Alabama or Charleston? How to pick 4 vs. 13 matchup in 2024 March Madness bracket

Here we are again with the College of Charleston.

A year ago, the 12th-seeded Cougars were a popular upset pick heading into their matchup against fifth-seeded San Diego State. It didn’t quite pan out, though it came down to the wire. Now, Charleston is back in the spotlight as a possible upset pick.

The Cougars head into March Madness as a No. 13 seed preparing to face off against No. 4 Alabama. And you can bet there’s going to be plenty who pick Charleston as an upset pick.

These are two of the top-scoring offenses in the country, and they should provide plenty of entertainment to fans regardless of the outcome. No team scored more points on average than Alabama this season. Charleston wasn’t too far behind. 

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The track record of No. 13 seeds upsetting No. 4 seeds isn’t as lengthy as 12s over 5s, often considered the gold standard for March upsets. There have been only 32 No. 13 seeds to beat No. 4 seeds, a considerably smaller number than the 53 No. 12 seeds to top No. 5 seeds. 

Still, it’s far from uncommon. Going back to 2016, there have only been two tournaments that haven’t featured at least one 13 over 4 seed: 2017 and 2022. That means there’s a good chance at least one No. 4 seed is going down in 2024.

Does Charleston have what it takes? The Sporting News breaks down the matchup.

EXPERT PICKS: DeCourcy (UConn) | Bender (UConn) | Iyer (UConn) | Yanchulis (South Carolina women)

Alabama vs. Charleston odds

The Crimson Tide are favored to beat the Cougars, according to odds from BetMGM. But while Alabama is favored, the bookmakers expect a lot of scoring. The matchup has the highest over/under at 173.5.

Below you can find the odds and details about the first-round matchup, including time, date and TV channel.

  • Odds: Alabama -9.5
  • Date: Friday, March 22
  • Time: 7:35 p.m. ET
  • TV: TruTV
  • Arena: Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena, Spokane, Wash.

Alabama (21-11, 13-5 SEC)

All Alabama does is score. When the Crimson Tide don’t score? Well, OK, that doesn’t really happen often. Charleston averaged 80.5 points per game. Alabama only scored fewer than 81 points seven times all season.

No team averaged more points per game than Alabama at 90.8 points per game. The Crimson Tide have four players in Mark Sears, Aaron Estrada, Grant Nelson and Rylan Griffen averaging double-digit points. Sears is shooting an impressive 50.4 percent from the field while knocking down 2.3 3s per game (43.1 percent 3-point shooting).

As a team, the Crimson Tide are shooting 47.7 percent from the field (32nd in the country) and have been an impressive rebounding team at 39.6 rebounds per game (24th in the country). And only North Florida (12.0) and BYU (11.2) average more made 3s than Alabama (11.1).

The problem is defense. Three times this season, the Crimson Tide have given up at least 100 points (none in overtime), including three times since Feb. 24. They rank 317th in field goals allowed per game (27.6) and 357th in points allowed (81.1) out of 362 teams.

Alabama’s 3-point defense has been solid, allowing only 31.9 percent of shots from long range. Instead, the Crimson Tide’s lack of size has meant they’ve had some issues in the post. Teams are averaging 11.5 offensive rebounds per game against Alabama (326th), which has contributed to issues defending against second-chance points.

Those issues with size could be a problem against a Charleston squad that starts three forwards all 6-7 or taller, while Alabama starts only two players that exceed that height. 

Alabama won’t have any problems scoring. The only question will be whether the defense can do enough to hold off a solid Charleston offense.

  • NET ranking: 9th
  • KenPom ranking: 13th
  • Quad 1 record: 4-10
  • Quad 2 record: 7-1
  • Quad 3 record: 7-0
  • Quad 4 record: 3-0
  • Offensive efficiency ranking: 2nd
  • Defensive efficiency ranking: 112th

Key players

Mark Sears, G, Sr. (6-1, 185): 21.1 ppg, 4.1 apg, 4.0 rpg

Aaron Estrada, G, Sr. (6-3, 190): 13.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.6 apg

Grant Nelson, F, Sr. (6-11, 230): 12.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 1.7 apg

Nick Pringle, G, Sr. (6-10, 230): 6.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 0.6 apg

Latrell Wrightsell Jr., G, Sr. (6-3, 190): 9.0 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 1.5 apg

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Charleston (27-7, 15-3 CAA)

Charleston got off to a slow start in 2023-24. Out of the gate, the Cougars began the season just 1-3 after three straight non-conference, neutral-site losses to two future tournament teams in Duquesne and Vermont, as well as Wyoming. But Charleston caught fire, going 23-3 down the stretch that included winning the CAA regular season and conference tournament.

The Cougars are a similar team to Alabama. The offense is explosive. Charleston averaged 80.5 points per game (34th in the country). The defense was suspect at 72.5 points allowed per game (200th in the country).

Like Alabama, Charleston is dangerous around the perimeter. The Cougars have averaged 10.5 made 3s per game and are shooting a solid 34.5 percent from long range. 

