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2015 NCAA Tournament: South Region Predictions and Analysis

Jahlil Okafor's dominant freshman performance has the Duke Blue Devils as the No. 1 seed in the South region. However, powerhouse teams like Iowa State and Gonzaga are primed to knock them out of the Big Dance in their region.

Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 NCAA Tournament bracket has now been finalized, as college basketball fans scrutinize every game in order to predict the most viable outcomes. Everyone knows the Duke's and Iowa State's of the world, but what about North Florida and UC Irvine who are, for the first time, also a part of the Big Dance?

The beauty of March Madness lies in the opportunity for either casual or hardcore college basketball fans to take in the four week spectacle, and project their tournament favorites. There are no experts, and everyone has an equal chance to create the most accurate bracket. Each region, especially the South, in this year's NCAA Tournament has an intriguing array of juggernauts and bracket busters.

With semi-expert analysis and picks, here are the South region projections that can assist your decisions before Thursday.

Round of 64:

#1 Duke vs. #16 North Florida/Robert Morris

Pick: #1 Duke

North Florida enters their first NCAA Tournament in the play-in game against the Patriot League's Robert Morris. The Ospreys should advance to play the Blue Devils but will get a rude awakening early from Duke. Jahlil Okafor is a multi-faceted big man on offense that can seldom be stopped. Teaming with freshmen Tyus Jones and Justice Winslow, Duke will handle the No. 16 seed with ease and prepare for a substantially tougher matchup.

#8 San Diego St. vs. #9 St. John's

Pick: #8 San Diego St.

The loss of center Chris Obekpa for the Red Storm is crippling at the most inopportune time of the season. In addition, the backcourt of St. John's struggled mightily against Providence in the Big East Tournament. The Aztecs are second in the nation in points given up this season. Winston Shepard is the catalyst for the stifling defense SDSU utilizes, and should hound the perimeter threats for St. John's.

#5 Utah vs. #12 SF Austin

Pick: #12 SF Austin

The Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin are the South region's sleeper team in 2015. They're fun to watch (79 ppg.), have a conference player of the year (Thomas Walkup), and are a sizzling team (28-1 in last 29 games). Utah counters with one of the most intriguing talents in the nation in 6'5" PG Delon Wright. Utah's inconsistency presents red flags, and a streaking SF Austin team is more than able to shock the nation.

#4 Georgetown vs. #13 Eastern Washington

Pick: #13 Eastern Washington

Like the Lumberjacks, Eastern Washington blitzes teams with a premier mid-major talent. PG Tyler Harvey led the nation in scoring in 2015 while shooting a lethal 42.8 percent behind the arc. However, the question remains if the Eagles can maintain Georgetown's bigs in the paint. Believing in Harvey to bring the madness in March, he could replicate exposure similar to Stephen Curry of Davidson back in 2008.

#6 SMU vs. #11 UCLA

Pick: #6 SMU

UCLA was the most scrutinized team to make it to the NCAA Tournament. SMU, on the other hand, dominated the AAC in 2015. Led by Nic Moore and Markus Kennedy, the Mustangs are a versatile threat looking for payback after their tournament snub last season. SMU rolls easily as former UCLA head coach Larry Brown gets his first tournament victory since winning it all at Kansas in 1988.

#3 Iowa State vs. #14 UAB

Pick: #3 Iowa State

After losing 2014 Big 12 POY Melvin Ejim to graduation, the Cyclones have kept playing highly efficient basketball. Led by PF Georges Niang and PG Monte Morris, the Cyclones won back-to-back Big 12 Conference Tournament titles and are one of the hottest teams in the nation. UAB utilizes a deep nine man rotation and won the Conference-USA Tournament title to get to the Big Dance. However, ISU offers too much talent to go home in their tournament opener.

