Alabama takes care of business and dusts Maryland to advance to the Sweet Sixteen

Brandon Miller (left) and Alabama had little trouble dispatching Maryland in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on March 18, 2023 in Birmingham, Alabama.  (Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Brandon Miller (left) and Alabama had little trouble dispatching Maryland in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on March 18, 2023 in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Upsetting lopsided brackets across America in the NCAA men’s tournament’s first three days, but in Birmingham, No. 1 seed Alabama took care of business in no doubt efficient fashion. The Tide started slowly but stifled the Terps with defensive efficiency, a reminder of the multifaceted threat this team poses to all remaining tournament opponents.

Despite an uncharacteristically rough night from the field, No. 8 Alabama dispatched Maryland 73-51, leaving no doubt they’ll be the likely favorites no matter how many games remain in the season.

Before a heavily partisan Birmingham crowd, Maryland jumped out to an early 9-2 lead. The Terps spent the first half of the game doing what few other teams have been able to do this season: frustrating Alabama into sloppy offensive play and poor shot selection, putting the Crimson Tide offense in the mud so thick that the overall No. 1- the seed did. doesn’t even take its first lead until just 7:30 remained in the first half.

Alabama head coach Nate Oats predicted the pace in the first half Friday afternoon. “They would like it to go slower. We want it to be faster, he said at his press conference before the game. “They’re going to press in a way that slows the game down and we’re going to try to attack the press in a way that speeds up the game.”

See also  Odds for each Sweet 16 team to reach the finals

The problem for Maryland is that Alabama is a hydra; shut down the offense and the defense finds a way to keep the team in the game. Alabama held Maryland to two separate first-half stretches of seven and six minutes without scoring a field goal. A flurry of six Maryland points in the final 90 seconds of the half to pull within five made the 28-23 first-half score a little more palatable, but the sloppiness was contagious; both teams finished the half with less than 40%.

Before the game, Maryland head coach Kevin Willard had high praise for the Alabama roster. “I think [Alabama] is the most talented roster I’ve seen in college basketball since the ’93-’94 Kentucky team, he said Friday. “This team reminds me of that team with the length, athleticism, how unselfish they play, very similar point guards.”

Alabama began the second half looking a bit like the 93-94 Kentucky team that lost in the Round of 32, struggling to pull away from a clearly outmatched Maryland. But the Tide inevitably took advantage of Maryland’s stone-cold shooting, and by the time the half hit the 10-minute mark, Alabama had a 15-point lead and the game was pretty much in hand.

If there’s one bright spot for Maryland, it’s that the Terps provided a defensive template for how to at least slow the Tide: limit possessions, force Alabama into unbalanced mid-range jumpers and make the Tide pay for every interior basket. If Maryland could have converted even a few more of its missed layups and open jumpers, this could have been a very different result. Expect the Tide’s upcoming opponents to watch tape of this game on repeat.

See also  Darius Slay says Justin Jefferson is the best WR he met in 2022

Saturday night’s game was a rematch, and repeat, of a 2021 round of 32 game, where then-No. 2 seed Alabama blew the doors off then-No. 10 seed Maryland 96-77. The 2021 Tide would fall in an upset in the next round to 11th-seeded UCLA; The 2023 version’s future is still very bright.

The best news of the night for Alabama — aside from the obvious survival-and-advance result — was Brandon Miller’s triumphant return to the top of the box. A game after failing to score a single point due to the effects of a groin injury, Miller found his footing and scored 19 points, second on the team to Jahvon Quinerly’s 22. Maryland’s Julian Reese led the Terps with 14 points but was in foul trouble most of the game.

Miller and the entire Alabama team will play this entire tournament under a cloud thanks to his and other current and former players’ presence at a Jan. 15 kill. The death of Jamea Harris, who was shot and killed on Tuscaloosa’s Strip near campus, looms large over the Tide’s season, even as Alabama tries to distance itself from the tragic events of that night. The further the tide goes, the more the questions will focus on their performance in March, not their actions in January.

The devastation in the South region gives Alabama a well-lit path, if not necessarily an open highway, to the Final Four. The Tide will face fifth-seeded San Diego State next week in the Sweet 16, with No. 3 Baylor yet to play its second-round game against Creighton on Sunday.

See also  Eagles overreactions: Darius Slay, defense comes up short vs. Cowboys

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *