PITTSBURGH — All eyes will be on Collin Sexton as the star freshman leads Alabama basketball into the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2012.
Alabama is a No. 9 seed in the NCAA tourney and will match up against No. 8 Virginia Tech in the first round. The Crimson Tide and Hokies will meet at approximately 9:20 p.m. ET Thursday in Pittsburgh in the East Region. The game will be televised by TNT.
Sexton will have the attention of Virginia Tech’s entire defense on Thursday night as Virginia Tech coach Buzz Williams had high praise for Sexton, calling his talent “semi-otherworldly.”
“I think he’s (Sexton) the best guard in the country,” Williams said Wednesday. “The draft will reflect that.”
An ESPN.com mock draft has Sexton going No. 8 overall to the Cleveland Cavaliers (pick via Brooklyn Nets). Sexton has seemingly passed Oklahoma’s Trae Young as the top point guard in the country.
“How we handle No. 2 on his second touch, I think is critical,” Williams said. “We can’t be flat on his second touch. We all have to guard the ball and be in the gaps on his second touch. I think that’s when he’s most affective. Yes, he’s really good the first time he has the ball in his hands. Yes, he can score right away. Yes, he can shoot the 3, get fouled, get a layup or hit a 2.
“It’s the second touch where he’s elite. If you were trying to break it down into categories, those are things we’re trying to prepare. We don’t have a No. 2 on our roster, but that’s what we’ve been trying to prepare for.”
Heading into the tournament, Sexton is averaging 19.0 points per game, the second-best average in the Southeastern Conference, while also ranking third in the league in free throws made and attempted. He also tops the team in assists per game (3.5), field goals made (182) and field goals attempted (410).
“Every time he touches the ball he’s a threat,” Virginia Tech guard Justin Bibbs said. “He’s not taking his foot off the gas pedal. If he gets it 94-feet, he’s going full speed. He’s playing for his teammates at times, he’s playing for himself at times. He’s just a great player. We all have to stop him. It can’t be one-on-one defense. It has to be five of us against him and this team. He’s a great player.”
At the 2018 SEC Tournament in St. Louis, Sexton turned in one of the most memorable performances in Alabama history. His 79 points are the most by an Alabama player in an SEC Tournament.
Sexton averaged 26.3 ppg in the tournament, highlighted by the game-winning shot at the buzzer against Texas A&M and a 31-point performance in a drubbing of top seed and No. 16-ranked Auburn in the quarterfinals.
With his performance last week, Sexton set the Alabama single-season scoring record for a freshman with 590 points, passing James “Hollywood” Robinson’s previous mark of 554 points set in 1990-91. Sexton, who was tabbed to the all-tournament team, earned second team All-SEC honors and was named SEC Co-Freshman of the Year, becoming the second Alabama player to earn the honor in school history since Mo Williams in 2002.
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