It was a knock down slugfest to start March Madness with Maryland pulling out the win against a feisty West Virginia squad. Their reward? A date with the number one team in the nation with the Crimson Tide firing on all cylinders as a +8.5 underdog. In a contrast of styles, this has all the makings for an exciting Saturday main event. Maryland’s defense can counter Bama’s offensive identity, giving me enough confidence in their ability to cover the spread.
Maryland Vs. Alabama Prediction
Since the start of conference play, Alabama has been the hottest unit in the nation with Brandon Miller proving why he is the best player in college basketball. He’s been the engine for Alabama’s 19th ranked Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, seemingly having the game play at a slow pace in his eyes. Defenses have failed to slow him down as Miller has seemingly attacked gaps at will for either high quality looks at the rim or for kickouts to open perimeter shooters.
If you want to beat Bama, or more importantly cover the spread, then you have to slow down their offensive attack and quickly fill up the gaps created off of pick and rolls. This plays into Maryland’s hands as their defense is built off of stopping pick and roll action. They rank top-15 in pick and roll coverage per Kenpom, possessing the ability to cover the created gap and get a hand in the shooter’s face for a low-quality jump shot.
Rattling Alabama at the perimeter is key as they will continue to abuse their looks even if they run cold. By limiting their scoring pace, this gives the Terps a much-needed opportunity to maintain scoring pace as a methodically slow-moving unit. The pace of play couldn’t be any more different as Alabama runs as the fifth fastest unit in the nation while Maryland ranks 322nd in Adjusted Tempo per Kenpom.
They limit their own number of possessions by this style of play, a concern as they are an interior scoring unit in comparison to the Crimson Tides perimeter approach. Maryland has been an abysmal unit from deep, averaging a lowly 33% from the perimeter. Good for 219th in the nation. It is worth noting that they have been hot in their last five games, bumping their average up to 36.5%.
Maryland Vs. Alabama Prediction: Maryland +8.5
Maryland Vs. Alabama Odds
Oddsmakers are tempering their expectations of Maryland to pull it off, opening them as a +8.5 underdog. Bettors have also failed to take a stand on either end of the number, keeping the spread the same since the open. This is where my interests lie as I love the Terps chance of making this interesting at no lower than +8. A key number in basketball, giving us the hook in what is normally a number that ceases late game fouling.
As for the total, points are expected to be scored at a quick pace as oddsmakers opened the number at 144. Bettors have yet to take a firm stand on either end of the total, keeping it relatively the same since the open with a few ticks up to 144.5 in some shops. This is heavily predicated on Maryland’s ability to score as they have to capitalize on their limited number of possessions due to their own pace of play.
Maryland Vs. Alabama Key Matchups
Maryland facilitation vs Alabama interior defense
As I alluded to earlier, Maryland’s offensive success is heavily predicated on their ability to score in the mid-range. They ran as a poor perimeter scoring unit throughout the course of the season, allowing opposing defenses to sag off and disrupt their interior looks.
To combat against this, Maryland will need to continue to facilitate at a high rate when slashing into the interior against a very formidable defense. Alabama has been a sneaky elite defensive unit, ranking third in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency.
Assuming Maryland’s uptick in perimeter completion percentage regresses back towards their mean, then Jahmir Young and Hakim Hart’s passing ability becomes more vital as they are capable of shifting Bama’s defense to open looks at the second level.
Back Maryland at no lower than +8 as they have the defensive identity in their pick and roll coverage to disrupt the Crimson Tide’s scoring pace.