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Round One of the 2023 NCAA Tournament has already featured some historic and wild upsets. There were also thrilling games that equally make March Madness exciting. The #1 Alabama Crimson Tide and the #8 Maryland Terrapins have won their Round of 64 matchups and they now meet for a big Round of 32 matchups. One tournament favorite has fallen, and another could be on the way with this game.
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It has been a season for the #1 Alabama Crimson Tide (30-5; 16-2 in SEC play) where they have grabbed the national media attention both on-and-off the court. The Tide had big wins over teams ranked in the AP Poll this season including two wins over #1 teams. The first win over a top-ranked team was a 103-101 quadruple overtime thriller against the North Carolina Tar Heels on Nov. 27. A few games later, Alabama defeated #1 Houston 71-65 on the road on Dec. 10.
Alabama has also been circulating in the news off the court for the wrong reasons. Freshman guard Darius Miles, along with a co-defendant, has been charged with capital murder for the shooting death of a 23-year-old woman. There is currently an investigation that Alabama star player freshman forward Brandon Miller provided Miles the gun that would turn out to be the murder weapon.
Miller and the Tide have played through the controversy well into the March Madness tournament. In the Round of 64, the Crimson Tide took down the #16 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders 96-75.
The Crimson Tide had a dominating first half against the Islanders 54-34. Alabama slowed down just enough to keep the Islanders from attempting a comeback in the second half.
The Crimson Tide had five players score double-digit points, but Miller was not among them. While the other players were shooting the ball well, Miller didn’t score a single point as he was 0-of-5 in field goals and 0-of-3 from the three-point arc. He also turned the ball over three times in the big win over the Islanders.
While Miller didn’t have a good game, the focus for the Tide in the Round of 64 was for the other players to develop a rhythm. Of the five players that scored double-digits, they combined to score 68 points shooting 22-of-35 in field goals, 10-of-18 from the three-point arc and 14-of-19 at the free-throw line.
The Maryland Terrapins (22-12; 11-9 in Big Ten play) are off to a great start in the Kevin Willard era. After 12 solid seasons at Seton Hall that includes six NCAA Tournament appearances (counting the canceled 2020 tournament), Willard decided to move on and create a winning culture for the Terrapins.
The Terrapins accounted for a 5-4 record this season against top 25 teams. Their biggest win this season was on Feb. 16 when they defeated the #3 Purdue Boiler Makers at home 68-54.
Maryland entered the 2023 Big Ten Conference Championship Tournament as the #6 seed as they took down the #14 Minnesota Golden Gophers in the second round 70-54. The following game in the quarterfinals, the Terrapins lost to the #3 Indiana Hoosiers 70-60.
The Terrapins entered the South Regional Bracket as the #8 seed as they took on the #9 West Virginia Mountaineers. The Terrapins and the Mountaineers created one of the best games in the Round of 64. Maryland won the matchup against West Virginia 67-65 to go on to the Round of 32.
Much like they have all season, the four leading players for the Terrapins all created highly efficient performances to take down the Mountaineers. Maryland’s’ senior guard Jahmir Young, senior guard Hakim Hart, senior forward Donta Scott, and sophomore forward Julian Reese all scored double-digit points against West Virginia. All four of these players average 11 points per game this season.
All four players combined for 53 points in the win over the Mountaineers. The biggest performance came from Reese, who led Maryland in points scored with 17 shooting 6-of-9 in field goals and 5-of-10 at the free-throw line. He also accounted for nine rebounds, three assists, and three blocks.
Hart had an efficient all-around performance as well by scoring 15 points shooting 7-of-13 in field goals and accounting for three rebounds, a team-high four assists, and two steals.
In the Round of 32, every team is good enough to make a deep run into the March Madness Tournament. Alabama’s offense has been playing at a high level all season as the Crimson Tide rank fourth in the nation in points per game (82.6). Much of the success can pertain to the high-volume and highly efficient shooting of Brandon Miller, who averaged 19.6 points per game before the NCAA Tournament.
When Miller was suppressed offensively in the Round One matchup vs TACC, the Crimson Tide found no problems putting points on the board. Freshman forward Noah Clowney contributed well throughout the court, junior guard Mark Sears was a highly efficient court general and junior forward Nick Pringle might have had his breakout game off the bench by scoring a season-high 19 points.
The Terrapins are no strangers to playing well-balanced offenses that can utilize their speed and size throughout the court. Maryland’s defense ranks 26th in the nation in points allowed per game (63.2) as they can create efficient defensive matchups. All four of their key players are highly efficient on both ends of the court and take a game over at any point.
The biggest difference in the game could be the depth and the defensive capabilities for Alabama to play shutdown defense. While Alabama gives up an average of 68.7 points per game, they are able to make opposing offenses panic and take forced shots. Alabama is third in the nation in field-goal percentage allowed per game at 37.1%, which is just below Houston and Tennessee.
Alabama comes into this matchup as an 8.5-point favorite, according to DraftKings Sportsbook.
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