Men's NCAA Tournament South Regional Overview

Kentucky Men's College Basketball

Men's NCAA Tournament South Regional Overview

Kentucky has been the best team all year long, the SEC title game not withstanding. They deserved the number one overall seed and, maybe just a tad, doesn’t it seem like they got quite an easy draw? Duke has a nice resume but should be considered a weak two seed. Baylor has come on lately but has been very spotty at points this season. Even Indiana, who took down Kentucky for their lone regular season loss, seems like a weaker four seed. But, as we all know, the bracket is not played on paper.

Who can win?
Kentucky. Certainly other teams have a chance, just like there is a chance of winning a hand when hitting with 15 and the dealer is showing a face card. There is a reason Kentucky’s only loss before their conference title game came on a buzzer beater. They are loaded. Tough on the inside and tough on the outside, the only weakness of this Wildcats team is inexperience and sometimes, talent just trumps all else.

Who can surprise?
Xavier. Be leery of the double digit seed who was a preseason top 25 squad. If that is not in the bracketologist handbook, it certainly should be. Teams with talent who underachieve, for whatever reason, are scary outs in the tournament. Xavier still has all the same players that warranted that preseason ranking. They beat Vanderbilt and Purdue back to back, followed by a win versus Cincinnati early in the year. That Cincinnati game held some sort of unpleasant player gathering, perhaps you heard about it, and Xavier subsequently lost five of their next six contests. Whether they ever truly recovered was still up in the air until the Atlantic 10 conference tournament where the Musketeers made it all the way to the finals and seemed to get some of their moxie back. I know Duke plays everything one game at a time but if I were the Blue Devils, I would have a hard time not worrying about a possible matchup with Xavier.

Who’s hot?
Virginia Commonwealth. Since the 28th of November, the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend, VCU has only lost three games, going 25-3 in the process. Since the second week of the new year, VCU has gone on a 17-1 run, which includes their drive to the CAA conference championship and their automatic NCAA berth. Many of the main contributors from last year’s Rams squad are long gone, yet a number of players with that tourney experience remain. Taking down the Wichita State Shockers will not be easy by any means. Coming into the game red hot can only help though.

Who’s cold?
UNLV. Losers of five of their last 10, the Runnin’ Rebels have had trouble regaining that early and mid-season swagger. With a number of very impressive wins on their resume, UNLV has the chops to win the Albuquerque regional, and yet they have only beaten one really good team since the first day of February. Giving up 102 points to TCU in a five point loss one day and only managing 45 points in a 20 point blowout in The Pit the very next game out is the kind of wild point swing that shouldn’t be seen from a team firing on all cylinders. That specific example of course has much to do with the opponents but Rebels star Mike Moser has also been in a bit of a lull (Wyoming game as the exception that proves the rule) and they will need him to get back to mid-season form.

Upset alert!
Indiana. The Hoosiers should be careful with New Mexico State. Although Indiana has some good guards and nice shooters, their best player is center Cody Zeller. He happens to play the position New Mexico State has the best chance of slowing down. The Aggies are, after all, huge up front. With one of the very biggest front court rotations in the country, State has put up rebounding numbers that rival any team out there. They crush both the offensive and defensive glass. To make matters worse for Indiana, New Mexico State also gets to the free throw line a ton…or more accurately, half a ton. Ranking first in the country, the Aggies have attempted over one thousand freebies on the year. Talent is sometimes hard to overcome but rebounding and scoring with the clock stopped are two fantastic equalizers.

What possible matchup is interesting?
If Indiana is able to handle New Mexico State, a possible rematch with the one seeded Wildcats would be very interesting. Kentucky would be out for blood, trying to avenge their only regular season loss. As much as teams could give extra effort in the Sweet Sixteen, Kentucky would be. Also for Indiana, it would be a chance to prove to nonbelievers that the first win was no fluke and the Hoosiers are an upper echelon team. As interesting as a Duke-Baylor, outside versus inside matchup would be, the game of the region would be the one seed facing the four seed in Atlanta.

Which player will dominate?
So many good players reside in the South region. Kentucky has the probable Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year. Duke has a freshman of their own who was first team All-ACC. Baylor is loaded with lengthy forwards with NBA bodies. We have already mentioned Cody Zeller out in Indiana. Yet the player to watch out for in the South is Notre Dame junior forward Jack Cooley. Cooley is a big-bodied, gravity-challenged, next generation Luke Harangody. If Notre Dame is able to squeak by Xavier, look for Cooley to go off against Duke in round two. Front courts already give Duke trouble, as they are very outside oriented. But with Cooley’s girth and court smarts, he could singlehandedly control one aspect of the potential seven-two matchup. Shooting over 60 percent from the floor for the season and averaging near a double-double with 1.5 blocks per game to boot, Cooley is a matchup nightmare for the Blue Devils.

What system is tough to prepare for?
Wichita State. Although they don’t necessarily play abnormally, the Shockers are a tough team to prepare for because of their efficiency. They shoot very well from the floor at 48.5 percent and knock down over 75 percent of their free throws. A respectable three point percentage adds up to give Wichita State one of the best true shooting percentages (TS%) in the country. Their points per game and points per possession numbers are also very impressive, both ranking in the top 15 in the entire nation. To top it all off, they do a good job of taking care of the basketball. The entire product leaves opponents being overly careful knowing mistakes on even a few possessions could lead to multiple baskets and an insurmountable Shockers lead.


South Regional 3rd Round Game Breakdowns


East Regional Overview

Midwest Regional Overview

West Regional Overview