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The Alabama Crimson Tide's return to the Big Dance for the first time since 2012 did not disappoint.

The eighth seed, Virginia Tech Hokies, will face the ninth seed, University of Alabama, at 9:20 p.m. on Thursday.

Avery Johnson has spent plenty of time trying to convince Alabama freshman Collin Sexton to take ownership of his play and the men's basketball team, a message the coach has repeated frequently during the Crimson Tide's uneven season.

Sexton led Alabama with 25 points and 6 assists while Petty accounted for 20 points which included six threes. Junior Donta Hall finished with 10 points on a ideal 5-of-5 shooting from the floor and sophomore Dazon Ingram had nine points, seven rebounds and four assists in the win. Alabama advances to play top-seeded Villanova Saturday. So Villanova has now shot at least 50 percent from the floor in five of its last nine games.

Herbert Jones: Despite only scoring six points and having four turnovers, Jones made one of the most crucial plays of the game.

Virginia Tech later faced Duke, who has five potential first round picks in their starting lineup. The Tide later ripped off a string of four straight SEC wins and another where they won three of four, before dropping the final five games of the regular season. If this game is close late, the advantage goes to Alabama. Freshman phenom Collin Sexton had 25 points on 7-of-14 shooting.

Smith gave Alabama a low-post threat with 8 points and 3 rebounds.

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That victory over the Aggies sent Alabama from the wrong side of the bubble into the NCAA Tournament, while their victory the next day over Auburn improved their seeding to a No. 9. "He's accepted more responsibility ... and the team is following him". The future National Basketball Association lottery pick scored a game-high 25 points, 20 of which came in the second half. If Sexton starts slow and the Hokies' defense frustrates him, Virginia Tech will position themselves to jump to an early lead. He uses up about one in three Alabama possessions when he's on the court, which is one of the highest usage rates in the country. If Hall is out, it gives the Hokies an advantage in the post with the more talented and experienced Kerry Blackshear, something that would make a major difference.

Justin Robinson had team highs in points (19), assists (7) and steals (4) for the Hokies.

Plenty of Alabama players have had an impact on the team's success this season, but none has been as good as Sexton. They ended up hitting 59.6 per cent and 14-for-27 from 3-point range.

Not long after checking back in the game, Blackshear was called for an offensive foul and fouled out with 5:28 left.

As one would expect, No. 8 seed vs.

The big difference in this one is on the defensive end as the Hokies have been significantly lately with their matchup zone giving plenty of teams nightmares including a veteran Notre Dame in the first half of their ACC Tournament.