Kevin Willard praises Alabama’s personnel, talks possible road atmosphere, update on Brandon Miller

After Maryland hit the practice floor in what head coach Kevin Willard called “more of a mental day,” the Terps will look for revenge when they rematch Alabama in the Round of 32 matchup on Saturday night.

“Just get these guys to understand ‘Bama personnel, kind of what they’re doing in their pick-and-rolls,” Willard said of Friday’s practice. “We’ll spend more time tonight on what they do defensively, but today was more or less put in the game plan. Really they’re such a talented roster, trying to get these guys to understand personnel because I think personnel, more than anything with this team, is critical.”

Maryland, though, may face its toughest test of the season since UCLA arrived at Xfinity Center in mid-December. After recovering from a groin injury suffered in the SEC championship, Alabama head coach Nate Oats held Brandon Miller out of the live portion of Friday’s practice but was optimistic about his availability after playing 20 minutes in the round one win. “He seemed like he was moving alright. It obviously bothered him,” Nate Oats added. “He didn’t shoot it particularly well, but he seemed like he was moving decent. So he’s just got to get his confidence back that he could play with it. Hopefully, all the non-live stuff he does today in practice, he can get to where he’s moving well, shooting it well, and then be ready to go. It obviously wasn’t one of his better games to open, but I think, knowing Brandon and how tough he is, physically, mentally, I think he’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”

This time around, Maryland isn’t as focused on the expert predictions for Saturday night. “I don’t know if — to be honest, I’d be shocked if our kids knew who everyone picked. They’re watching Netflix,” Willard joked. After calling them “the most talented roster I’ve seen in college basketball since the ‘93/’94 Kentucky team,” Willard credited having a veteran roster when prepping for a versatile team like the Crimson Tide. “They understand the challenge,” Willard added. “I like that about them. They understand that Alabama’s really good, they’re very talented. So we’re really just letting them enjoy the experience but kind of get them focused for tomorrow.”

Alabama’s personnel and ability to control both ends of the floor is what has Maryland’s full attention as Willard and the staff drill into the scouting report on Friday night.

“It’s because of how they play offensively is why they’re good defensively. If you know Nate, they’re trying to shoot threes and trying to get dunks. So I guess in practice you’re trying to stop the three, and you’re trying to stop dunks. Because they’re such a talented roster, they’re going against each other. They’re trying to shoot threes in practice. I’m sure they’re trying to stop the threes in practice. They’re trying to get dunks in practice, so I’m sure they’re trying to stop dunks in practice. I think the way they play offensively dictates the way they play defensively. So they’re very aggressive. They switch out really well. They play a really good drop coverage on pick-and-roll where they’re trying to get you take mid-range shots, which they don’t want to take. They take very few mid-range shots, if any. I think the only one I’ve really seen take one is Miller and Jahvon Quinnerly. No one else has taken a mid-range I think, because of the way they play offensively, it really helps them in the way they play defensively.”

With Auburn’s matchup against Houston preceding Maryland’s matchup against Alabama, Maryland could get a surprise twist to bolster their fan support in what’s expected to be a home atmosphere for the Crimson Tide. “I’m hoping Auburn wins because then their fans will stick around. I’m afraid, if Auburn loses, then at 9:40 at night, knowing Auburn fans, they’re probably going to the bar,” head coach Kevin Willard joked.

That didn’t stop Willard from making his plea for Tigers fans to spend the entirety of their Saturday night at Legacy Arena.

“Yeah, stick around. Should be a good game. And it’s 9:40 at night. What else is there to do in Birmingham? It’s like come watch a great game and chill out. I think the NCAA sells beer now…it’s going to be a good game. They’ve got a great game. Why not?”

Tipoff is set for 9:40 PM.

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