2023 NCAA Sweet Sixteen Game Preview & Prediction: No. 5 SDSU vs. No. 1 Alabama
Alabama looks to Roll SDSU, but the Aztecs seek to turn the Tide.
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Will Brian Dutcher’s Aztecs wage a successful upset over Nate Oats’ Crimson Tide to reach the Elite Eight?
WHO: San Diego State University Aztecs (29-6, 15-3 MW) vs. University of Alabama Crimson Tide (31-5, 16-2 SEC)
WHEN: Friday, March 24th – 3:30 p.m. PST | 6:30 p.m. EST
WHERE: KFC Yum! Center- Louisville, KY (Capacity 22,090)
RADIO: San Diego Sports 760 / SiriusXM App ch. 968
SERIES RECORD: SDSU and Alabama meet for the 1st time on Saturday.
WEBSITES: GoAztecs.com, the official San Diego State athletics website; RollTide.com, the official Alabama athletics website.
ODDS: SDSU +7.5
Louisville, KY – The No. 5 Aztecs (29-6) take on the No. 1 Crimson Tide (31-5) in the Sweet Sixteen. Tip-off from KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. EST (TBS) on Friday, March 24th.
No. 5 San Diego State hammered No. 13 Furman 75-52 in the Round of 32 to advance to Sweet Sixteen, causing the Paladins and spectators to marvel at the physicality the Aztecs bring.
No. 1 Alabama took No. 8 Maryland to the woodshed beating them 73-51 to advance as well. Alabama took full control of the game in the second half, after Maryland tired and allowed themselves to be overpowered.
San Diego State and Alabama have never faced off before. The Crimson Tide play elite top-five offense, and the Aztecs play elite top-fifteen defense. The Roll Tide have four breakout players. The Aztecs have perhaps seven. Bama improvises exceptionally well to adapt to opponents, while SDSU has perpetual fresh legs and a deep, productive bench. The Crimson and White have some of the NCAA’s youngest, freshest talent, while the Black and Scarlet have some of the NCAA’s most veteran athletes.
Who will move on to the Elite 8? Let’s take a closer look.
Why The Crimson Tide Will Win
For starters, Alabama is the number one ranked team in NCAA Division 1 basketball, among 360 teams.
The Crimson Tide is an offensive powerhouse featuring some of the best talent in college basketball, including freshman superstar and top NBA prospect Brandon Miller. They also have top JUCO transfer Nick Pringle. All in all, the Crimson Tide have top talent, both offensively and defensively.
Miller has scored in double figures in 26 of the past 27 games, including a 19-point performance in Saturday’s Maryland win. In the SEC Tournament Championship win over Texas A&M, Miller scored 23 points and collected 12 boards. It was his second consecutive double-double and third in four games. He has nine double-doubles on the year. In 36 games, all starts, Miller is averaging 19.1 points, 8.2 rebounds and two assists in 32.7 minutes.
Junior guard Mark Sears has been rock solid for the Crimson Tide. In 36 starts, Sears is averaging 12.4 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 steals in 29.7 minutes of action. Sears is also connecting on 40.7% of his field goals, including 35.4% from 3-point range, and 84.4% from the free-throw line.
6’10” freshman forward Noah Clowney averages just shy of a double-double per game, averaging 10.1 points, while grabbing 8.0 boards per game.
6’1″ senior guard Jahvon Quinerly went 9 of 14 and against Maryland scoring 22 points. He sank 4 of 6 three’s from beyond the arc. Quinerly averages 8.1 points per game, 3.8 assists, 1.8 boards, and is 39.1% from the field. He is 36% from beyond the arc.
College basketball’s top prognosticators have the Crimson Tide to be victorious, by a margin of 7.5. If they perform as expected, Alabama registers the win and moves on to the Elite Eight.
Why The Aztecs Will Win
When the Aztecs are playing their best basketball they can potentially beat any team in the NCAA.
Senior guard Matt Bradley leads the Aztecs in scoring, averaging 13 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists in 26.7 minutes. He has started all 35 games, and is connecting on 41.1% of his field goals, including 36.6% of his 3-pointers, and 79.8% of his free throws. He had a 17-point, seven-rebound and four-assist performance against Charleston, and then scored 10 points, grabbed three boards and had two assists in the Furman win.
Senior guard Darrion Trammell had a solid performance in the second-round victory over Furman. Trammel poured in 13 points, to go along with two rebounds, two assists and one steal. In 34 games this season, including 33 starts, he is averaging 9.5 points, 3.2 assists, 2.2 rebounds and 1.3 steals.
The Aztecs will come out intent to play the fiercest defense they’ve played all year. If the Aztecs disrupt successfully, and the Crimson Tide are unable to play their high tempo game, things could start to fray for them. If Alabama’s tempo is stymied, while SDSU menacingly creates turnovers, this could spell real trouble for the Crimson Tide.
If the Aztecs win the battle of the boards, and if the Crimson Tide can’t find an open three-point shot, the Aztecs might have the handle in this game, and they might just eek past #1 Alabama to reach the Elite Eight for the first time in San Diego State history.
What Will Happen
As Bama rolls out their high speed tempo, the Aztecs defense will cover the Crimson Tide like a trench coat. This is going to affect the athletes, causing them to pass more than normally needed. The clock will wind down fast. They will have countermeasures to SDSU coverage, but their three-point shots will be ten percent below normal production.
The Aztecs will pick pockets and force turnovers against the Crimson Tide and with patience this will become points. The Crimson Tide will, however, make it difficult for the Aztecs to sink threes- so they will have to score points in the paint.
The Aztecs will manage the ball carefully, and their veteran maturity will give them an edge over Alabama’s young, raw talent. Alabama’s height will be a factor, but the Aztecs have similar height.
Somehow, the Aztecs will keep Alabama just under 70 points and escape with a one-possession win, to the shock of the college basketball world.
Final Score: SDSU 71, Alabama 69
The winner of No. 5 San Diego State and No. 1 Alabama will square off in the Elite 8 with the winner of No. 6 Creighton (23-12) and No. 15 Princeton (23-8) on Sunday, March 26th at a time to be determined.