John Petty gave the Alabama Crimson Tide a big boost off the bench with 20 points in Alabama's win over Virginia Tech.
The first game of the NCAA Tournament’s second-round action on Saturday is from the East Region as top-seeded Villanova of the Big East faces No. 9 Alabama of the SEC in this March Madness matchup with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line.
NCAA Tournament Odds and Betting Analysis
As strong as program as Villanova has become, it has advanced past the NCAA Tournament’s second round just once this decade, and that was in the 2016 national championship run. Last year as a No. 1 seed, the Wildcats were upset by No. 8 Wisconsin 65-62. In 2015, top-seeded Villanova was knocked off by No. 8 NC State 71-68. The year before, the No. 2 Wildcats lost to No. 7 UConn 77-65. Villanova lost in the first round in 2013 & ’11 (missed tourney in 2012) and lost in the second round in 2010 to Saint Mary’s as a No. 2 seed. Coach Jay Wright used to have a bit of a monkey on his back with all those early exits, but that went away with the title two years ago.
Alabama is in the Big Dance for only the second time this decade – it’s tough to win at a such a huge football school – and is in the second round for the first time since 2006, when the Tide lost to UCLA. They haven’t reached the Sweet 16 since 2004. That club would go all the way to the Elite Eight, the lone time Alabama has advanced past the Sweet 16. The winner advances to the regional semifinals in Boston, most likely to face either No. 4 Wichita State or No. 5 West Virginia.
Our March Madness betting odds opened with Villanova set as an 11-point favourite.
Alabama Crimson Tide
Have to eat some crow on the Tide (20-15) as we projected them to lose 78-75 to Virginia Tech in Round 1. Alabama was going to have the most talented player on the floor in freshman guard Collin Sexton, a sure-fire NBA lottery pick this summer, but the Hokies were deeper. We were right on the three-point final score, but the Tide prevailed 86-83. Sexton was in foul trouble the first half but scored 21 of his 25 points after intermission (the other four starters combined for 25 points). Fellow freshman guard John Petty added 20 points off the bench. Alabama shot 60 per cent from the field. One issue this season has been free-throw shooting, and that was on display Thursday as the Crimson Tide were 18-for-27.
We projected Villanova (31-4) to beat First Four winner and No. 16 Radford 85-62 in the first round, and the final was 87-61 in the Wildcats’ sixth straight victory – 87 points is what the nation’s top-ranked offence averaged during the season. The game was over at the half with Villanova up 21. Until about midway through the second half, Nova was shooting 75 per cent from the field. No team will beat the Wildcats shooting like that. They ended up hitting 59.6 per cent and 14-for-27 from 3-point range. Big East Player of the Year Jalen Brunson was 7-for-9 for 16 points. No starter played more than 29 minutes, which could be very important in a quick turnaround.