INDIANAPOLIS — No. 2-seeded Alabama basketball will look to advance to the round of 16 in the NCAA tournament Monday when it faces 10th-seeded Maryland.
The Terps (17-13) advanced with a 63-54 win over No. 7-seeded Connecticut. The stylistic difference between the two teams could not be more apparent. Alabama plays at the second-fastest tempo of all the tournament’s remaining teams, behind only No. 1 overall seed Gonzaga. Maryland, perhaps in keeping with its “Fear The Turtle” motto, is No. 320 nationally in pace of play.
The Terrapins will also have a source with inside knowledge of Nate Oats’ program. Galin Smith, who played for Alabama in 2020, is a grad transfer with Maryland and has appeared in 30 games this season.
Tipoff: Monday, 6:45 p.m., TNT.
How Alabama Can Win: Keep up the defensive intensity, especially on 6-foot-5 guard Eric Ayala, who had 23 points in the win over Connecticut. That includes preparing for physicality. Maryland plays in the bruising Big Ten and will not be as easy to move on the inside as overmatched Iona.
How Maryland Can Win: Keep. It. Slow. Maryland’s multiple defenses perplexed Connecticut and its chances are much better if the game is played in the 60s.
One key factor: Oats said he was hopeful that the Crimson Tide would shake off the “first-game jitters” of NCAA play. That goes especially for senior guard John Petty Jr.
Primo update: Josh Primo, a member of the Freshman All-SEC team, averages 8.1 points per game. Keon Ellis has replaced him in the starting lineup over the last three games.
Oats added that Alabama needed to polish its performance after a 68-55 opening-round win over Iona on Saturday.
“We definitely missed layups, turned the ball over, missed open 3s,” he said. “None of that goes well for your offense. We didn’t go live today because we have to make sure our legs are fresh. We've just gotta tell our guys to focus, play the way they play. I think some of (the inconsistent shooting) was nervous jitters. Some of it was that we need to spray the ball around more after we get it inside, get some better looks than we have been getting. We’ll work on the free throws (after going 13-for-23 at the line against the Gaels) but it’s one day so we aren’t going to change much. We’ve got good shooters, we just need to focus.”
Prediction: Alabama 69, Maryland 65