Alabama (19-15) vs Virginia Tech (21-11)
When: Thursday, March 15th 2018
Where: PPG Paints Arena, Pittsburgh, PA
Time: 9:20 ET | TV: TNT
Opening Odds: Virginia Tech -2/142
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The Alabama Crimson Tide are led by one of the most dynamic players in all of College Basketball – and he’s a freshman – as Collin Sexton tries to lead his team to a first round victory over the Virginia Tech Hokies on Thursday night in Pittsburgh as part of the East Region. Sexton leads the Tide in scoring (19 points) and assists (3.5) and is able to take games over, as he did with 21 second-half points in a quarterfinal win over Auburn in the SEC tournament last weekend. Alabama will need to get more offense from the rest of the lineup as the Hokies will certainly focus on stopping Sexton and forcing other Alabama players to beat them. Guard Justin Robinson guides the high-scoring Hokies offense, averaging 13.8 points and 5.6 assists, both team-highs. Four different players – Robinson, Justin Bibbs, Ahmed Hill and Nickeil Alexander-Walker – have all drained at least 50 3-pointers this season, which forces opposing defenses to guard the perimeter tightly. The Hokies average 79.7 points and have five double-figure scorers, while the Crimson Tide averages 72.4, but both squads allow at least 70 points an outing. Alabama ranked 13th in the SEC this season in free-throw percentage, hitting just 67.2 percent of its attempts, which gives the Hokies the advantage in a close game down the stretch. Virginia Tech was one of only three teams in conference play with a negative rebounding margin (-1.5). The winner will advance to the second round Saturday to face either No. 1 seed Villanova or 16th-seeded Radford. My money is on ‘Nova.
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The Crimson Tide are confident they will have forward Donta Hall available for the NCAA Tournament after Hall suffered a concussion in the team’s quarterfinal win over Auburn in the SEC tournament Friday. Hall missed the semifinal loss to Kentucky on Saturday, but head coach Avery Johnson says the junior is in concussion protocol and he’s optimistic he’ll have the team’s second-leading scorer (10.9 points per game) and top rebounder (6.8) and shot-blocker (2.1) against the Hokies. Freshman Alex Reese started in Hall’s place against Kentucky, finishing with five points and four rebounds in 19 minutes in his first-ever collegiate start.
Virginia Tech head coach Buzz Williams did not like the way his team played in the last game of the season, when the Hokies led Notre Dame by 21 with just over 15 minutes to play and lost in the ACC Tournament. Virginia Tech does not guard the perimeter well, instead, trying to stuff the lane as much as possible, and the Irish took big advantage of that, hitting 10 three-pointers. Despite taking a lot of long jump shots, the Hokies rank 10th in the entire country in field goal percentage at just under 50 percent. They lost three of their last four games, but did get a huge win over Duke that probably solidified their berth in the Big Dance, and it also proves that they can beat anyone on a good night.
The Tide are too one-dimensional for a big tournament run, while the Hokies are just the opposite. When it comes down to games like this, all you have to do is slow down the other team’s best player, and that’s what will happen tonight. The Hokies will get the job done here, only to face Villanova in two days. Have fun while it lasts, Virginia Tech.
Pick: Virginia Tech -2
- Crimson Tide are 2-5-1 ATS in their last 8 non-conference games.
- Hokies are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 games following a ATS loss.
- Hokies are 5-1 ATS in their last 6 non-conference games.
- Hokies are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 games following a straight up loss.
- Hokies are 9-4 ATS in their last 13 games overall.
- Hokies are 3-7-1 ATS in their last 11 Thursday games.
- Under is 10-2 in Crimson Tide last 12 games following a ATS loss.
- Over is 4-1 in Crimson Tide last 5 Thursday games.
- Under is 8-3 in Crimson Tide last 11 games following a straight up loss.
- Under is 21-8 in Crimson Tide last 29 non-conference games.
- Under is 23-9 in Crimson Tide last 32 games vs. a team with a winning % above .600.
- Over is 5-2 in Crimson Tide last 7 NCAA Tournament games.
- Under is 14-6 in Crimson Tide last 20 overall.
- Under is 9-0 in Hokies last 9 overall.
- Under is 5-0 in Hokies last 5 games following a straight up loss.
- Under is 4-0 in Hokies last 4 games following a ATS loss.
- Over is 8-2 in Hokies last 10 non-conference games.
- Over is 5-2 in Hokies last 7 Thursday games.
- Over is 12-5-1 in Hokies last 18 neutral site games.