It’s a losers’ bracket matchup on the college hardwood in the Sunshine State as the SEC takes on the Missouri Valley Conference in the ESPN Events Invitational. The #10 Alabama Crimson Tide are the “road” team as they take on the Drake Bulldogs Friday afternoon. Alabama was stunned 72-68 by Iona in their first-round matchup Thursday afternoon in their most recent contest. Drake was edged 74-69 by Belmont in their first-round clash in their latest game Thursday night. This marks the first time that these two programs have met on the hardwood as Division I programs.
Alabama Crimson Tide Looking to Get Back in Win ColumnAlabama went into Thursday unbeaten on the year but they found themselves on the short end of their contest with Iona in the opening round. The Crimson Tide now tries to shake that off and get back in the win column as they take the floor here after falling to 4-1. Against Iona, Alabama scored the final four points of the first half to take a 33-29 lead at intermission. The Crimson Tide extended to an eight-point margin with 14:23 to play but seemed to run out of steam late in the contest. Alabama led by five with 7:35 to play before giving up a 12-2 run that left them down 64-59 with 3:23 to go. The Crimson Tide couldn’t get even again, though they climbed within a point on a couple of occasions down the stretch. Alabama shot 44.6% from the field, including five of 17 from three-point range, but did themselves in with a 13 of 25 showing at the free throw line. Jaden Shackleford led the Crimson Tide with 19 points and 10 rebounds in the loss.
For the year, Alabama is averaging 84.8 points per game this season, putting them 27th in the nation in scoring offense. The Crimson Tide collects an average of 42.4 rebounds per game while they dish out an average of 14.4 assists a night. Alabama is surrendering an average of 70.2 points a night this season, putting them 214th in the country in scoring defense. Jaden Shackleford leads the team with 19.4 points plus 7.4 rebounds per game this season. Jaden Quinerly (17.5 points, five assists), Keon Ellis (12.4 points), Jahvon Quinerly (10.5 points, 2.3 assists) and Darius Miles (9.6 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 46.4% from the field as a team on the year. Alabama knocks down an average of 9.6 three-pointers a night while sinking 31.4% from beyond the arc. The Crimson Tide is mediocre at the charity stripe as they convert 66% of their chances at the line.
Drake Bulldogs Try to Earn Upset WinDrake had won three straight to open the season but they ended up falling short in their contest against Belmont in the opening round of the tournament. The Bulldogs now try to pick up an upset victory to improve on their 3-1 mark. Against the Bruins, Drake trailed by as many as 12 in the first half and was down seven at halftime before staging a rally. The Bulldogs led by three midway through the second half and held a one-point edge with under five minutes to play. They gave up a 10-0 run to trail 71-62 with 56 seconds to play and their attempts to rally fell short. Drake shot 40.6% from the field, including eight of 25 from three-point range, and went only five of 12 at the charity stripe in the contest. Tremell Murphy led the Bulldogs with 18 points and nine rebounds in the defeat.
The Bulldogs put up an average of 82 points per game this season, putting them 47th in the nation in scoring offense. Drake collects 37.3 rebounds a night while dishing out 13.3 assists per game. The Bulldogs are above average on the defensive end, ranking 96th in scoring defense by allowing 63.8 points per game. Tremell Murphy leads the team with 15.8 points plus seven boards per game this season. Roman Penn (12 points, four assists) and Tucker Devries (11 points, four boards) are each scoring in double figures this season. D.J. Wilkins, Garrett Sturtz, Darnell Brodie, ShanQuan Hemphill, Okay Djamgouz, Ayo Akinwole and Nate Ferguson are important contributors for the Bulldogs. Drake is shooting 47.1% from the field as a team this season. The Bulldogs average 10.5 three-pointers a night while shooting a blistering 42% from beyond the arc. Drake is average at the charity stripe this season as they convert 70.9% of their chances on the year.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Alabama’s inability to hit free throws against Iona doomed them as a 52% clip isn’t going to get it done in close games. The Crimson Tide loves to run and pile up the points, making things difficult for the opposition. They face a team that is similar to them as far as style goes in this contest. Drake loves to push teams and they are very effective from the perimeter, which can really stretch an opponent defensively. The Crimson Tide has to feel a little embarrassed about letting the game with Iona get away. Look for Alabama to be motivated and focused here as they win a closer than expected game against a good mid-major program.
Full-Game Total Pick
Alabama comes into this contest having seen the over in two of their five games this season. The Crimson Tide are 16th in offensive efficiency, 12th in two-point shooting (59.2%) and 71st in effective field goal percentage (53.6%) according to KenPom. Alabama loves to run and gun as they are 10th in the nation in tempo by averaging 73.7 possessions a night on the season. Drake is 58th in offensive efficiency, 76th in effective field goal percentage (53.4%) and 34th in three-point shooting. The Bulldogs are a middle of the pack team tempo wise by averaging 68.9 possessions a night this season, leaving them 179th in the nation. Look for both teams to push the pace here and put the game over the total.