With the Cougars, they don’t have a star player like Sears. Instead, they have six players averaging at least 8.0 points per game, with any number of players having the starring role on a given night. Reyne Smith is the most dangerous shooter, however, as he averages 8.1 3-point attempts and 3.2 3-pointers made per game.

But like with the Crimson Tide, the defense is a problem. Though the Cougars have not allowed more than 90 points in a game, they’re also almost consistently allowed at least 70 each game. Charleston ranks 197th in field-goal percentage against (44.0 percent) and is 176th in 3-point percentage allowed (33.6 percent).

This certainly has all the makings of a high-scoring matchup. If Charleston clamps down enough outside to limit Alabama hurting it too much from 3, that might be enough for the Cougars to pull off the upset.

  • NET ranking: 97th
  • KenPom ranking: 98th
  • Quad 1 record: 0-1
  • Quad 2 record: 1-2
  • Quad 3 record: 11-4
  • Quad 4 record: 14-0
  • Offensive efficiency ranking: 58th
  • Defensive efficiency ranking: 176th

Key players

Reyne Smith, G, Jr. (6-2, 190): 12.8 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 1.7 apg

Ante Brzovic, F, Jr. (6-10, 225): 12.3 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 2.4 apg

Ben Burnham, F, Jr. (6-7, 220): 11.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 0.9 apg

Frankie Policelli, F, Sr. (6-9, 225): 9.4 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 0.7 apg

Kobe Rodgers, G, Jr. (6-3, 180): 9.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 2.1 apg

MORE: Buy tickets to 2024 March Madness games

Alabama vs. Charleston prediction

Here’s one prediction off the bat: there’s going to be a lot of scoring. Neither of these teams particularly care for playing defense and have been content to just bludgeon teams all season in scoring.

But while these teams could just keep scoring until the end of time, eventually, that buzzer is going to strike zero. And when it does, it looks like Alabama should be rightfully favored to be the one ahead.

These appear to be two versions of the same team — both score a lot and defend little. Though the Crimson Tide has a size disadvantage against the Cougars, their ability to rain 3s should make up the difference. 

Alabama is far more battle-tested and has a true star in Sears who can take over a game when called upon. That element is missing from the Cougars’ game. Charleston hasn’t faced as much top-end talent this year, and when it did, it largely struggled, even if it did come at the beginning of the season.

There is certainly potential here for Charleston to pull off the upset if Alabama has an off-night shooting from range or if Charleston’s size is too much to handle. But the Crimson Tide appear well poised to avoid an early upset.

HISTORY OF UPSETS BY SEED:
16 vs. 115 vs. 2 | 14 vs. 3 | 13 vs. 4 | 12 vs. 5

History of 4 vs. 13 matchups in NCAA Tournament

Among the wave of first-round upsets in 2023 was Furman stunning Virginia to become the latest No. 13 seed to top a No. 4 seed. Before that, it twice happened in 2021 (including Virginia losing again).

In the history of the NCAA Tournament, No. 4 seeds are 120-32 against No. 13 seeds, good for a .789 winning percentage. That’s the fourth-highest winning percentage of any seed. You’ll never guess the three higher than that — if you guessed 1 (.987), 2 (.928) and 3 (.855), you’d be correct.

Here’s a look back at all the 32 times a No. 13 seed has taken down a No. 4 seed:

Year Result Score
1985 Navy def. LSU 78-55
1987 Missouri State def. Clemson 65-60
1987 Xavier def. Missouri 70-69
1988 Richmond def. Indiana 72-69
1989 Middle Tennessee def. Florida State 97-83
1991 Penn State def. UCLA 74-69
1992 Southwestern Louisiana def. Oklahoma 87-83
1993 Southern def. Georgia Tech 93-78
1995 Manhattan def. Oklahoma 77-67
1996 Princeton def. UCLA 43-41
1998 Valparaiso def. Ole Miss 70-69
1999 Oklahoma def. Arizona 61-60
2001 Indiana State def. Oklahoma 70-68
2001 Kent State def. Indiana 77-73
2002 UNC Wilmington def. USC 93-89
2003 Tulsa def. Dayton 84-71
2005 Vermont def. Syracuse 60-57
2006 Bradley def. Kansas 77-73
2008 Siena def. Vanderbilt 83-62
2008 San Diego def. UConn 70-69
2009 Cleveland State def. Wake Forest 84-69
2010 Murray State def. Vanderbilt 66-65
2011 Morehead State def. Louisville 62-61
2012 Ohio def. Michigan 65-60
2013 La Salle def. Kansas State 63-61
2016 Hawaii def. California 77-66
2018 Buffalo def. Arizona 89-69
2018 Marshall def. Wichita State 81-75
2019 UC Irvine def. Kansas State 70-64
2021 North Texas def. Purdue 78-69 (OT)
2021 Ohio def. Virginia 62-58
2023 Furman def. Virginia 68-67

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