Texas A&M likely has an NCAA Tournament bid locked up, but a win over Alabama in the regular season finale would erase any doubt. The Crimson Tide are in line to be the No. 1 overall seed right now and can’t afford a loss to the Aggies if they want to hold off Kansas and Houston.
Let’s take a look at the odds and make some picks and predictions for Saturday’s matchup in College Station.
Alabama vs. Texas A&M Odds
Alabama enters as a 2.5-point favorite on the road.
Alabama has won its last three games by two, three, and five points, a big deviation from the blowouts of earlier in the season. Oddsmakers believe this might be another close one. It’s been an unsteady stretch for the Tide, but does Texas A&M have the offense to keep up with them?
Alabama vs. Texas A&M Prediction & Pick
Based on the way these two teams have been trending, it feels like Texas A&M is due for a home win against an Alabama team still trying to rediscover its identity. Matchup difficulties may change that.
Texas A&M will need to do damage against a very tough Alabama interior defense, and it’s fair to say there’s no offensive piece for the Aggies who can score like Brandon Miller can. It’s possible Alabama’s much faster pace throws Texas A&M off, but there’s a strong argument to be made that the combination of a raucous home crowd and a slower pace by the Aggies will likewise throw the Tide out of rhythm.
On talent alone, Alabama should win this one, but talent isn’t the only factor at play here. Texas A&M +2.5 is the pick for what should be a close game.
Alabama vs. Texas A&M Key Matchups
Alabama is one of the most balanced teams in the nation. That’s why the Tide have been able to survive scares against South Carolina, Arkansas, and Auburn in the wake of the Brandon Miller saga. This may not be the same dominant Alabama team from earlier in the season, at least for the time being, but so far the talent and wealth of options have carried the Tide to wins.
A road matchup against a tournament team could be a different challenge. Texas A&M has one of the SEC’s better defenses, allowing 65.7 points per game and limiting points close to the basket. Teams tend to attack the Aggies from the three-point line despite opponents shooting a below average 32.8% from beyond the arc. Alabama is fifth in the nation with 29.2 three-point attempts per game, so the Tide will do plenty of long-range shooting on Saturday.
Interestingly, Nate Oats’ team is only an average three-point shooting team from an efficiency standpoint. Alabama has one of the fastest paces in the nation, leading the country in possessions per game, which leads to so many shot opportunities. Texas A&M is 250th in pace, so it’s going to be an adjustment for both sides.
The priority for the Aggies will be limiting Alabama’s mid-range shots. The Tide shoot nearly 55% from inside the arc, with Miller and Mark Sears shooting well from mid-range and Noah Clowney emerging as a scoring threat in the paint. What makes this team so dangerous is how potent Miller and Sears are from three as well.
The Aggies are also a strong offensive rebounding team, ranking 25th in the nation and giving their offense key second chances. That advantage is going to be tested against Alabama. The Tide lead the nation in rebounds per game, wth Clowney, Miller, and Charles Bediako all huge rebounding presences.
The x-factor for Alabama right now might be Jahvon Quinerly, who had seen his offensive role diminish until he took over with a combined 40 points (14-of-26) in his last two games. While the rest of Alabama has looked damaged by the Miller saga, Quinerly has stepped up and arguably been the difference in two wins. He’s another player whose mid-range shots will be a challenge for the Aggies.
Alabama’s defense has suffered in its last three games, allowing an average of 81.3 points, but this is a unit that has held opponents to a stunningly low 37.8% mark from the field this season. The Tide allow nearly 70 points per game because of their high pace, not because of defensive lapses.
The Aggies don’t have an intimidating offense, with no games over 70 points since February 11, but they have a well-balanced attack led by Wade Taylor. Teams have uncharacteristically had success from beyond the arc against Alabama during this latest stretch, so Texas A&M needs Taylor – its only reliable three-point shooter – to step up.
This is an Aggies team with respectable size that tends to score closer to the basket, but Alabama’s size and terrific interior defense make that a very tough matchup.