooked, and you know Villanova can’t be happy that they might have to face this Hokies team in the second round.
Not many teams have proven they can beat elite level teams this season with regularity. This Virginia Tech team has done just that.
Virginia Tech sounds like a slam dunk in this one, right? Well, now the bad news. The Hokies have been inconsistent down the stretch. While they really only have one “bad” loss on their resume a loss to Saint Louis in November, they lost three out of their last four games. While those three losses weren’t really bad ones, they lost to Louisville, Notre Dame, and Miami, two of those three teams didn’t make the NCAA tournament.
You can argue that both Louisville and Notre Dame should have gotten in, but the fact of the matter is that they didn’t, and those losses are tough ones late in the year. Had Virginia Tech run the table over that stretch if games to close out the year we could have easily seen them on a four or a five line, and not the eight hole they are in now.
The eight-nine games are always my favorite matchups. They are always two very evenly matched teams and can provide some of the best action of the first round. And this game is no different.
While I personally think the Hokies resume is a much stronger one, the NCAA committee disagrees with me, as does much of the betting public.
This game is going to come down to the play of Collin Sexton. The Tide have shown that they can still lose games even when Sexton has a good game, so they need the freshman to have a great game if they want to beat a very well coached and balanced Virginia Tech team. This Tech team has four starters averaging double digits scoring, and they don’t need any one player to blow up to win games. They win as a team.
I expect Sexton to play a good, and not a great game in this one. The Tide will fight hard, but in the end, they are matched up against a team that I think is just much better than they are, top to bottom. This line is just about right as I don’t see the Hokies blowing this one open, but I do think there is plenty of room to back them as favorites, laying -2-points.
I have the Hokies winning and advancing, and if you are Villanova, you better be on upset alert playing against this Virginia Tech team in the round of thirty-two. Give me the Virginia Tech Hokies -2 points!