Edwards likes the side for Clemson vs. Alabama

Edwards likes the side for Clemson vs. Alabama

WESTGATE SUPERBOOK, LAS VEGAS, NV. – As of Saturday afternoon, the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas had Alabama (24-11 straight up, 19-15-1 against the spread) installed as a 3.5-point favorite for tonight’s Elite Eight showdown vs. Clemson in the West Region finals.

The total was 164 points, and the Tigers were +145 on the money line. The Crimson Tide was -1.5 in the first half with a total of 77.5 points, while the Tigers had +130 odds to have the lead at halftime.

Tip-off at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles is scheduled for 8:49 p.m. Eastern on TBS.

Clemson (24-11 SU, 20-14-1 ATS) is 9-1 ATS with seven outright wins in 10 games as an underdog this season. The Tigers should have eight outright wins as ‘dogs, but they were robbed of a victory on a terrible call by the refs that gave Duke two free throws – both of which it made – with one second remaining to edge Clemson 72-71 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Brad Brownell’s team nearly had another win as an underdog in a 79-77 setback at Memphis when it allowed a seven-point halftime lead to get away. Nevertheless, the Tigers still covered the number as three-point ‘dogs.

When these teams met in late November, Clemson went into Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa and led by as many as eight points in the first half before settling for a 33-32 edge at halftime. Alabama did take the lead and extended it to seven points at one point, but then the Tigers responded with a 30-13 run and eventually won 85-77 as 8.5-point road underdogs.

P.J. Hall led the winners with 21 points, eight rebounds, four blocked shots, two assists and one steal despite being limited to 21 minutes of playing time due to foul trouble. Joe Girard added 16 points, two steals and four assists compared to only one turnover, and the Syracuse transfer buried 4-of-7 attempts from 3-point range.

Chade Hunter added 15 points, while Ian Schieffelin contributed nine points, 14 rebounds, two assists and a pair of blocked shots.

In the losing effort, Alabama star guard Mark Sears had 23 points, four rebounds and three assists, while Aaron Estrada finished with 16 points and five boards. Grant Nelson added 14 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots.

Alabama (24-11 SU, 19-15-1 ATS) is in the Elite Eight for only the second time in program history. The Crimson Tide took advantage of North Carolina’s RJ Davis going an atrocious 4-of-20 from the field and 0-of-9 from 3-point range to rally from an eight-point halftime deficit to edge the Tar Heels, 89-87.

Kudos to the Tide for getting here after limping down the stretch. Nate Oats’s team lost three of its last five regular-season games, including a 117-95 loss at Kentucky and a 105-87 loss at Florida.

Alabama was mired in a 1-5 ATS slide going into the SEC Tournament in Nashville, where it was quickly sent packing by the Gators in a 102-88 win in the quarterfinals.

But ‘Bama was still able to garner a No. 4 seed thanks in large part to Oats wisely crafting an incredibly difficult non-conference schedule. That seed allowed the Tide to face – and beat by double digits – a pair of mid-major foes in Charleston and Grand Canyon.

An Alabama insider told me this week that Oats told Nelson to quit shooting 3-pointers last month. Nelson had seen his minutes reduced, too, in recent weeks.

But when it counted most, the 6-foot-10 forward who transferred from North Dakota St. put his team on his back and carried it into the Elite Eight. Nelson had scored six total points in just 32 minutes of action in the first-weekend wins over Charleston and Grand Canyon.

He got 36 minutes of run against UNC, producing 24 points, 12 rebounds, five blocked shots, one steal and one assist. Nelson made 6-of-9 field-goal attempts, both of his 3-point launches and 10-of-13 free throws. He made all the plays at crunch time.

Just how nasty was Nelson’s performance? How about this: It is the only game in 25 seasons – in the NBA, WNBA and men’s and women’s Division-1 college basketball – that a player has produced 20+ points, 10+ rebounds, 5+ blocks, 10+ free throws, 60.0+ FG% and 100.0% 3P%.

Clemson got here by dominating New Mexico and Baylor last weekend. In what was basically a road game in terms of crowd support, the Tigers took down second-seeded Arizona 77-72 as seven-point underdogs Thursday night.

Hunter led a balanced scoring attack with 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Hall had played just 19 minutes apiece in wins over New Mexico and Baylor due to foul trouble.

But in 31 minutes of action vs. Arizona, Hall had 17 points and eight boards. Schieffelin added 14 points, seven rebounds, three assists, two steal and one blocked shot in an outstanding all-around effort.

It’s wild to consider that Clemson has made it this far with Hall saddled by foul trouble in its first two games and Girard struggling with his shot.

For the season, Girard averages 15.0 points per game and shoots at a 41.0 percent clip from 3-point range, but he’s made only 2-of-8, 1-of-5 and 1-of-5 (again) from beyond the arc in three NCAA Tournament games. That’s 4-of-18 (22.2%) from downtown.

I think Clemson has too much for Alabama inside, and it doesn’t hurt our cause that Nick Pringle was in a walking boot yesterday dealing with a heel injury. I fully expect the 6-foot-10 Pringle (6.8 PPG, 4.8 RPG) to play, but he’s probably not going to be 100-percent healthy.

Also, Alabama guard Latrell Wrightsell is ‘questionable,’ but I don’t expect him to play. He left the win over Grand Canyon early and missed Thursday’s win vs. UNC.

‘Bama hasn’t said he got a concussion last weekend, but he missed a couple of weeks with a concussion in February. Oats has called Wrightsell the best shooter he’s ever coached. He’s 27-of-27 on free throws this year and has made 44.5 percent of his 3-pointers while averaging 9.1 PPG.

Alabama’s depth is also impacted by an injury to Davin Cosby, who is ‘out.’ Cosby scored 15 points in a win at Ole Miss when Wrightsell was out in late February.

PREDICTION: I like Clemson to win outright. Therefore, I’ll put one unit on Clemson +3.5 and 0.3 units on the Tigers on the money line for a +145 return. 

The total is a pass for me but for those interested, I shared some ‘over/under’ numbers for both Clemson and Alabama in these tweets earlier today.