Bracket Breakdown: South Region
Breakdown: The South Region is probably the strongest region of them all. Five teams in the South spent multiple weeks ranked in the top 10 this year. The eleventh seed in the region is Minnesota, a team that owns a win against the one seed in the East. There could be as many as seven lottery picks come from this region alone. It’s a talent heavy group and the three seed could make an argument that they have the best profile in the region. The committee did Kansas no favors by giving them the one seed in the south. It will be a tall task to advance to the final four, but whoever comes out of the South will be battle tested and proven. In fact, this region not only owns the strongest high seeds and mid seeds, but they probably own the toughest low seeds as well. 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast actually beat Miami this season. Yes, that Miami, the two seed in the East Miami.
Chalk holds if…: If Kansas can get consistent play from their point guard they will be a tough out. Every loss they suffered this season saw them struggle at point guard which in turn led to them struggling with turnovers. The good news for them is they could advance to the elite eight without seeing any teams that pressure the ball. If someone can knock of VCU then Kansas’ path to the elite eight is pretty clear. Although a possible second round date with Roy Williams and North Carolina could be interesting.
If it’s not number one then it’s…: Florida is the team with the championship profile in this region. They own a number of big wins. They play good on both offense and defense. They are the only team in the country ranked in the top ten in both adjusted offense and defense. They feature excellent guard play combined with solid post production from Patrick Young. Beyond Florida, both Georgetown and Michigan can make very good cases. Georgetown’s defense ranks among the best in the nation, and Michigan’s offensive efficiency is only surpassed by conference-mate Indiana.
Ripe for an upset: Michigan is a team ripe for an upset for one reason…defense. The Wolverines offense is a thing of beauty. They might boast the most offensive talent in the country. However, their defense betrays them, specifically their interior defense. If a team can get to the lane and get their big guys in foul trouble it could be a long day for the Wolverines. UCLA is the other higher seed that could find themselves exiting quickly. The Bruins have won plenty of big games this year, but they’ve also lost some real head scratchers. If the wrong version of the Bruins shows up against a potent Minnesota squad then it could be lights out early for the Pac-12 regular season champs.
Thinking Deep: There’s plenty of depth in this bracket, but none of the upset potential teams really have what it takes to move past the first win. South Dakota State could give Michigan fits in the first round. The Jackrabbits have their own sensational guard in Nate Wolters. And they won’t be intimidated by Michigan. Minnesota is an eleven seed with eight seed credentials. The Golden Gophers own some big time wins, but their record suffered due to playing in one of the toughest conferences in America. An upset over UCLA isn’t out of the question, but they could find tough-sledding in the next round against Florida. Perhaps the most intriguing team is a team that’s made runs before. VCU under Shaka Smart has been an elite eight staple and made a final four run in 2011. The Rams once again have a squad that could create havoc. They are a five seed, so the first round wouldn’t be an upset. But, they have the type of ball pressure that could give Kansas fits if they could get to the Sweet Sixteen.
Players To Watch: Kansas’ Ben McLemore is a surefire lottery pick and maybe the top pick in this year’s NBA Draft. He’s got a skill set similar to Ray Allen, and he’s just a freshman. McLemore has the type of ability to take over games by himself, but sometimes he seems to content to let everyone else score. If McLemore sheds his timid façade and gets greedy he could have a huge tournament. Michigan has a fantastic guard of their own. Trey Burke won Big Ten Player of the Year and is one of the favorites to win the Wooden Award. He’s an offensive beast that can beat you with his jump shot or his passing. Another lottery pick in this loaded region is Otto Porter. Georgetown’s Mr. Everything blossomed as the season progressed. And now he’s one of the best players in the country. He has an old school mid-range game to go with his underrated athleticism. He’s also a smart player with high basketball I.Q. He always seems to make the right decisions in crucial moments for the Hoyas. UCLA also owns a potential lottery pick. Shabazz Muhammad came into the year with plenty of hype. He was the number one recruit in the country, but eligibility issues caused him to miss a few games early. And it took awhile before Muhammad really began to find his game. He’s a fantastic athlete with a silky jumper. He’s also someone the Bruins count on in the clutch. He made several game-winning shots for them this season.
Best First Round Games:
North Carolina vs. Villanova – It’s a game between two mercurial teams. North Carolina started the year slow before turning it on during conference play. However, the Tar Heels struggled with beating elite teams. Villanova is an interesting case study. The won three games against top five teams this year, but they also managed to drop games to Columbia and Seton Hall. This game could be determined by which team decides to show up with their “good” team.
Michigan vs. South Dakota State – Apologies to Minnesota-UCLA, but this game features the best one-on-one match-up of the early rounds. Burke and Wolters are two of the best guards in the country. They both carry their teams to victory with their scoring and passing. Wolters actually leads the Jacks in points and assists, and he’s second on the team in rebounds. If you are a fan of good guard play then this might be the must-watch game of round one.
The Pick is…: Georgetown. Their offense leaves a lot to be desired, but they are one of the hottest teams in the country. They went 13-2 down the stretch, and they are used to playing close games. Florida is a potential stumbling block in the sweet sixteen. However, the Gators achilles heel is their inability to win close games. Florida went 0-6 in games decided by two possessions or less.