Alabama’s Herbert Jones plays against LSU during the championship game at the NCAA college basketball Southeastern Conference Tournament Sunday, March 14, 2021, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
- The Alabama Crimson Tide are a prohibitive 16.5-point pick over the Iona Gaels in their NCAA Tournament East Region first-round matchup
- Iona is 0-13 straight up in its last 13 NCAA Tournament games
- The Crimson Tide lead the nation in 3-point fields made – see who we like below
The Iona Gaels are the first roadblock in the path of the Alabama Crimson Tide’s bid to make a little NCAA history. Just one school has ever reigned as national champions in football and basketball in the same season, the 2006-07 Florida Gators.
Alabama already won the College Football Playoff and as a two seed in the East Region, are in with a legitimate chance to capture the NCAA Tournament. Both the Crimson Tide (SEC) and Gaels (MAAC) enter March Madness off conference tournament victories.
Alabama was the only school from a Power Five Conference to finish as both regular-season and tournament champions. The Crimson Tide have been established as overwhelming 16.5-point picks to blow past the Gaels. Both teams come into this game riding respective six-game winning streaks.
Tipoff for this Friday, March 20th showdown is set for 4pm ET at Hinkle Fieldhouse. The broadcast is being carried by TBS.
Iona vs Alabama NCAA Tournament Odds
|Team||Moneyline at DraftKings||Spread||Total|
|Iona||+1050||+16.5 (-109)||O 147.0 (-110)|
|Alabama||-2000||-16.5 (-110)||U 147.0 (-109)|
Odds as of March 17th.
Coach Nate Oats likes Alabama to play the game with pace. The Crimson Tide fast break delivers the type of devastation that can quickly take the fight out of an opponent.
Alabama is first in the NCAA this season in 3-points field goals made (320) and attempted (912). The Tide rank third in the nation in 3-point field goals made per game, averaging 10.8.
A night when dreams came true 🏆#BlueCollarBasketball | #RollTide pic.twitter.com/GgORVPR7Er
— Alabama Men’s Basketball (@AlabamaMBB) March 15, 2021
It also helps that Alabama tends to maintain plenty of possession over the course of the game. The Crimson Tide lead the nation in total rebounds and rate eighth in the NCAA in rebounds per game (40.50).
Senior forward Herbert Jones leads Alabama in rebounds (6.4), assists (3.4), steals (1.8) and blocks (1.1) per game. Sophomore guard Jaden Shackelford is the club scoring leader (14.2 ppg). Shackelford is among four Tide players averaging double digits in points.
Freshman guard Josh Primo (8.1 ppg) is day-to-day with a knee injury.
In Rick Pitino, Iona is coached by someone who knows how to win during March Madness. The Gaels are his seventh NCAA stop. Pitino guided Kentucky to the 1996 NCAA championship. He is the only coach to lead three different schools (Providence, Kentucky, and Louisville) to the Final Four.
Beyond his presence stalking the sideline, there’s not much else to make a case that Iona can give Alabama a game, or even put a bit of a scare into the Tide. The KenPom rating for the Gaels is 181st overall. Iona is 210th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 161st in adjusted defensive efficiency.
Who else is feeling the luck of the Irish this St. Patrick’s Day as @IonaGaelsMBB gear up to play Alabama this Saturday at 4pm ☘️ 🏀 pic.twitter.com/hdarWSNXhg
— Iona College (@ionacollege) March 17, 2021
They did lead the MAAC in free throw shooting percentage, while placing second in points per game, field goal percentage and three-point shooting percentage. But it was the MAAC, people.
To get here, the Gaels downed Quinnipiac, Siena, Niagara and Fairfield in the MAAC tournament. To win the SEC tourney, Alabama ran a gauntlet of Mississippi State, Tennessee and LSU.
One of these things is not like the other. The Tide are 8-4 against Quad 1 schools this season.
It Could Be Over Early
The Tide will be coming out looking to run the Gaels out of the gym. Alabama is rated eighth overall by KenPom and even worse for Iona, the Tide are #2 in adjusted defensive efficiency.
That’s right, Alabama also plays stifling defense. The Tide rate eighth in the NCAA in 3-point field goal defense per game (28.8%) and are 25th in defensive rebounding (28.10 rpg).
Alabama vs. Iona is all kinds of frenetic fun. Nate Oats has some of the cocksure of a Young Pitino, too, as his postgame salute LSU showed.
— Pete Thamel (@PeteThamel) March 14, 2021
Iona is on an 0-13 skid in NCAA Tournament games. Overall, the Gaels are 1-14 in March Madness. The lone win was an 84-78 decision over Holy Cross in 1980.
If this game was boxing, they’d be stopping the fight early. Were it curling, they’d be taking off the gloves and shaking hands. But basketball demands that the clock be run down to zero.
Pick: Alabama -16.5 (-110).
An industry veteran, Bob literally taught the course on the history of sports at Elder College. He has worked as a Sports Columnist for Postmedia, appeared as a guest on several radio stations, was the Vice President of the Society For International Hockey Research in Ontario, and written 25 books.