Alabama freshman Brandon Miller, a potential first-team All-American and top prospect in college basketball’s NBA draft, was a non-factor in the Tide’s NCAA Tournament opener over Texas A&M Corpus Christi. You need to know the following:
- Miller went 19 scoreless minutes with five misses and three shots.
- With just under 15 minutes left in the second half, Bama coach Nate Oats pulled Miller after a turnover and a foul, keeping the 6-foot star out of the lineup the rest of the way. Oats said afterwards: “He’s got a groin injury that he’s been nursing since Sunday.”
- Miller’s absence didn’t matter much as No. 1 Alabama cruised to a 96-75 blowout victory. But when it comes to the Tide’s national championship goals, his position is paramount.
What’s the latest Miller thing?
Oats met with reporters Friday and said, “Knowing Brandon and knowing how tough he is mentally and physically, I think he’s ready to go.”
Miller was in uniform for team practice on Friday. “I’m always going to tell you I’m 100 percent,” Miller said. “So I’m 100 percent.”
Talking The AthleticAsked if he had any concerns about how he’d feel going into Saturday’s warmups and determining his position for tip-off, Miller said, “No, I think I can control my emotions starting today. That’s how you prepare your body for a game like this.
Miller said the injury occurred while transitioning in the SEC championship game against Texas A&M. He didn’t realize it at the time.
“I felt it after the game,” he said. “I think the adrenaline took over during the game.”
The decision for Miller not to return for Thursday’s game was made by Oats, who told his star that he would shut him down early in the second half. Off the field, Miller has also been the subject of increased attention in recent weeks due to his alleged connection to the Jan. 15 fatal shooting involving former teammate Darius Miles, who has been charged with murder. Miller is accompanied by an armed guard because of the messages he received, Oats said before the tournament.
As for Saturday’s game against Maryland, “I hope he’s healthy enough to play, and based on how much work he and (head athletic trainer Clarke Holter) are putting in, I think he will be,” Oats said. “But (if Miller isn’t 100 percent), it will definitely limit us. Shoot, he might be the best player in the country. It would be nice to have him.”
Let’s recall Miller’s game in round 1
Miller clearly didn’t look like himself on Thursday. At times there was hesitation and obvious discomfort. He missed the bunny out of nowhere. He missed three deep threes that had no chance. He took one over at the top of the key and later threw the ball away.
It was a shocking change from what we had seen recently.
Miller was the MVP of the SEC Tournament and averaged 20.3 points, 11.0 rebounds and 4.7 assists in three games in Nashville.
Can Maryland keep up with the tide?
If Maryland doesn’t control the tempo, make 3s, and Jahmir Young puts on some kind of Kemba-like performance, Miller’s position might not matter much one way or the other. Even if Miller sits entirely, Alabama has size and talent advantages at nearly every position. From Mark Sears to Jahvon Quinerly, Noah Clowney and Charles Bediako, the Tide can outscore the Terps on one end and stifle them on the other.
Is there any recipe that might work? Sure. Judging by Alabama’s few losses this year, Maryland could potentially hang around if it turns the tide into a protracted, low-possession game and limits Alabama’s scoring in the early shot clock. It’s a tough question all round. Alabama is No. 1 for a reason, and this game is being played in their backyard.
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(Photo: Marvin Gentry/USA Today)