Breaking Down The Brackets: South Region
1 Duke: There is obviously a lot to like when it comes to Duke. They are the third best team in the country, won the ACC Conference Tournament, and suffered just 5 losses this season. Furthermore Duke has a very veteran lineup with all 5 starters upperclassmen, including the three stars Jon Scheyer, Noland Smith and Kyle Singler. Scheyer, Smith and Singler are one of the best scoring trios in the nation, each averaging over 17 points a game. The Blue Devils luck out, because they are in the easiest overall region and don’t have anything standing in their way in the top half of the bracket. An Elite Eight appearance looks like a foregone conclusion for Duke.
That being said Duke is the weakest 1 seed, and has upset potential written all over them. They struggled away from the confines of Cameron Indoor Arena this year, as all 5 losses were on the road. While normally road losses are more acceptable in all sports, its troubling when you are talking about the NCAA Tournament, because all the games are going to be on neutral sites, taking away Duke’s best advantage. It was also troubling on how they lost on the road. Three of the five losses were by 7 points or more, including a 14 point loss to a really bad North Carolina State team. It is also worth noting that Duke barely squeaked by Miami and Georgia Tech in the ACC Tournament on a neutral site, and neither one of those teams were top seeds (Miami actually was the 12th seed). In addition to not playing well away from home, there are serious questions about whether or not Duke can match up athletically with some of the teams out there. They lack the quickness to defend some of the other top teams. They will win their first game no problem, but despite being heavily favored don’t be surprised if they get knocked off earlier than projected.
2 Villanova: The Wildcats looked like they were going to be a top seed earlier in the season, but really struggled in the 2nd half of their conference schedule. While Villanova might lack some signature wins, and be considered one of the weaker 2 seeds, don’t count them out just yet. Their biggest weakness (Big East teams) are largely not an issue in the South Region as the only other foes are Louisville, in the top bracket, and Notre Dame who will have to get past Baylor to meet them in the Sweet 16. Notre Dame or Baylor could be a major stumbling block for Villanova, but I like their overall chances in this bracket. Yes, they lack the size to match up inside against most teams, but their guard play is perhaps the best in the nation. They have 6 guards that can score anytime they touch the ball. They can shoot and run the floor with the best of them. And that is what makes Villanova so great, they are quicker and faster than just about any other team and if they get out and run the game is over.
Great guard play is key in March, which gives Villanova a great advantage to go far in this region. While their inside game is lacking, they are still my favorite team from this region to advance to the Final Four.
Rest of the Games:
3 Baylor over Sam Houston State: Baylor is a very balanced team and could be extremely dangerous in this tournament. They have size and outside shooters. At times they can play soft, but will have no trouble in round 1.
13 Siena over 4 Purdue: You have got to feel for the Boilermakers, they were destined to be a number 1 seed until their top player Robbie Hummel went down with injury and their season went with it. While they still have some talent, I think Siena has a great chance to upset them. Siena is a pretty veteran team with a number of good scorers.
12 Utah State over 5 Texas A&M: Utah State will get underrated but they are a dangerous 12 seed. They play good basketball for 40 minutes every game and have a number of solid scoring options. Texas A&M had some good wins down the stretch but they aren’t a great team. They lack the couple top options you look for in a team and are too similar to Utah State.
6 Notre Dame over 11 Old Dominion: Notre Dame has completely changed their offense and it has worked miracles for them. They slow down the game to their pace and have a good combination of inside/outside scorers. They are a very veteran team, that I think can make a small run in the tournament.
7 Richmond over 10 Mount St. Mary’s: Richmond is a very dangerous, dangerous team in this soft region. They could make a serious run if the stars align for them, and should fairly easily win their round 1 match up. Look for the Spiders to give Villanova all they can handle in the second round.
9 Louisville over 8 Washington: This isn’t last year’s Louisville team that was a top seed, but they could be dangerous in this Tournament. They have some experience, and are very athletic and strong. In addition they are a very good shooting team, and have shown they can beat anyone, by knocking of Syracuse twice this season. Overall they’ve been really inconsistent, and don’t have a true star player to rely on like they have had in the past. I like them over Washington, and think given their strengths they could be a bracket buster and knock off Duke to make a run, but I’m not sold on them. They have the talent, but we don’t always see it on the floor.