It’s a first-round matchup on the college hardwood in the Sunshine State as the SEC takes on the MAAC in the ESPN Events Invitational. The #10 Alabama Crimson Tide are the “road” team as they take on the Iona Gaels Thursday afternoon. Alabama comes in off an 86-59 shellacking of Oakland at home Friday in their most recent contest. Iona defeated North Alabama 81-65 on a neutral floor in their most recent game Saturday. The Crimson Tide have won both previous meetings between the teams, including a 68-55 victory in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament in a 2/15 game on March 20, 2021 in the most recent matchup.
Alabama Crimson Tide Looking for Semifinal BerthAlabama pasted Oakland in their most recent contest and are well prepared for heading into this tournament. The Crimson Tide enter this contest 4-0 on the year and look to make it five straight wins by prevailing here. Against Oakland, Alabama used a 16-4 run to turn a one-point edge to a 13-point advantage in the first half and went on to the win. The Crimson Tide were up 12 at the half and led by as many as 29 in the second half en route to the victory. Alabama shot 43.3% from the field, including 10 of 36 from three-point range, and controlled the boards 45-28 in the victory. Jaden Shackleford led the Crimson Tide with 20 points in the victory.
For the year, Alabama is averaging 89 points per game this season, putting them 8th in the nation in scoring offense. The Crimson Tide collects an average of 47 rebounds per game while they dish out an average of 16.5 assists a night. Alabama is surrendering an average of 69.8 points a night this season, putting them 209th in the country in scoring defense. Jaden Shackleford leads the team with 19.5 points plus 6.8 rebounds per game this season. Jahvon Quinerly (15.5 points, 4.3 assists), Keon Ellis (14.5 points) and Darius Miles (10.3 points) provide good scoring support. Charles Bediako, JD Davison, Noah Gurley, Juwan Gary and Keon Ambrose-Hylton are among those who have to step up offensively for coach Nate Oats. The Crimson Tide is decent when it comes to shooting the ball as they are hitting 46.7% from the field as a team on the year. Alabama knocks down an average of 10.8 three-pointers a night while sinking 31.6% from beyond the arc. The Crimson Tide is mediocre at the charity stripe as they convert 70.5% of their chances at the line.
Iona Gaels Try to Remain UnbeatenIona handled North Alabama on a neutral floor in their most recent contest as they continue to play well under Rick Pitino. The Gaels improved to 5-0 on the season and they’ve taken down Hofstra, Harvard and Liberty in the early going this year. Against North Alabama, Iona led by just three at the half before opening the second half on a 14-3 run. That gave the Gaels a 52-38 advantage with 14:04 to play and didn’t let the Lions closer than nine the rest of the way. Iona shot 43.3% from the field, including nine of 14 from beyond the arc, and held North Alabama to 31.3% shooting in the contest. Quinn Slazinski and Tyson Jolly each had 18 points in the win to lead Iona.
The Gaels are a decent offensive attack as they are 151st in the nation in scoring offense with an average of 74.4 points per game. Iona is 130th in rebounding with 38 boards a contest and 88th in assists by dishing out 15 dimes a night. The Gaels are slightly above average defensively as they are 132nd in scoring defense by allowing 65.8 points a contest. Nelly Junior Joseph leads the team with 16.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per contest on the year. Tyson Jolly (16 points), Dylan van Eyck (12 points, 5.6 rebounds) and Quinn Slazinski (10.8 points) are good secondary scoring options. Elijah Joiner, Ryan Myers, Berrick JeanLouis, Walter Clayton Jr. and Jordan Wildy are needed to contribute on both ends for the Gaels. Iona shoots just 42.7% from the floor as a team this season. The Gaels knock down 6.6 triples a night while shooting 35.1% from long range. Iona is a mediocre team at the free throw line as they convert 68.8% of their attempts this season.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Iona has won five straight to open the season and even though they have picked up some wins over some mid-major programs that are good teams, this is a massive step up in competition. Alabama is a top-10 team that loves to run and gun to pile up points. Oats knows how to get everything he can out of his guys and having the Shackleford/Quinerly combination back to lead the way makes the Crimson Tide extremely dangerous. Iona hasn’t faced an explosive team like Alabama and they are going to have their hands full here. Look for the Crimson Tide to take care of business here and knock the Gaels from the ranks of the unbeaten.
Full-Game Total Pick
Alabama comes into this contest having seen the over in two of their four games this season. The Crimson Tide are 11th in offensive efficiency, sixth in two-point shooting (61.4%) and 59th in effective field goal percentage (54.5%) according to KenPom. Alabama loves to run and gun as they are ninth in the nation in tempo by averaging 73.8 possessions a night on the season. Iona has seen the over go 3-2 in their five games on the year. The Gaels are 96th in defensive efficiency and 11th in three-point field goal percentage defense (23.4%) on the year. Iona is 107th in tempo with 70.3 possesions per game. Look for Alabama to ratchet the tempo up and help push this one over the number.