NCAA Tournament: Maryland and Alabama square off in second round

No. 8 Maryland (22-12) vs. No. 1 Alabama (30-5)

When: Saturday, March 18

Where: Legacy Arena

TV: TBS –  Jim Nantz (pxp), Bill Raftery, Grant Hill (analysts)

Radio: WJZ-FM 105.7 (Baltimore), The TEAM 980 AM (D.C.)

Spread:  Alabama -8.5 (DraftKings as of 3/16)

Maryland basketball and the Alabama Crimson Tide meet once again in the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32 for a spot in the Sweet Sixteen.

The two teams met in the 2021 NCAA Tournament. Alabama won 96-77 behind 16 made three-pointers, a perfect outing at the free throw line, and 41 points combined from Jaden Shackelford (21 points) and John Petty Jr. (20 points).

Saturday’s rematch will tip off at 9:40 ET on TBS to close out the Saturday slate of games.

After Maryland rode Julian Reese to the finish line in a 67-65 win over West Virginia to kick off Thursday’s action, now comes top-seed Alabama as Maryland knows they will have their hands full.

“They’re very aggressive,” head coach Kevin Willard said. “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.”

Alabama head coach Nate Oats was also optimistic on Brandon Miller contributing more on Saturday compared to Thursday as he works through a groin injury. “He seemed like he was moving alright. It obviously bothered him,” Nate Oats said. “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.”

What makes Alabama so dangerous is they use dribble penetration to kick the ball out for three-pointers. They have plenty of knockdown shooters on their squad. Eight Crimson Tide players made one or more three-pointers to give them 15 made shots from long range on Thursday. The Terps’ perimeter defense will have to be stout in order to prevent a barrage of threes from raining down. Consistent pressure on the ball all the way up the floor could help their cause.

Maryland basketball has been successful at speeding teams up when they press full court. Now, they have to make shots and take care of the basketball for it to work effectively. Jahmir Young will look to put his dreadful NCAA Tournament debut to bed against a fast-tempo Crimson Tide on Saturday night.

“I mean, I think it’s one thing to practice against that defense for a couple of days. It’s another thing to all of a sudden see a coach [Bob] Huggins’s defense live. It was just, just getting him to kind of calm down and see that we have total confidence in him,” Terps head coach Kevin Willard said about Young’s turnovers. “I think once he kind of saw it and everybody saw it, it was like a boxing match, you know? He got hit a couple of times and I think it just relaxed him, and he was able to see it. I thought he was pretty good.”

Charles Biediako is a force inside for Alabama on both ends of the floor. The seven-footer has nice post moves, he’s a physical rebounder and more than capable of protecting the rim. After all, he leads the team in blocked shots.

Don’t sleep on forward Nick Pringle. He let people know who he is with the 19-point and 15-rebound performance against the Islanders. The Terps need to expect another tough, physical game in the paint and on the boards with another big performance.

If there’s any area where Maryland can attack, it’s on the defensive end of the floor. The Crimson Tide enter Saturday night averaging 14 turnovers per game with the Terps full and half court traps giving them a chance to keep Alabama on their toes.

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