Three of VSiN’s finest college hoops handicappers sound off on Saturday’s game between 15th-seeded Iona and No. 2 seed Alabama.
Youmans: Beware of the basketball genius returning from exile. This is a bet on Rick Pitino, a coach who knows all about March magic. Pitino is facing a significant talent disadvantage against Alabama, but senior guard Isaiah Ross (18.4 ppg) leads a veteran Iona team that will go in believing it can win this game. The Gaels are not going to win, but they won’t quit and they are getting a lot of points. The Crimson Tide expended a lot of energy to win the SEC tournament, after which the celebration likely lasted a few days.
Tuley: Whatever you think of Pitino, the man can coach. He’s taking a fifth program to the NCAA tournament. He doesn’t have the horses to run with — and beat — Alabama outright, but the Gaels should be able to stay within single digits. Bama plays at a fast pace, but expect Iona to try to slow it down at least a little. Regardless, Iona shoots well and isn’t shy from 3-point range, plus the Gaels make their free throws, all of which should help keep them from getting blown out.
Peterson: The Crimson Tide rank 11th in the country in possessions per game, while Iona is committing a foul on 30.5 percent of possessions (third-highest rate in the country). Alabama is 22nd in steals forced per possession on defense, which should lead to baskets in transition with Iona turning the ball over on 21.9 percent of their possessions, the second-highest rate of any NCAA tournament team. Iona’s defense can generate turnovers. as well with Berrick JeanLouis ranking 16th in the country in steals per game with 2.3.
The plays: Youmans and Tuley: Iona +16.5. Peterson: Over 146.5.
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