Free Picks: Alabama Crimson Tide vs Iona Gaels

Free Picks: Alabama Crimson Tide vs Iona Gaels
Alabama Crimson Tide vs Iona Gaels, NCAA, Hinkle Fieldhouse

The No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (24-6, 19-2 SEC) have their best team in two decades, matching a school-best seeding in the NCAA tournament. To make the most of their talent, they’ll be looking for a thoroughly dominant start against the No. 15 Iona Gaels (12-5, 10-3 MAAC) in Saturday’s first-round matchup. Both teams feature strong defensive metrics, but the Crimson Tide are a far more balanced team — justifying their significant point spread in this matchup.

Alabama should beat Iona, but by how much?

If there’s one thing No. 15 Iona has over No. 2 Alabama, it’s tournament experience. This season marks the Gaels’ fifth March Madness bid in the past six years, and several players on their team have ventured to the “big dance” more than once already. The Crimson Tide, meanwhile, have just one tournament appearance dating back to 2013 (that came in 2018) and only a few current players were along for that ride.

OK, so experience might be on Iona’s side. But Alabama has everything else. That’s why the Crimson Tide are 17-point favorites (-105 at Betway) on the current NCAA basketball odds for Saturday’s matchup in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Sorry, bracket busters: Our BetPicks prediction is going to operate under the assumption that Alabama will win this game straight up. We just want to see whether they’re worth taking against the spread.

In six games this season as a double-digit favorite, the Crimson Tide are an impressive 4-1-1 against the spread. With that said, they’ve only been favored by 17 or more points on one occasion (21-point favorites on Nov. 25 vs. Jacksonville State, covered in 81-57 victory). On the flip side, Iona has only been a double-digit underdog once (20-point underdogs on Nov. 30 vs. Seton Hall). The Gaels failed to cover in an 86-64 loss.

That’s a microscopic sample, but it works in Alabama’s favor. As does the fact that the Crimson Tide are just a supremely talented team. With the 34th-ranked offense based on adjusted efficiency, and the third-ranked defense based on the same metric, Alabama should win with enough cushion to cover the spread oddsmakers have laid out.

Iona is similarly adept on defense in some ways (18th in effective field goal percentage allowed, 41st in block rate), but the Gaels simply don’t have the offensive juice to keep up. They’re extremely turnover prone (22.5% turnover rate, 327th in NCAA Division I) and 209th in adjusted offensive efficiency. That’s just not going to cut it.

Stats

  • Alabama is 5-5 ATS in its past 10 games
  • The OVER has cashed in five of the Crimson Tide’s past seven games
  • Iona is 7-2-1 ATS in its past 10 games
  • The OVER has cashed in six of the Gaels’ past 10 games

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Jordan Horrobin is a freelance sports journalist based in Toronto, Ontario, who enjoys sports-related research and telling engaging stories. His work can also be found at Sportsnet, Forbes and elsewhere. Though he abandoned most of his team-specific fandoms in the interest of unbiased analysis, Jordan roots hard for his fantasy football/hockey teams (and he's a complete homer for all things Ohio University). You can follow Jordan on Twitter at @JordanHorrobin

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