Jarace Walker, Houston Cougars, AAC Basketball, March Madness

The only two 1 seeds remaining in March Madness came out of the Birmingham Region, as Alabama and Houston stayed alive.

Two of the four 1 seeds in March Madness were put in the Birmingham Region, and after the first two rounds, they are the only two 1 seeds remaining. Alabama had barely any trouble getting past Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Maryland. Houston fans held their breath in a tight win over Northern Kentucky, before showing its dominance in a round of 32 win over Auburn.

Birmingham Region Most Outstanding Player

Jahvon Quinerly, Alabama

There was really no clear-cut answer for the Birmingham Region MOP, as no one player put together two outstanding games. With that being said, Jahvon Quinerly was the star for Alabama over the weekend, and given how loaded the Crimson Tide’s roster is, his numbers are that much more impressive.

Nate Oats practically has two separate starting lineups at Alabama, so for Quinerly to average 17.5 points per game while shooting 59.1% from the field shows how much he was feeling it. JQ has a lot of teammates who are worthy of taking shots, but they made a point to keep feeding Quinerly the ball throughout the first two rounds, and he responded in a big way.

Birmingham Region First Team

  • G: Jahvon Quinerly, Alabama – 2 games (17.5 PPG, 1.5 APG, 1.5 RPG, 1.5 SPG, 59.1 FG%, 50.0 3P%)
  • G: Kedrian Johnson, West Virginia – 1 game (27.0 PPG, 1.0 APG, 1.0 SPG, 61.5 FG%, 50.0 3P%)
  • F: Jarace Walker, Houston – 2 games (11.5 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 1.5 APG, 4.0 BPG, 56.3 FG%)
  • F: Julian Reese, Maryland – 2 games (15.5 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 1.5 APG, 2.0 BPG, 63.2 FG%)
  • F: Johni Broome, Auburn – 2 games (16.5 PPG, 9.0 RPG, 1.0 APG, 3.0 BPG, 50.0 FG%)

3 Takeaways

#1: Alabama is playing like the No. 1 overall seed

With so much parity throughout the college basketball regular season, earning the No. 1 overall seed didn’t come with much confidence. Even so, Alabama was awarded it, and through two games, look all the part of the honors.

Playing with a lot of extracurriculars that are bigger than basketball, Alabama has blocked out the (much-deserved) noise and blown out the competition. They’ve won by 43 combined points, setting up a date with San Diego State in the Sweet Sixteen.

The Aztecs are also playing very good basketball, after they destroyed 13-seed Furman in the second round. But right now, Alabama will probably be the favorite, no matter who they play.

#2: A healthy Houston can make it to Houston

With the 2023 Final Four being played in Houston, the Houston Cougars have that much more motivation to get there. After being tested to the limit by Northern Kentucky, the Cougars rallied past Auburn, winning 81-64.

That win proved a lot to the doubters. Marcus Sasser was healthy – and dropped 22 points on 14 shots. When Houston gets that type of production out of their best player, they won’t get beat by many teams. That’s especially true when Tramon Mark leads the way with 26 points and Jarace Walker blocks 6 shots. The starting lineup in H Town is as good as advertised and might just ride it all the way home to the Final Four.

#3: Fran McCaffery is (sort of) on the hot seat

I hate doing this. I really do. In my article ranking the 2023 March Madness head coaches, I hated putting Fran McCaffery at 26th. On his best day, McCaffery is hard to beat. There’s a reason he’s won over 500 games in Division I basketball.

But now, after a round of 64 loss to Auburn, a game in which Iowa never really had a good footing, McCaffery is 6-12 in March Madness games.

Now, I’m not saying that McCaffery should be fired or should definitely be on the hot seat. When it gets down to it, losing an 8-9 game also isn’t the end of the world. It’s a 50-50 shot. But McCaffery’s track record in March Madness is concerning at best, and it’s worth a discussion after his fifth straight NCAA Tournament not making out past the first weekend.

Lookahead for Alabama

Based on how everyone in the Sweet Sixteen has played so far in March Madness, Alabama should be the clear favorite to cut down the nets in Houston. They came in with the highest expectations, and have arguably outperformed them, with two dominant wins.

I don’t know how I even made it this far without mentioning that Brandon Miller, the Crimson Tide’s best player, didn’t score a SINGLE point in the win over the Islanders in the Rd. of 64. Is it a bit concerning? Yes. Is it noteworthy that Bama still found a way to win by 21 points? Absolutely.

This team is clicking on all cylinders, has one of the best benches in college basketball, and is playing like the favorite to win the whole thing.

Lookahead for Houston

For how well Alabama is playing, Houston really isn’t too far behind. The Cougars are the only other 1 seed left in the NCAA Tournament, and the way they played against Auburn proved that Houston belongs in the Sweet Sixteen as much as anyone.

The biggest thing in the way of Houston getting to the Final Four is the teams in front of them. Getting through Miami (Fla) will be a huge challenge in its own right, and playing the winner of Texas and Xavier isn’t much easier.

With that being said, Sasser/Mark/Jamal Shead/Walker is truly as good as it gets. Houston has the makeup to go as far in March Madness as they want. But the challenge will be getting past arguably the toughest draw at this point left in the tournament.