University of Texas Arlington Mavericks (2-0) at University of Alabama Crimson Tide (3-0)
The University of Texas Arlington Mavericks will travel to Tuscaloosa to play the Crimson Tide of Alabama Tuesday night. The Mavericks are off to a hot start at 2-0 and are coming off a big road win against perennial NCAA tournament team BYU. Alabama finds themselves ranked for the first time in a long time, 6 years to be exact, and is trying to pry some of the Tide faithful away from the success of the football team, even if just for one night. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:00 PM PST from Coleman Coliseum. The current betting line is Alabama -11 points with an over-under game total of 153.
UTA was one of my sneaky picks to win a game in the tournament last year. They had won the Sun Belt regular season title with a 27-9 record, and I liked them to be an upset special in March. Then they slipped up and lost in the Sun Belt conference tournament and were left out of the big dance. The Mavericks ended up in the NIT where they went on to win a couple of games before being knocked out in the quarterfinals by Cal State Bakersfield. It was a solid run that set up a foundation for further success.
I can see this Mavericks team winning 30 plus games this year. They brought back most of last year’s 27-win team and are stocked with seniors. These are the types of teams that we see make surprising deep runs in March. Small conference teams that are loaded with experienced upperclassmen. I expect UTA to run away with the Sun Belt title again this year and this time make it all the way to the tournament.
This team is powered by a couple of seniors in Kevin Hervey and Eric Neal but feature four players averaging double-digit points so far, this season. Hervey is an NBA type talent at 6-9, he is averaging 25 points and 8.5 rebounds on the year and is going to rampage through the Sun Belt this year.
Alabama is pretty much the exact opposite of UTA. They are a major conference school that has struggled in recent years on the basketball court. They are compiled of mostly younger players and only have two seniors on the roster. But that is not at all a bad thing as those players were brought in by former NBA head coach Avery Johnson. Having an NBA level coach at the helm has done wonders for the Alabama basketball program and it’s not a surprise the Tide find themselves ranked in the top 25.
Johnson has his hands full with this roster though as it is young and inexperienced. They have a lot of talent, but they are going to need to learn how to play as a team ASAP if they are going to compete with the likes of Kentucky and Florida in the SEC this season. The one senior standout the Tide can rely on is John Petty. Petty broke the school record for three-pointers in a game last time out with 10. But that was against Alabama A&M, not exactly top-flight competition.
To me, this game boils down to experience. UTA is used to winning. They are a seasoned group of veterans that expect to win each and every night out. They went on the road last week and won in Provo against a BYU team that is always great at home and it was a huge statement game. The Mavericks are on the road again for this one and I promise you they won’t be intimidated. The Tide, on the other hand, aren’t used to winning. They are loaded with young guys that are just getting their feet wet competing on a national level. Head coach Avery Johnson has done his fair share of winning in his career and has done a great job turning this program around in a hurry, but I am not ready to go ahead and crown them as an elite program just yet. Will Johnson get this program to the promise land at some point? Absolutely, but to me, it feels like a year or two premature.
For this matchup, I am taking the road underdogs. Will they win the game outright? That is hard to say, but getting 11 points they won’t have to. I expect this to be a physical game that comes down to the last couple of possessions. I just don’t think Alabama is ready to be laying double digits against a potential tournament team, even if they are at home. Give me the UTA Mavericks +11 points in this one!