Tide a Stainless Betting Option in Opener vs. Virginia Tech 

Rainman M.

Monday, March 12, 2018 6:38 PM UTC

Monday, Mar. 12, 2018 6:38 PM UTC

Ninth-seeded Alabama plays eight-seed Virginia Tech on Thursday night at 9:20 ET. The Hokies are small favorites for the first-round matchup in the East Region.

Alabama vs. Virginia TechFree NCAAB Pick: Alabama +2Best Line Offered: Intertops

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I admit to being one of the bettors who was blind-sided by Virginia Tech's early season success -- scoring more than 100 points against a Washington team trying to learn how to utilize a 2-3 zone, 79 points against a good-for-nothing Iowa team, and otherwise exploiting a very soft non-conference schedule. Then the Hokies (21-11 SU, 17-11 ATS) came down to earth when they started facing ACC-quality defenses, mustering 56 points against Syracuse, less than 65 in both games against Duke and against Virginia. In four of those five games they converted 35 percent or less of their three-pointers. Once top-ranked in three-point percentage, the Hokies turned out to be mediocre.

Even mediocrity would be a fortune against the Tide defense. Alabama (19-15 SU, 18-15 ATS), who I like here with my NCAAB picks, ranks 13th in KenPom defensive efficiency and will give the Hokies similar hell. The Tide looked like they were down for the count, losing five straight to end conference play. But they resurged, famously holding Auburn's 16th-most efficient offense to 22 second-half points in the second round of the SEC Tournament before running out of gas in the next round against Kentucky. The strength of Bama's defense is against the perimeter. Auburn went 8-for-33 from three in its blowout loss to Alabama. The Tide, on the season, rank 19th in opposing three-point percentage. They invite teams to attempt threes. Virginia Tech, which has the 101st-highest proportion of threes attempted nationally, will attempt its good share of threes. But the Tide's ability to contest opposing threes will limit VT's offensive strength.

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Besides pointing to the facade of its early season successes, Hokie backers may want to cite VT's 38th-ranked half-court offense as proof of its ability to succeed against Bama. But this ranking is just another facade. VT likes to score by achieving assists, but typically struggles to do so against teams whose length and wingspan make it difficult for opposing offenses to create scoring opportunities and achieve assists through available passing lanes. For example, Louisville, Syracuse and Florida State rank in the top 20 in height. The Hokies went 0-4 SU and ATS against these teams, achieving, overall, just one more assist than turnover. Bama owes its 66th rank in half-court defense partly to it ranking 28th in height.

Physicality, besides length and height, will be another issue for VT. The Hokies are most efficient inside the arc. But Bama's interior defense is rock-solid, ranking 57th in opposing two-point percentage. A significant part of Bama's interior defense is center Donta Hall, who leads the team, ranked 30th in block percentage. Hall is listed as "questionable," so bettors should factor in his availability when deciding how much to wager on Bama. But he's not the only meaningful post presence for Bama. Forward Herb Jones ranks 365th in the category.

Virginia Tech won two of those five aforementioned games against high-quality ACC teams (Virginia, Duke and Cuse) due to a putrid offensive performance from the other team. I don't expect Bama to lay an offensive egg thanks to gamer Collin Sexton. The point guard, who leads his team with 19 points per game, thrives in big games, his offensive numbers rising across the board against KenPom top-50 teams. He has scored more than 20 points with a KenPom offensive ranking of 115+ in each of Bama's past four games, three of which were covers on the college basketball odds board. The in-form guard is also a solid distributor, ranking 127th in assist rate. If Hall is unable to go, forwards Dazon Ingram and Braxton Key are also in-form scoring threats inside the arc, completing more than 55 percent from two in conference play.

Check out SBR’s college basketball odds page for updated lines. Also, head over to the March Madness Betting Headquarters for vital handicapping information, picks, and a list of the best sports books and live betting options for the tournament season.

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