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Giving Away Money: You can’t pass up Alabama at -7.5 in the Sweet 16

Strangely, the Tide’s second-round game may have been more difficult than their Sweet 16 opponent.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament Second Round-Furman vs San Diego State Matt Pendleton-USA TODAY Sports


Alabama vs. SDSU

This poll is closed

  • 34%
    Bama -7.5 and under 136.5
    (68 votes)
  • 40%
    Bama -7.5 and over 136.5
    (80 votes)
  • 9%
    SDSU +7.5 and under 136.5
    (18 votes)
  • 1%
    SDSU +7.5 and over 136.5
    (2 votes)
  • 11%
    Pretty sure whether Bama covers / does not cover, but I don’t know about the totals.
    (23 votes)
  • 3%
    I’m pretty sure about the totals, but I don’t know if Bama covers.
    (6 votes)
197 votes total Vote Now

Last week, we raved about how good Maryland was, the Tide’s second-round opponent in the 2023 NCAA tournament. The Terps were a Top 30 team in offense, defense, and if you give them oxygen, their scoring ignites like a prairie fire. Coach Willard may have one of the most underrated clubs out there.

But, in the end, the data simply liked the Crimson Tide far more — somewhere in the neighborhood of 13-14 points, and under 144 points.

Cha-Ching. Free money.

So, what about the Tide’s Sweet 16 foe, the MWC Champion San Diego State Aztecs? Let’s go to the numbers and trends, shall we.

Per DraftKings, the Alabama Crimson Tide is a -7.5 favorite at “home” over Aztecs, with the totals sitting at 136.5, as of this writing.

We’ll start with our conclusion from last week, that Alabama is generally very good ATS in single-digit games:

For all that, Alabama still has been damn-near free money in these single-point spread contests.

They’re 13-5 ATS in such games overall, and 10-3 ATS in them since 2023 started. The Tide puts away games that are supposed to be close. The only games where the Tide underperformed were two true roadies and then at home vs. archnemesis Arkansas. Tourney teams overall are having good fortunes at this sweet spot too, winning 87% of them in 2022-2023, and covering 58% of the time. Given the Tide’s outstanding 70% cover rate in single-digit games, and the above-average cover rate for the Field of 68 as a whole, this seems a decent spot to take the Tide.

Again, that seems like good advice here now.

To those stats above, we’ll add that the Crimson Tide has been amazing ATS when they get a little rest. It speaks to the preparation of the coaching staff that when Alabama gets 4+ days of rest, they are 7-1 S/U and 6-1-1 ATS. If you thought 70% or so in single-digit spreads was great, now add a 75% cover rate when you give the guys time to rest up, and Oats time to scheme around opponents.

But what specifically is it about this opponent that seems a smart play?

A lot of things jump out at you, but the biggest is pace of play.

The Aztecs were one of the slowest teams in the tournament this year. Only Houston, Tennessee, St. Mary’s and Boise were slower. So, you look to what the Aztecs did against tempo teams — hell, even teams that are average-paced, and it’s clear that SDSU, for all its defensive prowess, simply is not very good at forcing fast teams to play their style of basketball.

There aren’t many fast teams in the MWC, but in tempo games, the Aztecs were 1-3 S/U and 1-2-1 vs. the spread. That already leaps out at you. But what jumps out more at you are the scores: These were games played in the high 140s and above, with the Aztecs getting straight walloped in two of them.

It is a slow team that does not like to play fast, that loses games playing fast, but that also has problems slowing down fast teams. In fact, the only “fast” team they beat or forced into the sub-70s was College of Charleston: a fun team, but a bad defensive one, and an undersized one.

You have to think that Alabama will hit the 70+ point mark, for sure.

They’re also not a good underdog bet: SDSU covers just 33% of the time as a ‘dog, and off some rest, they’re the anti-Alabama — in their 11 games with some rest, the Aztecs covered just 4 times.

They’re a .500 team on neutral courts, went 0-fer the Power 5, didn’t beat a single ranked team, and are just 4-3 on neutral courts — with two of those wins coming the last week.

All in all, despite their impressive efficiency numbers, it’s just not an impressive team when they get taken out of their midmajor comfort zone. If you don’t try to give the game away, and play solid interior defense, a quality club can force the Aztecs to play a style they do not want to, and that have little success against.

Look for that to happen again this week.

Alabama 75 San Diego State 63
Tide -7.5 and over 136.5

Special thanks again to DraftKings for their generous sponsorship of the site. For more basketball spreads and odds, head over here.