What Alabama basketball said about its Sweet 16 matchup against North Carolina


Alabama basketball has made it further in March than most expected. To continue, it’ll need a major upset. The four-seed Tide will play No. 1 North Carolina on Thursday night with an Elite Eight berth on the line.

The Tide beat up on No. 13 Charleston and staved off No. 12 Grand Canyon with a late rally in Spokane Veterans Memorial. Against the Tar Heels, UA will need a better offensive showing than it gave against the Lopes but a similar defensive effort — on Sunday, Alabama held an opponent under 65 points for the second time this season.

Alabama players provided an early scouting report on UNC in its postgame locker room.

“I’ve watched a little bit,” Grant Nelson said. “Great team, RJ Davis, Armando Bacot obviously are great players. We’re gonna have to do our best, figure out scouting reports and guard like we did tonight and the rest will take care of itself.”

“They have some good guards, just a team you gotta get up into. Play fast. Keep playing our game play the defense that we played tonight, even better at that,” Nick Pringle added. “We just gotta carry that into the next game and get even better, watch a lot of film. We got Bacot inside, much more of a threat inside next game. We just gotta keep fighting.”

Davis and Bacot combined for 90 points through the Tar Heels NCAA Tournament wins over Wagner and Michigan State. Per KenPom’s analytics, UNC ranks 15th and sixth in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. Head coach Hubert Davis has led one of the most veteran groups in the country to 10 wins in its last 11 games.

Alabama last played North Carolina in 2023, a four-overtime thriller that UA won 103-101. Bacot and Davis scored 39 points in that matchup. Mark Sears had a game-high 24 for Alabama. Pringle and Griffen combined for 22 minutes as every other UA player in that game has since either transferred, graduated or left for the NBA.

“They’re a really good team. They have a strong offense and they play though RJ Davis,” first-year Alabama player Aaron Estrada said. “He’s a great player, he averaged, what? 20 points. I think he was ACC Player of the Year, Bob Cousy (Award) finalist, all that. So we’re gonna have a tough matchup on our hands but I think we’re gonna be good if we stick with our defensive mindset.”

The Tar Heels are currently predicted to win 86-84 in Crypto.com Arena on Thursday, per KenPom. Oats has lost his two prior Sweet 16 games. Alabama hasn’t reached the Elite Eight since 2004.

“I think our non-conference schedule got us ready for this. Four teams in the non-conference are all in the Sweet 16 and we lost to all four, but I thought we got better from it,” Oats said.

Summarized Dioubate, who nearly booked the trip himself with an 8-0 run in the final minutes against GCU: “We’re gonna get at them, just like we try to do every team. They’re a good team, we respect every opponent. I hope they’re ready for us the way we ready for them.”

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