We’re off to a good start in the NCAA Tournament. St. Bonaventure won straight-up as a 3.5-point ‘dog in the First Four and then UNC Greensboro nearly did the same, which was still more than enough to cover. Providence is about to tip on Friday afternoon, trying to keep our perfect start alive.
I’m looking ahead to Saturday, though. Villanova did what 1s do to 16s on Friday night in Pittsburgh, dismantling Radford and even covering the 23-point spread. Alabama, meanwhile, won a much more competitive opener against Virginia Tech. Collin Sexton came alive in the second half to lead his Crimson Tide into a major upset opportunity against the best team in the nation.
Alabama was part of the SEC’s 4–0 Thursday in the NCAA Tournament. The Crimson Tide was down two at half and it was back and forth until the last minute when John Petty hit a cold-blooded three and Sexton made a one-on-one move to put it on ice the next possession down.
Those two were the two biggest names in Avery Johnson’s recruiting class that was supposed to make Alabama a Sweet Sixteen team this year, a destination that’s now just one win away. Petty had an up-and-down regular season but hit six three-pointers on Thursday and Sexton scored 22 in the second half after a quiet first.
Both are tremendously gifted athletes. Sexton will be the highest NBA pick of any player on the floor and Petty is probably the third-best prospect after his backcourt mate and Villanova’s Mikal Bridges. Both freshman flashed their brilliance on Thursday.
But even while they were making great plays in isolation and in transition, Virginia Tech hung around with better team basketball. The ‘Cats have the best of both worlds college basketball has to offer: talent that rivals any other’s and a competitiveness and team fabric to match.
There are just no holes in this Villanova team and so it’s inevitably the Wildcats who end up exposing their opponent’s weaknesses. Alabama has talent, yes, but it’s far from flawless. I believe Jay Wright’s team will make that perfectly apparent on Saturday afternoon.
My one concern about laying the points is that Alabama is riding a wave of confidence because some of those shots it hit on Thursday were the type that can make you feel good. As long as Villanova comes out strong early, it could turn this into an afternoon clinic.
Free Pick: Villanova -10