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Alabama vs. Iona Odds For NCAA Tournament First Round

Alabama vs. Iona Odds For NCAA Tournament First Round article feature image

Donald Page/Getty Images. Pictured: John Petty.

#2 Alabama vs. #15 Iona Odds

Iona Odds+17.5
Alabama Odds-17.5
Moneyline+1300 / -3000
TimeSaturday, 4 p.m. ET
Odds as of Sunday and via BetMGM

Alabama vs. Iona Instant Analysis

Rick Pitino stole the spotlight after winning the MAAC tournament as a 9-seed to send his fifth different school to the NCAA tournament. The Iona Gaels only played 17 games this season after shutting down for 51 days due to COVID-19 protocols. They were forced to shut down an additional 17 days just before the conference tournament for the same reason, which makes their MAAC title even more impressive.

Iona has played just one team ranked inside the top 150 in the country in Seton Hall, a game it lost by 22. Pitino and the Gaels will have their work cut out for them in a huge step up in class against the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Alabama has been working on changing their reputation from being just a “football school” in recent years. The Crimson Tide own the second-ranked defense in the country allowing just 86.0 points per every 100 possessions, according to KenPom. They have won nine of their last 10 games, including a comeback win over Tennessee and a back-and-forth final against LSU in the SEC championship on Sunday.

Alabama plays with a top-10 tempo and looks to get out and run every opportunity they get. The Crimson Tide have four players who average double-digit points and 3-point shooters all over the court. They aren’t afraid to run scores up as they showed in the first round of the SEC tournament when they demolished Mississippi State 85-48.

I expect some of the same in this matchup as Bama will be too much for Iona to handle.

Roll Tide Roll! — Kyle Remillard

How Alabama & Iona Match Up

All stats via KenPom.

What To Know About Alabama

The Crimson Tide finished as the top team in 3-point shooting in the SEC and 11th nationally in perimeter defense. The “3-and-D” is used heavily in the NBA but has worked well for head coach Nate Oats in his second season. Alabama’s shot charts are a dream for the analytics crowd. The Tide want to play fast and score in transition.

And in the half-court, they want to utilize dribble penetration to either get to the rim or kick it out for a 3. They did deal with some inevitable shooting regression down the stretch after an unsustainable early pace, but it’s still an excellent shooting team. What has been even more consistent all season has been Alabama’s defense, which ranks second in the nation in Adjusted Efficiewncy, per KenPom. This is an elite defense by any metric that is capable of carrying the Tide on their off-shooting nights. Alabama is a legitimate final four contender because of that defense. The offense remains a very high-variance unit since it does shoot three-pointers at a top-20 rate nationally.

If the shots are falling for six straight games, Alabama can win it all. If not, they could get upset especially by a team that can slow the game down and contain Alabama’s dribble penetration in the half court. Keep your eyes on the status of starting freshman guard Josh Primo (who left the Miss State game with an injury) in addition to the progression of big man Jordan Bruner, who returned from injury late in the regular season. — Stuckey

What To Know About Iona

Don’t pay too much attention to Iona’s seed in the wild MAAC tournament. Despite finishing ninth in the league, the Gaels have arguably the most talented roster in the MAAC, led by a pair of rock-solid senior guards in Isaiah Ross and Asante Gist.

COVID issues led to a extended 50-plus day break in action in the middle of the season through early February and then another prior to the conference tournament. There were some obvious growing pains, but Iona still found a way to win six straight to close the season and secure the MAAC automatic bid. Iona plays an extended heavy-pressure style defense that is designed to turn opponents over, and it’s been quite efficient this year (admittedly against a weak MAAC in only 16 games).

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The Gaels have major turnover issues themselves, however. Iona will almost certainly be a one-and-done squad, but it will be interesting to see Rick Pitino in the tournament again with his very versatile defense and two senior guards. They could potentially be worth a look ATS catching a big number, especially if they match up with a team that is susceptible to pressure. — Stuckey

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