By Chris DePew
March 15, 2018
Where to watch: No. 9 Alabama (19-15) vs. No. 8 Virginia Tech (21-11) – Today 8:20 p.m. Central, PPG Paints Arena (Pittsburgh), TNT
Who to watch: Donta Hall. Alabama’s big man practiced yesterday but Avery Johnson gave him just a 60 percent chance of playing in his first NCAA Tournament game after suffering a concussion last Friday. Crimson Tide fans fervently hope they’ll be watching him on the floor and not on the bench, because his size and athleticism could be Bama’s best hope of disrupting the Hokies. Virginia Tech at its best bears a resemblance to Tennessee, an undersized team that gets its share of inside baskets with superior passing, crisp off-ball movement and a knack for cashing in turnovers. The Hokies rank in the top 10 nationally in field goal percentage, but aren’t strong rebounders and can give up easy baskets down low. Those are vulnerabilities Hall is crafted to exploit.
What to watch for: How quickly Bama can find its shooting touch. The Crimson Tide doesn’t necessarily have to put up a bunch of points right away, but it needs the shots it does attempt to make it through the hoop. Experience has shown that if Alabama’s shooting percentage falls below the mid-40s for an extended time, it has a hard time climbing out of the hole and generating enough points to win. A good shooting percentage by itself isn’t enough to guarantee victory (witness regular season losses to Auburn and Kentucky triggered by turnovers and allowing too many offensive rebounds), but it is usually the minimum requirement for the Tide to have a chance. Gaining early confidence is a must in an unfamiliar arena with what figures to be at least a somewhat hostile crowd.
Follow Chris DePew on Twitter @TideFansChris
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