South Regional Preview
The south region in this NCAA tournament is home to the No. 1 overall seed, two true blue-bloods, and a plethora of wild cards.
The Virginia Cavaliers have the top seed overall. While they only average 67.5 points per game, they stifle opponents and like to make them work defensively for 30 seconds. This Virginia team is different from many in years past as in addition to their defensive prowess, they actually have offensive weapons for a change. Kyle Guy and Ty Jerome are a dynamite backcourt duo who make open shots and are fully capable of producing good looks for themselves. Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, they will have to play this tournament without guard De’Andre Hunter, who won the ACC’s Sixth Man of the Year award. They take on 16-seed UMBC in the first round and should waltz to the sweet sixteen.
The second seed in the region belongs to the Cincinnati Bearcats. Cincinnati won the AAC regular season crown as well as the conference tournament, and only suffered four losses. Of those losses, one came to a one seed, one to a four, and the other two to six seeds. Cincinnati holds teams under 60 points a game and has a significantly better offensive arsenal than they usually have. Jacob Evans is one of the most complete players in the tournament, and Sacred Heart transfer Cane Broome can provide a big offensive boost off the bench. This year’s team has been years in the making. Mick Cronin has been waiting for this March for a long time. The Bearcats will have an interesting first-round matchup against Georgia State, who come to the tournament for the first time since upsetting Baylor in 2015. Much like that team had in R.J. Hunter, they have a star in D’Marcus Simonds who could cause the higher seeded Bearcats some headaches.
The third-seeded Tennessee Volunteers are a team full of competitive players who have somehow flown under the radar. The Volunteers may have the third best player in the region in Admiral Schofield, a mountain of a man who won Player of the Year honors in the SEC. The offense doesn’t always show up, and for a ball club that prides itself on the defensive end, their 66.4 points allowed per game is laughable by comparison to the two teams seeded above them. They probably won’t lose to a decent Wright State team, but they should be on upset alert for the first weekend.
The reason Admiral Schofield might be the third best player in this region is that the fourth-seeded Arizona Wildcats have the top two spots locked down. Deandre Ayton should be the first pick in the draft, and Allonzo Trier should go in the first round if he decides he doesn’t want to return for his senior season. Both average around 20 a game and have a talented supporting cast. However, with all the controversy surrounding the program, Trier coming off suspension, and Ayton dreaming of the fortune that will soon befall him, don’t be surprised to see the Wildcats bow out early at the hands of Buffalo. Buffalo comes in with four players averaging between 14.6 and 16.9 points per game. They have been upset favorites the last few times they’ve made the tournament and will be anxious to finally pull one off.
The Kentucky Wildcats come into this region with the No. 5 seed and should feel really good about their chances of getting out. They are peaking now, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander looks like a lottery pick all of a sudden, Kevin Knox has been a stud all year, and Wenyen Gabriel is coming off a 7-7 performance from beyond the arc in the SEC Tournament semifinal game. They will play a Davidson team who just beat tournament teams in St. Bonaventure and URI to win the A-10 tournament, but the Wildcats should win this game, and win the region by my estimate.
The Miami Hurricanes come in with the No. 6 seed, and without the man who was their best player all year. While there are certainly other capable players on the roster, Bruce Brown Jr. was easily Miami’s best player and an important calming influence. They struggled without him in the ACC tournament and will continue to struggle. They have the unfortunate task of facing a 28-5 Loyola-Chicago team who come in with four players averaging in double-figures and are overall red-hot. This Loyola team is a legitimate threat to win a couple games in this tournament, and Miami fans should be very worried.
The 7/10 matchup will be of particular interest as it pits one of the best teams in the nation that nobody knows anything about, against the NBA Draft’s most intriguing prospect in Mo Bamba. Bamba wasn’t healthy in the BIG 12 tournament, but if he is now, it may not matter. Seventh-seeded Nevada has the Martin twins and another 6’7” forward in Jordan Caroline who all combine for 50.6 points per game, 20.4 rebounds, and 9.3 assists. Though they have lost some players to injury and aren’t incredibly deep, expect them to run riot over a Texas team that many will mindlessly pick to beat them.
The 8/9 game could be a tightly contested game if Kansas State has star players Dean Wade and Barry Brown healthy. The Wildcats will need all the help they can get against this deep Creighton team, led by Marcus Foster. Foster is one of the more dynamic guards in the country and burst onto the national scene as at Kansas State. He was dismissed from the program by current head coach Bruce Weber, and he’d be lying if he said this wasn’t motivating him for this game. In the end, the Creighton Blue Jays will have an angry Marcus Foster and depth. Both of which Kansas State cannot match.
Patrick Murphy is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.