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The NCAA March Madness Tournament heads into the second weekend and only 16 teams remain. Alabama and San Diego State are two teams trying to make their way to the Elite 8.
Both teams have had a successful season, but one team’s journey will end. It’s going to be an exciting matchup between one of the best offenses and one of the best defenses in the country.
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Alabama came into the NCAA Tournament with the number overall seed and for good reason. They finished the season with a 29-5 record, winners of the SEC regular season and conference tournament, and were 13-5 in Quad 1 results.
The Crimson Tide have wins this season against Michigan State, Houston, Arkansas, Kentucky, Missouri, and Texas A&M.
Alabama has been the most consistent team all season led by freshman Brandon Miller. A projected top-5 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, Miller averaged 19.1 points and 8.2 rebounds per game this season.
But the supporting cast around Miller is what makes Alabama such a dangerous team.
Guard Mark Sears averaged 12.4 points per game, forward Noah Clowney averaged 10 points and 7.9 rebounds, and senior guard Jahvon Quinerly only averaged 8.7 points per game, but can turn it on at any point.
Quinerly scored 13 points in the first round and poured in another 22 points on 4-of-6 shooting from three to help his team advance to the Sweet 16. He also dropped 22 points in the SEC Championship game.
Alabama can score, but Quinerly might be the x-factor in this tournament. When the 6-foot-1 guard scores 13-plus points this season, the Crimson Tide are 8-0. He has reached that mark in three straight games.
Alabama has the talent to win it all this season led by their unstoppable offense.
The Crimson Tide’s pace of play is one of the fastest in Division I and teams have a hard time keeping up. They average 82.3 points on 76.3 possessions per game, both ranking top five nationally.
Alabama loves to run on offense, and they are one of the best teams in transition. But the two things that the Crimson Tide really excel at are rebounding and forcing bad shots.
With Miller and Clowney underneath, that helped them finish with the most rebounds per game in the country (44.4). They rarely allow offensive rebounds either and do a nice job of closing out. Opponents are shooting just 37.1% against Alabama.
Finishing as a one-seed has helped Alabama cruise in their first two matchups.
In their first-round matchup facing 16-seed Texas A&M-CC, the Crimson Tide cruised. Nick Pringle, who averages just 3.5 points and 3.1 rebounds per game, led the way with 19 points and 15 rebounds.
Alabama won 96-75, but allowed an alarming 17 offensive rebounds and finished the game with more turnovers than Texas A&M-CC, 8-6.
In the Round of 32 though, they played a much more complete game on both sides against 8-seeded Maryland. Alabama won 73-51 and were led by Quinerly’s 22 points and Miller’s 19 points. On defense, they held Maryland to just 35.2% from the field and outrebounded the Terrapins 44-32.
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San Diego State has disappointed in the March Madness Tournament in recent memory. But this year, the Aztecs are marching on into the Sweet 16.
San Diego State plays physically and lives by its defense. That defense helped them finish with a 27-6 regular season record and winners of the Mountain West regular season and conference tournament.
With the Mountain West sending four teams into the NCAA Tournament, the Aztecs played some solid competition this year. They went 5-5 in Quad 1 games, but three of those losses came against dominant non-conference opponents in Arkansas, Arizona, and Saint Mary’s (CA).
Still, they have quality wins against Utah State, Boise State, and Nevada.
San Diego State is led by veteran Matt Bradley. In his second season with the Aztecs, he averaged 13.3 points and 3.9 rebounds.
Most of the scoring will come from Bradley, though, San Diego State has other solid scorers. Guard Darrion Trammell adds 9.5 points per game and Lamont Butler averages 8.6 points. Both players scored in double figures in Saturday’s Round of 32 game.
The Aztecs lack a true superstar scorer on their roster, but their defense is tough to play against.
On the season, they’ve allowed just 63.1 points per game and rank 21 with a 94.1 defensive rating. The scoring might not always be there, but their defense has won them plenty of games this season.
They're 16-0 this season when they hold opponents to under 60 points, including their two NCAA Tournament victories.
In losses though, San Diego State gives up an average of 76.5 points per game. They allowed 75-plus points in four of the team’s six losses. The Aztecs won’t win a shootout with their opponents and love to slow down the pace of the game.
As a five-seed, the Aztecs were on upset watch in the first round against 12-seed Charleston. And while it was close throughout, San Diego State’s defense came alive at the end.
They won 63-57 and limited Charleston’s high-powered offense. The Cougars averaged over 80 points a game, but the Aztecs held them to a season-low and 20% from three.
In the Round of 32, it was all San Diego State. Buter, Trammell, and Bradley all scored in double figures and as a team, the Aztecs shot 50% from the field. They beat #13 Furman easily 75-52 and once again, held a high-scoring offense to their season low on the year. Furman shot just 23.1% from three.
One seed Alabama enters the Sweet 16 against 5 seed San Diego State in a battle of offense vs defense. Alabama is currently a 7.5 favorite for Friday’s game.
The Crimson Tide’s pace of play is one of the fastest in college basketball, while the San Diego State ranks towards the bottom of that list. Alabama ranks sixth and the Aztecs rank 259.
Alabama can score and San Diego State will need to stop them if they want to win. The Crimson Tide have scored 80-plus points in 18 games this season and are 17-1 in those contests. San Diego State has allowed over 80 points just once this season, a loss to Arizona.
The Aztecs are a great defensive team, but so is Alabama. Their defensive rating ranks better than San Diego State at 92.1.
In this game, Alabama won’t have a shooting clinic against that Aztecs' defense. But, they have the talent in Miller, Quinerly, and Sears to put them over the top. San Diego State won’t have a scorer that can match any of them.
Alabama is the better team and should cover the 7.5 spread. The over 135.5 should also hit. Don’t forget the Crimson Tide scored 71 against a better defense in Houston in December.
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