March Madness: Alabama’s Brandon Miller is ‘100 percent right now’ after being held scoreless
Brandon Miller was in a playful mood and feeling good physically, too.
A day after being limited by a groin injury and held without a point, Miller insisted Friday he’s just fine for top overall seed Alabama’s second-round NCAA Tournament game against No. 8 seed Maryland on Saturday night.
‘I’m 100 percent right now. You want to play 1 v. 1?’ the 6-foot-9 Miller joked with a much shorter reporter.
Miller played only 19 minutes in a first-round mismatch against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, sitting out most of the second half after telling coach Nate Oats his injured groin was bothering him.
The All-American and likely NBA top-five pick came into that goose-egg game averaging 20 points.
Brandon Miller said he is feeling ‘100 percent right now’ after struggling with a groin injury
The injury left Miller hobbled as he shot 0-5 and went scoreless against Texas A&M-CC
Head coach Nate Oats was more cautiously optimistic than Miller, but said he still felt good
‘I think he just took a nice night off. Well deserved,’ cracked Terrapins coach Kevin Willard, who compared Miller to NBA star Paul George.
In February, Tuscaloosa police testified that Miller was the individual who brought ex-teammate Darius Miles the gun that was used to kill Harris, 23, though Miles’ friend, Michael Davis, is thought to be the alleged shooter.
The mother of one was fatally wounded on January 15.
Chief Assistant District Attorney Paula Whitley told AL.com on Feb. 21 that ‘there’s nothing we could charge [Miller] with.’
Despite his involvement in the incident Miller has remained active with the Alabama basketball team, despite drawing criticism from many onlookers.
Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne told Rece Davis and Pete Thamel on February 22 and explained that it was a joint decision between himself, head coach Nate Oats, and school president Dr. Stuart R. Bell to allow Miller to play.
Miller was also criticized for his pregame introduction routine against Arkansas on Feb. 25 when a teammate patted him down as he entered the court.
Oats called the routine ‘not appropriate’ and said his players were told him they were simulating a person being checked by the Transportation Security Administration before boarding a flight and had done it for multiple games this season.
The coach also said the players wouldn’t do the introduction routine again after that game.
Miller has been drawing extra attention for his role in a tragic shooting that took place in Feb.
The shooting killed Jamea Jonae Harris; Miles was arrested and charged with capital murder
Miller has been under scrutiny after bringing Darius Miles his gun before a fatal shooting
Oats was more cautiously optimistic than Miller about the forward’s health, but said he’s still pretty good even when playing through injury.
He said Miller was limited in practice a day before the game for Alabama (30-5).
‘It obviously wasn´t one of his better games to open, but I think knowing Brandon and how tough he is, physically, mentally, I think he´ll be ready to go (Saturday),’ Oats said.
Teammates praised Miller for how he handled the game. It was only the second time he hadn’t reached double digits, with fellow No. 1 seed Houston holding him to eight points on Dec. 10.
‘He handled it like a true professional,’ point guard Jahvon Quinerly said. ‘I told him, look, we´re going to need what you´ve been bringing us all year (Saturday) night. I´m 100 percent confident he´s going to bring what he´s been bringing us all year.’
Alabama flashed its depth with backups like Nick Pringle and Nimari Burnett stepping up when Miller was having an off game. That led Willard to compare this Tide team to Rick Pitino’s uber-talented Kentucky teams in the mid-1990s.
Miller has had to travel with armed guards due to disgusting threats directed at him recently
‘I think this is the most talented roster I´ve seen in college basketball since the ’93-94 Kentucky team,’ said Willard, the only Maryland coach to reach 20 wins in his first season.
‘This team reminds me of that team with the length, athleticism, how unselfish they play, very similar point guards.’
As for Oats, he had suspicions that Willard was ‘trying to talk our team up. I don’t know if we’re quite that good, but we’ll see.’
Maryland had a much tougher first-round challenge, moving on with a 67-65 win over West Virginia. The Terrapins, who are seeking their 15th Sweet 16 trip but first since 2016, are giving up 63.2 points per game, their lowest yield since 1981-82.
Alabama and Maryland´s last meeting was in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament, before Willard or Miller were on the scene. The Tide made 16 3-pointers in a 96-77 win. Quinerly is one of the few holdovers from that game on either team. Maryland has Donta Scott and Hakim Hart still around.
‘It’s kind of like a Round of 32 rematch from two years ago,’ Quinerly said. ‘That’s exciting.’
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