Alabama-Virginia Tech would be a heck of a college football matchup just about any season, but it’s also one of the most intriguing March Madness matchups in the first-round. The No. 9 Tide and No. 8 Hokies face off Thursday night in East Region play from Pittsburgh.
NCAA Tournament Odds and Betting Analysis
As one would expect, the all-time series between a No. 8 and No. 9 is close with the 8 seeds leading 67-65. They have been a bit more dominant of late in winning 19 of the past 28 matchups. Just once in the past decade have No. 9 seeds won more than two of the four matchups in any tournament.
Alabama is one of a handful of teams to make the Big Dance as an at-large school despite a below-.500 record, in this case 8-10 in the SEC. It’s the 21st all-time NCAA Tournament appearance for Alabama and first since 2012. It is 21-10 and without a Final Four trip.
There was never any doubt about Virginia Tech getting an at-large bid as it was 10-8 in the best conference in the country, the ACC. The Hokies have made nine previous NCAA Tournaments; they hadn’t since 2007 until last year when they lost in the first round to Wisconsin 84-74. Virginia Tech has a 6-9 record in the Big Dance with no Final Four trips.
Virginia Tech opened as a 2-point favourite on the March Madness betting board. The winner almost surely will face No. 1 Villanova on Saturday.
Alabama Crimson Tide
It’s never easy to be the basketball coach at Alabama (19-15) because the football program overshadows everything else. But former NBA point guard Avery Johnson has done a terrific job in Tuscaloosa and welcomed arguably the best recruiting class in school history this season. That group is led by point guard Collin Sexton, who will be an NBA lottery pick this summer. The Tide likely wouldn’t be in this tournament if not for Sexton hitting a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat Texas A&M in Alabama’s first SEC Tournament game. That snapped the Crimson Tide’s five-game losing streak, and then they upset rival Auburn, the SEC regular-season champion, before falling to eventual tournament winner Kentucky in the semifinals. Sexton leads the team in scoring at 19.0 ppg. Fellow freshman John Petty is third on the team at 10.1 ppg.
Virginia Tech Hokies
The Hokies (21-11) have proven they can beat anyone on a given night with wins over ranked North Carolina, Duke, Clemson and at Virginia. Tech did play an SEC foe in non-conference play, losing by seven at Kentucky. The Hokies also are capable of losing to anyone and dropped three of their final four. This is an excellent offensive team, putting up 79.7 points per game – best for a Tech team since 1988-89 — with five double-digit scorers. Coach Buzz Williams often uses a four-guard lineup to play up tempo but that means it’s not a strong rebounding team (297th nationally). There’s not much size on the roster.