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The race for the 2023 National Championship title in the sport of College Basketball is here. March Madness is set to begin exciting runs of potential upsets in the NCAA Men’s Tournament. #1 Alabama is looking to avoid an upset throughout the entire tournament as they take on the winner of the Texas A&M CC vs SE Missouri State in the first round of the South Bracket. This battle will be a matchup of David vs Goliath. It will be up to the Tide to avoid the historic upset.
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The #1 Alabama Crimson Tide (29-5; 16-2 in SEC play) were expected to be serious competitors for the SEC Tournament title, but becoming national title contenders was more difficult to believe. While the Tide haven’t been dominant throughout the season against the top 25 teams, they have remained at the top of the nation.
Alabama started the season 5-0 which included an 81-70 win over the #12 Michigan State Spartans. One game later, the Tide fell to the #20 UConn Huskies 82-67.
Just when the Tide looked like they were losing the elite title, they were able to defeat the #1 North Carolina Tar Heels in a quadruple overtime thriller 103-101. Two games later, the Tide defeated the #1 Houston Cougars, a fellow #1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, 71-65 on Dec. 10.
Alabama entered the 2023 SEC Tournament as the #1 seed and dominated #9 Mississippi State 72-49 in the quarterfinals. Afterward, they were able to defeat the #4 Missouri Tigers 72-61 in the semifinals. Finally, Alabama got revenge on #2 Texas A&M for their loss in the regular season finale by soundly defeating the Aggies 82-63 to secure their eighth SEC Tournament title in program history.
Outside of dealing with the negative storylines this season involving the murder case with teammate Darius Miles as the main subject, freshman forward Brandon Miller has had a fantastic season. Miller is one of the nation’s most efficient offensive playmakers as he averages 19.5 points per game shooting a field-goal percentage of 51.9%, a three-point shooting percentage of 40.7%, and a free-throw shooting percentage of 85.3%. He is also averaging 8.2 rebounds and two assists per game.
Two more players that have helped turn Alabama’s offense into the second-ranked scoring offense in the nation at 82.9 points per game are junior guard Mark Sears and freshman forward Noah Clowney. Sears is averaging 12.8 points per game while Clowney is averaging 10.2 points per game with a field goal percentage of 49.1%.
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The Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Islanders (23-10; 14-4 in Southland play) have had an up-and-down season for more than halfway through the season. With the loss 90-78 road loss to Houston Christian on Jan. 21, the Islanders had accumulated a record of 11-9.
After that loss, however, the Islanders got hot at the right time by winning 12 of their next 13 games. The Islanders entered the 2023 Southland Conference Tournament as the #1 seed and took care of #8 McNeese 80-63 in the semifinals. The Islanders held on to defeat Northwestern State 75-71 in the championship round.
The key to offenses for the Islanders is a quick explosive play from their small-ball lineups. The Islanders, by senior guard Trey Tennyson, average 80.4 points per game, which is 21st in the nation.
Tennyson is averaging 15.7 points per game shooting a field goal percentage of 44.3%. At 6-5; 208 pounds, Islanders senior forward Isaac Mushila is averaging 14.4 points per game.
This game has the chance to be a stellar offensive shootout.
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Alabama did not know its opponent for the first round until after Tuesday's First-Four on Mar. 14 when Southeast Missouri State fell to Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in an offensive shootout. The Tide should be feeling good about their chances to get through the first round of the tournament with no problem.
Since 1985, the #1 seeds are 147-1 in the first round of the tournament versus the #16 seeds. The one time the #16 seed shocked the #1 seed was in the 2018 NCAA Tournament when #16 UMBC defeated #1 Virginia 74-54.
What makes Alabama different from the Cavaliers in 2018 is that the Tide are highly efficient and focused on both sides of the ball. The Tide are tenacious at attacking the basket throughout the court, led by Sporting News' First-Team All-American and SEC Player of the Year in Brandon Miller. He is a player who is receiving NBA Draft hype for his offensive efficiency.
One player for Alabama that could be a problem for the Islanders is 6-10 freshman forward Noah Clowney, who averaged 7.9 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. He has the size and elite talent to control the tenacity of either offense if they decide to drive to the paint.
The biggest key for either the Islanders is to push Alabama to the brink in terms of pace and scoring, but Alabama has shown itself to be a tough opponent to outscore at a fast tempo.
Location: Legacy Arena at BJCC, Birmingham, AL
Game Time & Date: 1:45 E.T. @ Thursday, Mar. 16
TV Network: CBS
Streaming: YouTube TV, Hulu, Sling, etc.
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