The championship drought for No. 1 overall seeds in the men's NCAA Tournament will extend another year after No. 5 seed San Diego State in a Sweet 16 stunner sent top-seeded Alabama packing in a 71-64 upset Friday night. The Crimson Tide became the ninth No. 1 overall seed to fail to win the title in the last nine tournaments, extending the title-less streak that began in 2014.
San Diego State stood tall and took mighty Alabama's punches throughout the game and delivered haymakers when necessary to pull off the upset. After trailing by as many as nine points midway through the second half after a flurry from the Crimson Tide, SDSU strung together a 42-16 over the games final 11 minutes as it made big shots on offense and iced Alabama on the other end to capture a win.
THE BLOCK AND THE 3— NCAA March Madness (@MarchMadnessMBB) March 25, 2023
IT'S A 12-0 RUN FOR THE AZTECS 👀#MarchMadness pic.twitter.com/DsbX1ShF8F
Alabama was scarcely tested in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament with 21 and 22 point wins over Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Maryland, respectively. Facing a top-five defensive unit in San Diego State, the Crimson Tide struggled to make shots from distance and were out-toughed by the MWC juggernaut down the stretch. Its 64 points were the third-fewest in a game all season helped (or hurt, rather) by a dreadful 3-of-27 showing from 3-point range.
"Just with gutty defensive rebounding," SDSU coach Brian Dutcher said postgame on TBS about how his team gutted it out. "We played the right way, we came out with a win."
All season long, Alabama has gone mostly as its star freshman, Brandon Miller, has gone, and that was again the case in the South Regionals semifinals -- to its demise. Miller had one of his worst outings of the season against SDSU, finishing with just nine points on 3-of-19 shooting and failing to capture any sort of shooting rhythm for most of the game.
San Diego State leading scorer Matt Bradley also struggled on the other side of things but the Aztecs got a huge performance from transfer guard Darrion Trammell, a former star at Seattle, who led the game in scoring with 21 points and came alive in the second half. As it has done all season, SDSU also leaned on its defense down the stretch to force Alabama's typically-efficient offense into making tough (and often bad) decisions and contested shots. SDSU held Alabama without a field goal in its last four attempts and to just 16 points in the final 11 minutes.
Mensah REJECTION 🚫 @Aztec_MBB pic.twitter.com/zzL0GEMzC8— CBS Sports College Basketball 🏀 (@CBSSportsCBB) March 25, 2023
"They built a lead, we took a timeout right around the 12-minute mark. Then Darrion came out of the timeout and hit a 3 and a 2 and he kind of changed the momentum," said Dutcher. "I just tell our guys 'nothing is going to be easy.' The key to confidence is being fearless, and I thought we were fearless tonight."
1. School history
San Diego State became the first Mountain West school to advance to the Elite Eight while earning its first-ever Elite Eight berth in the process with its win over the Crimson Tide. That was just a checkpoint and not the destination, though, as Dutcher seemed to explain after the game.
"We recruit, and we say our goal is to win a national championship," he said. "We can't act surprised when we have an opportunity to advance to the Final Four. That's what we tell 'em when we recruit 'em. We celebrate it but we don't over-celebrate."
2. Alabama struggles in Sweet 16 continue
Alabama's Elite Eight drought has reached 19 years with its loss to San Diego State and moved the program to a woeful 1-9 all-time in Sweet 16 games, the worst record in NCAA Tournament history. Under coach Nate Oats, Alabama has twice appeared in the Sweet 16 in the last three seasons and twice failed to make it to the Elite Eight; its 2021 loss to UCLA came by a 10-point margin in overtime.
"We had an unbelievable year," Oats said. "San Diego State's a really good team. When you get to the Sweet 16, all the teams are really good."
Alabama's struggles were at least partly owing to the struggles of its star as Miller finished with 16 misses on 19 shot attempts for a total of nine points, his third-fewest in a game all season.
3. Darrion Trammell takes over
Brian Dutcher said after the second-round win over Furman that his San Diego State team could go from good to great if it could consistently make shots. His Aztecs, led by Darrion Trammell, did exactly that against Alabama to prove his point.
San Diego State's defense was probably the reason it eventually won the game, but if not for Trammell's emergence as a scorer, it might not still be dancing. He finished with 21 big points including 12 in the second half where he accounted for half the team's 3-pointers over the final 20 minutes of play.
Trammell triple 🎯 @Aztec_MBB pic.twitter.com/hyh62Jd1GQ— CBS Sports College Basketball 🏀 (@CBSSportsCBB) March 25, 2023
"Throughout the whole week, I've been prepping for them," said Trammell. "I knew what kind of coverage they were in, as far as ball screens. At this point in the year you have to have that confidence that you can make those shots that you've been working on."