Men's Basketball 2014 NCAA Tournament South Regional Overview

2014 NCAA Tournament South Regional Overview

The NCAA Tournament's number one overall seed will be playing in the South region. That distinction goes to the Florida Gators after they rattled off one of the more impressive seasons in SEC history. Behind them sit two foes with huge question marks. Kansas comes in as the two seed with one of its top players out because of injury, while Syracuse enters trying to turn its season around. Through the rest of the region, there are high-scoring offenses like UCLA, stout defenses like Ohio State and VCU, powerful frontcourts in New Mexico and talented backcourts in Western Michigan. The first round battle between Albany and Mount St. Mary's will decide Florida's round two opponent and through it all, the region's best record coming in just barely belongs to the Gators (32-2) over the 12-seed Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (31-2).

#1 Florida, #2 Kansas, #3 Syracuse, #4 UCLA, #5 VCU, #6 Ohio State, #7 New Mexico, #8 Colorado, #9 Pittsburgh, #10 Stanford, #11 Dayton, #12 Stephen F. Austin, #13 Tulsa, #14 Western Michigan, #15 Eastern Kentucky, #16 Albany / Mount St. Mary's


Who Can Win?
A number of teams in this region have incredible upsides. The top three seeds are all obviously contenders. Florida has proven itself the best team in the country entering the Big Dance. Kansas and Syracuse, meanwhile, both might have an even higher ceiling than UF when everything is firing. Kansas would need freshman center Joel Embiid to return from injury for it to have a shot at reaching the Final Four. And for Syracuse, they just need to get back to the team that started the season 25-0. Past that, UCLA, VCU and Ohio State all excel on one side of the ball, making a long run easy to script.

Who Can Surprise?
The New Mexico Lobos are going to be a hard out in this region. With Cameron Bairstow and Alex Kirk manning the middle, there isn't another team in the country, let alone the South region, that can match up with them one-on-one in the paint. Paired with senior guard Kendall Williams, New Mexico has a trio of legitimate NCAA stars. If a few things fall its way, namely Kansas' Embiid not being healthy for round three, New Mexico could easily see itself with an opportunity to topple Florida for a trip to the Final Four.

Who’s Hot?
There are a number of teams who have made recent runs through their conference tournaments and into the Big Dance. However, only two teams carry that momentum way back through the regular season. Obviously the Florida Gators are on fire. Having gone 18-0 in-conference and 32-2 on the year, UF hasn't lost a ballgame since UConn beat them on a last-second shot back on December 2. But the 12-seeded Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks are slightly hotter. They haven't lost a game since November 23 on their way to 28 consecutive victories and a 31-2 season.

Who’s Cold?
The Kansas Jayhawks have tripped up slightly to finish out the season. Losers of three of their last five, Andrew Wiggins and company have been fighting to win games without their all-world center protecting the rim. Ohio State has seen a similar collection of losses mounting, losing three of six to close out the year. However, no one in the South has been in more of a slide than Syracuse. The Orange have just five losses on the season. All five though have come in the past month. After starting 25-0, Syracuse finished just 2-5, and they did not look good in either the 24th or 25th wins, meaning this team has really been sputtering since the very beginning of February.

Upset Alert!
In the first set of games, the higher seeds look like prohibitive favorites with the exception of #9 Pittsburgh against #8 Colorado. The caveat here is that a number of these favorites have shown Jekyll and Hyde tendencies. Syracuse's struggles were already mentioned, as were Ohio State's. The Buckeyes had an even worse stretch earlier in the year than what they are experiencing now. OSU lost five of six in the month of January. UCLA also just put up one of the worst performances a tournament team could in a 73-55 loss to 10-21 Washington State. So while the better teams should advance, the ability for an upset is not far off.

What Possible Matchup is Interesting?
A third round matchup between #4 UCLA and #5 VCU would be fascinating. It would be the epitome of offense versus defense. The UCLA Bruins wrapped up the year 10th in the nation in scoring, averaging 82 points per game. They shot 48.6 percent from the floor as a unit, the 16th best mark in the country. Going further down the line, their three-point percentage (39.3%) was 21st in the country and their free-throw shooting (75.1%) was 15th best. As for VCU, the Rams have become known for their defensive tenacity. With the third-best turnover margin in the nation and being 1st in steals at more than 11 per game, VCU causes fits for opposing backcourts. The athleticism of VCU's guards versus the length and power of the UCLA guards should be an interesting battle.

Which Players Will Dominate?
While Florida is the tournament's top seed and has the SEC Player of the Year in Scottie Wilbekin, the Gators really get production from a number of different players. Lamar Patterson at Pitt is a dominating player, affecting games in so many different ways, but as a nine seed, Pitt may only get one game in this tournament. Syracuse's Tyler Ennis and C.J Fair are also tremendous, as is Kyle Anderson at UCLA.

However, the best opportunity mixed with skill has to be Andrew Wiggins at Kansas. After what many deemed a slow start to his career, Wiggins has been lethal in recent games. He scored 41 in KU's loss to West Virginia, and followed that up with a 30-point outing versus Oklahoma State and 22 more against Iowa State. His ability to get to the foul line is what really separates him from other scorers. He took 39 free throws in those three games. And the box scores don't even factor in his incredible athleticism on the defensive end, where he can take opponents' best players right out of a game. A long tournament run by Kansas would certainly be aided by the return of Embiid, but it would be carried by Wiggins.

Which System is Tough to Prepare For?
The aforementioned VCU pressure is one of the more fearsome defenses the South region teams have to offer. Head coach Shaka Smart has his guys run opposing guards ragged, forcing turnovers better than any other school. Seven different Rams players grabbed at least 25 steals this season, led by Briante Weber's insane 115 steals. Weber's steal percentage of 7.0 is so outrageous it dwarfs everyone else in the conference. For some comparison, Syracuse's elite guard and ACC steals leader Tyler Ennis only stole the ball on 4.0 percent of possessions, compared to Weber's 7.0 mark.

Ennis though is the head of another tough defensive system to prepare for; that being the famous Syracuse 2-3 zone. Coach Jim Boeheim loves to have active guards at the tops of his zones, along with a shotblocker in the middle. The latter role this season is played by forward Rakeem Christmas.


South Region 2nd Round Game Breakdowns


West Regional Overview

West Region 2nd Round Game Breakdowns


Midwest Regional Overview

Midwest Region 2nd Round Game Breakdowns


East Regional Overview

East Region 2nd Round Game Breakdowns


Madness Tournament Central