Gargantuan backcourt matchup in the Sweet Sixteen

Grand Canyon v Alabama
Grand Canyon v Alabama / Steph Chambers/GettyImages

When Alabama Basketball takes on the top-seeded North Carolina Tar Heels for the right to advance to the Elite Eight on Friday night, the game's biggest matchup could be between the two smallest men on the court.

Alabama’s Mark Sears, listed at 6’1”, and North Carolina’s RJ Davis, listed at 6’0”, are two of the best guards in all of college basketball. While both players’ listed measurables are likely generous, both are giants in terms of their impact. 

Mark Sears is a veteran guard who has started all 71 of the Tide’s games since transferring from Ohio prior to last season. This year, he has been Bama’s best player by far. He is averaging 21.5 points, 4.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists, and 1.7 steals per game on 51/44/86 shooting splits. He is the key to the Alabama offense, and is the engine of this team. 

While Sears hasn’t had as many flashy performances as other All-Americans, his consistency has been something to marvel at. He has posted 24 games with 20 or more points, and a 9-point outing in a blowout win over Missouri was the only time he fell short of double figures.

Since that game on January 16th, Sears has been on a remarkable heater, scoring 20+ points in 16 of the last 17 games. The one "miss" was a 17-point performance in a win over Florida that saw him approach triple-double territory with 7 rebounds and 8 assists.

Speaking of flashy performances, Sears hasn’t gone entirely without. A player that steps up in the biggest moments, he scored 35 points against Purdue earlier this season and had 30 in Bama’s first round NCAA Tournament win over College of Charleston.

UNC’s RJ Davis has been equally productive. Davis is averaging 21.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 3.4 assists per game on 44/41/87 splits. Just like Sears, he has been incredibly efficient and consistent as a scorer while impacting the game in all respects. Davis is capable of taking over, as he showed with a 42-point performance against Miami and a 36-point game against Wake Forest.

At the conclusion of the regular season, RJ Davis was named a First Team All-American by the Associated Press, while Mark Sears was named to the second team

This may be the most intriguing individual matchup of the entire Sweet Sixteen given the similarities between the two players. In such a high-pressure game, role players and unexpected performances will likely determine the outcome, but I expect Mark Sears and RJ Davis to both put on a show in LA.