#7 Iowa vs. #10 Davidson

Pick: #10 Davidson

The Hawkeyes were ousted last year in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against a frontcourt heavy Tennessee squad. While Davidson doesn't have dominant interior threats, their focus comes with watching the basketball tickle the twine. At a robust 80 points per game, the Wildcats feature four players averaging 11.9 or better including A-10 POY Tyler Kalinoski. Iowa does boast talented big man Aaron White, but Davidson is the lock here and are poised to do major damage.

#2 Gonzaga vs. #15 North Dakota State

Pick: #2 Gonzaga

Mark Few has his most balanced team since joining the Zags in 2001. Transfers Byron Wesley and Kyle Wiltjer proved instrumental in Gonzaga capturing the No. 2 seed and dominating the WCC Conference this season. The Bison return to the Big Dance after defeating Oklahoma last year in the second round. However, they lost substantial production, including 2014 Summit POY Taylor Braun, and don't have the defensive chops to handle Gonzaga's versatile attack.

Round of 32

#1 Duke vs. #8 San Diego State

Pick: #1 Duke

The Aztecs will give Coach K and Duke fits early in the contest that will question fans if they made the right pick. Eventually, Duke runs away with it as Jahlil Okafor once again handles the big men for San Diego State. The Aztecs match up evenly on the perimeter, but lack that interior option teams covet in March.

#12 SF Austin vs. #13 Eastern Washington

Pick: #12 SF Austin

The battle of the bracket busters in the South region will provide fans with a high scoring affair. The issue with EWU making a run is their length down low. No starter stands taller than 6'8" and Stephen F. Austin was one of the best rebounding teams in the Southland Conference at 35 boards per game. The Eagles have a realistic shot at the Sweet Sixteen, on the shoulders of Harvey, but the 'Jacks are the real threat in the South region.

#3 Iowa State vs. #6 SMU

Pick: #3 Iowa State

This projects to be one of the most even third round matchups in the Tournament. Both teams rely on balance and can score, while creating offense, from either inside or behind the arc. The individual battles favor the Cyclones, but Nic Moore is the best player on the floor. In a back-and-forth contest, ISU barely pulls out the win but not before Larry Brown's team tries to upend the favorites late.

#2 Gonzaga vs. #10 Davidson

Pick: #10 Davidson

This matchup epitomizes the indecisions of making a March Madness bracket. Gonzaga is the obvious favorite here, but the Wildcats have the talent to hang with the WCC Champs. Repeatedly, Gonzaga is the target of weak-schedule criticism and lost to BYU at home during the regular season. Despite the Bulldogs' controlling the paint, Kalinoski and the Wildcat's catch fire to vanquish the No. 2 seed.

Sweet Sixteen

#1 Duke vs. #12 SF Austin

Pick: Duke

The tournament magic ends for the Lumberjacks in the Sweet Sixteen. On a team dependent on offensive production, SF Austin goes from a defensive pushover, like Eastern Washington, to a stalwart in Duke. The 2015 regular season AAC Champs like to push the ball against weaker competition, and Justice Winslow and Tyus Jones will benefit from the faster pace.

#3 Iowa State vs. #10 Davidson

Pick: Iowa State

Similarly to Duke, ISU has various low post threats that can be an issue for perimeter oriented attacks. Freshman Peyton Aldridge, at 6'7, starts at the five for the Wildcats who also sport two 5'11" guards in their lineup. While Jameel McKay is no behemoth for the Cyclones, ISU utilizes an in-out approach which centers the offense around the post. However, sitting at 14th in the nation in three point efficiency, the Wildcats can nail triples early and often but can't nullify their lack of size in the paint.

Elite Eight

#1 Duke vs. #3 Iowa State

Pick: #3 Iowa State

The Blue Devils eclipse ISU in terms of talent, but relying heavily on freshman throughout the regular season could be Duke's kryptonite. Iowa State's cog is littered with upperclassmen who have March Madness experience throughout their careers. The battle of heavyweights between Jahlil Okafor and Georges Niang also will be a vital factor in deciding the outcome of the South region final. ISU takes over late, as Duke's talent can't overcome their inexperience.