Alabama Basketball: Tide dumped from NCAA by Nova 3pt explosion

PITTSBURGH, PA - MARCH 15: John Petty /

Alabama basketball could not withstand an explosion of 17 made threes by the Villanova Wildcats and went down 81-58 in NCAA Tournament second round.

There is not much to say about the Alabama basketball loss to Villanova that will bring solace to Tide fans. The Crimson Tide fell to a far better team that has a good chance to win it all. On another day, on a different stage,  the gap between the two teams might be smaller, but not on Saturday in Pittsburgh.

Drilling down to just one stat often clouds rather than clarifies. That is not the case for this game. Villanova made 17 threes. The Tide made only four. Alabama basketball actually had the higher shooting percentage for the game with a 41 to 39 percent advantage. From outside the arc, the Tide managed only 25 percent to 41.5 percent for the Wildcats.

In each half a Villanova Wildcat exploded from long range. In the first half, it was reserve Donte DiVincenzo who scored 18 points. DiVincenzo averaged only 13 points per game this season. In the second half, Mikal Bridges scored 19 points in less than six minutes at the start of the half. The Tide survived DiVincenzo to only trail by five points.

After Bridges scorched the nets for six minutes in the second half, the Tide trailed by 25 points. The Tide trailed by as much as 31 before finally succumbing to a 23 point defeat.

Credit the Wildcats for precise ball movement and positioning. Alabama basketball fought hard defensively, enough so that some of the 17 made threes were against decent defense. As good as Villanova was on offense, its defense was almost as effective. Donta Hall, Dazon Ingram and John Petty combined for only 13 shots and made only four. Collin Sexton was the only Tide player in double figures with 17 points.

Avery is improving the program

The outcome is dispiriting but as we wrote a few days ago, the season perspective should be positive. The Tide’s NCAA history now sits at a 21-21 record and is filled with highs and lows. Expecting Avery Johnson’s third Alabama basketball team to beat a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament was not realistic.

Even with a season record of 20-16, getting back to the Big Dance and winning an opening game was a huge program boost. 2019 and beyond, recruiting should not be diminished by this performance.

Next season’s team can be better

Collin Sexton will be missed but the 2018-19 team can actually be a better team. Assuming no other defections of key players, the Tide will be older and basketball smarter next season.

John Petty and Herbert Jones can become stars. Texas transfer Tevin Mack will provide scoring punch. A returning Donta Hall and an emerging Galin Smith will make the Tide better inside. Incoming point guard Jared Butler can get significant minutes, perhaps even start. Braxton Key and Dazon Ingram played some of their best basketball this season when not watching and waiting for Collin Sexton to make a play.

It is too soon for predictions but there is reason for optimism. A repeat trip to the NCAA Tournament is a reasonable goal.

Next: Will the Tide break its NFL Draft record?

What is next for Crimson Tide fans? There is softball and baseball and other team sports. And in case you missed it, spring football starts Tuesday.