NCAA Basketball

March Madness Preview: South Region

Rick PitinoMy favorite time of the year has come March Madness! For the next three weeks I will be glued to my television trying to watch as many of the 67 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship as possible.

There are buzzer beaters, clutch shots, heartbreak and ultimately culminating in One Shining Moment for one team. I will give my opinion on each of the four regions for the second and third rounds of NCAA tournament. Let’s take a look at the South region which is home to the overall #1 seed Kentucky Wildcats.

The selection committee did the Wildcats no favors by placing them in this region. This by far is the most difficult region out of the four. No number one season has ever lost to a sixteen seed. This trend should continue as UK should mop the floor against Jerry Rice’s alma matter Mississippi Valley State or the Hilltoppers of Western Kentucky. However, the third round matchup for Kentucky will be the toughest game for any of the one seeds. Eighth seeded Iowa State vs. defending national champions ninth seeded UCONN.

“The Mayor” Fred Hoiberg has returned to his alma matter to lead the Cyclones back to the tournament for the first time since 2005. They are led by one of the most versatile players in the country Royce White. He leads the team in scoring, rebounding, and assists. The defending national champs are led by Jeremy Lamb, Shabazz Napier, and Andre Drummond. UCONN has had a roller coaster of a season but have the talent to compete with almost anybody in the country.

This quite possibly could be coach Jim Calhoun’s last game as he’s battled health problems throughout the year. Next year UCONN will be ineligible to compete in the tournament as they have failed to meet certain graduation requirements set forth by the NCAA. I think UCONN will play inspired basketball and beat Iowa State. Kentucky and UCONN will be a classic matchup. Kentucky just has too much talent with likes of potential POY Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Terrance Jones for UCONN to stay close with the Wildcats. I am not really going out on a limb by picking Kentucky to make the Sweet 16.

Every year there is a 5-12 matchup where a 12 seed will knock off a 5 seed. Last year’s Cinderella team the VCU Rams led by head coach Shaka Smart are seeded 12th going up against probably the best mid-major team in 5th seeded Shockers of Wichita State. VCU won their conference tournament defeating Drexel (who was snubbed for an at large birth) gaining the automatic berth. They lost quite a few seniors from last year’s Final Four team. The Shockers, who won the NIT, last year, returned a bunch of seniors who are poised to make a deep run in the tournament.

Head Coach Gregg Marshall will probably leave after this year to take a job in a power 6 conference. Wichita State has the potential to be this year’s VCU. I like the Shockers to defeat the Rams. The 4-13 matchup sees the return of the Indiana Hoosiers to the Big Dance going up against the Aggies of New Mexico State. Indiana led by freshman big man Cody Zeller and junior Christian Watford, beat both #1 Kentucky and #2 Ohio State this year. IU should handle fairly easy NMSU. The 3rd round matchup between Wichita State and Indiana will be a war. As a college basketball fan I would love to see the two bitter rivals have a rematch on a neutral floor, but I think that the Shockers will shock the Hoosiers setting up a Sweet 16 matchup against Kentucky.

The 6-11 matchup of UNLV v Colorado is intriguing. UNLV who has beat UNC this year is led by UCLA transfers Mike Moser and Chance Stanback. Vegas can play up-tempo and is good in transition. Colorado likes to get out and run to. Pac-12 tourney MVP Carlon Brown is a point forward type, who can score and dish when need be. The Pac-12 was one of the weakest conferences in basketball. Colorado made an amazing run to win the Pac-12 tourney but I don’t think they have the athletes to hang with Vegas. Vegas should win but it will be close.

The Baylor Bears are seeded 3rd in this region and will play 14th seeded South Dakota State. Baylor lost to Missouri in the Big 12 tourney final. Baylor has been ranked in the top 10 all year. Nate Wolters leads the Jackrabbits in scoring. Baylor has to figure out a way to stop Wolters from scoring to be successful. Baylor should prevail setting up a matchup against Vegas in the 3rd round. Vegas has been struggling as of late against quality opponents. Baylor definitely is a quality opponent and the Running Rebels may simply not have enough gas in the tank to beat the Bears. I like Baylor to make the Sweet 16.

The 7-10 matchup features Notre Dame v Xavier. Nobody thought Notre Dame would be any good this year after being seeded #2 last year. Mike Bray has done his best coaching this year. Xavier has not been the same team since the Queen City Brawl. Tu Holloway is a very talented guard and can give Notre Dame fits, but I don’t know how they recover from losing the Atlantic 10 final against St Bonaventure.

Notre Dame wins and probably will set up a 3rd round matchup against 2nd seeded Duke who should not have a problem with 15th seeded Lehigh in the 2nd round. Duke lives by the 3pt shot. They are among the leaders in the country in 3pt field goal percentage. Austin Rivers, Seth Curry and Andre Dawkins all shoot the ball very well from beyond the arc. If Ryan Kelly is able to play, he is a big man who is able to spread the floor with his shooting stroke. Coach K will beat his disciple Bray and the Fighting Irish and advance to the Sweet 16.

So I have Kentucky, Wichita State, Baylor, and Duke making the Sweet 16 from the South. This is one very tough region in my opinion. I look forward to some great basketball from this region. Next time I will break down the East region. Till next time, have a wonderful and prosperous day.

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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