With a mix of the solidly talented and the ever intriguing, the South Regional of the 2018 NCAA Tournament is quite the place to be for a number of scenarios can totally play out over who will advance to San Antonio. Unfortunately reader we cannot possibly go through each scenario to why your team will totally win this region as that will take much more time to go through every scenario, so let’s just make a single one to breakdown and predict just what is in store in the south and who things will go.
Round of 64
(1) Virginia vs. (16) UMBC
If Steeple Sinderby Wanderers can win the FA Cup then UMBC can surely be the first sixteen seed in history to take down a one seed. Just one problem: Steeple Sinderby Wanderers FA Cup victory is a work of comic fantasy from J.L Carr and UMBC taking down Virginia is a work of comic fantasy from the mind of the person writing this article. The reality is that Virginia is most likely going to reduce every chance that UMBC gets on the ball and force them into taking bad shots. It would be nice to see the comic fantasy play out, but expect Virginia to advance in relatively easy fashion.
(8) Creighton vs. (9) Kansas State
Ah, the Marcus Foster Derby. This game provides the usual aspect of having to throw the form book out the window when it comes a exciting twist of narrative for both schools.
The exciting twist is that Creighton’s anchor at guard Marcus Foster played for Kansas State his first two seasons before being kicked off of the Wildcats for multiple violations of team rules and then made his way to Creighton where he has been since. This narrative will most likely be played up as everyone, or well almost everyone, loves a good narrative during a game.
K-State is also getting quite the boon before this game, as Bruce Weber will have leading scorers Dean Wade and Barry Brown both on hand for this game. On the Bluejay side of things is a disciplined high scoring team that could give the Wildcats a run for their money. The one problem though is that the loss of Martin Krampelj could weigh large. They have not come close at times to resembling the offensive attack that they had for much of the season.
In the end this one will be close and can go either way but think Kansas State will take this one. If they do it would be the first time since 2011 that Bruce Weber has won a tournament game.
Pick: Kansas State
(5) Kentucky vs. (11) Davidson
There is something about this Kentucky team entering into this tournament that feels like they are either going to be here and out or go on a run through this region. Yes, John Calipari has not lost a round of 64 game since his Memphis team lost to Arizona State in the 2003 tournament. But that does that mean that it cannot happen again for him. On top of that, Kentucky is coming into this fresh off a SEC Tournament title. On the other side is a also hot Davidson team that ran riot through Washington DC last week, taking the Atlantic 10 Tournament over favorite Rhode Island with some rather sparkling play.
Davidson is a 3-point shooting team, while Kentucky has been excellent at defending the perimeter this season. At the end of the day, it is tempting to pick Davidson over Kentucky. But this long Kentucky team might be too much for the Wildcats of the Davidson variety. Also just realized that both these teams are the Wildcats. That’s going to be confusing. So at the end of the this game the winner will be the Wildcats.
Pick: Wildcats of the Kentucky variety
(4) Arizona vs. (13) Buffalo
For people who don’t watch west coast let alone Pac-12 basketball this game will be a nice little crash course into watching the play of Deandre Ayton and Dusan Ristic, Arizona’s personal mountain range at center who on court both feel as tall as Humphrey’s Peak the tallest point in the state. Buffalo is a fun, confident team to have watched this season if you are of fan of MACtion. Their depth and versatility at guard could present an enticing upset option. Especially if they double up and limit the options to Arizona’s big men down low. n reality though, I think Arizona should get through this one maybe with a slight hiccup but overall with ease.
(6) Miami (FL) vs. (11) Loyola-Chicago
It might be a false dawn for Miami in this game against Loyola-Chicago. In a lot of ways, the plucky upstart Ramblers do present a tasty upset option against the Hurricanes. But on their best day, Miami can be a lot to handle. The only problem being exactly that, as the ‘Canes of late have provided lots of inconsistency. Another thing that dampens things for Miami will be the absence of Bruce Brown this game, who has been out since January with a foot injury. His absence has left a mark on Miami’s play.
Still though, due to their seeding, it could serve as motivation for Miami to dig in and win this one especially to prove their detractors that they can rise up.
On the reverse side of things is Loyola who are in the dance for the first time since 1985 where they made it all the way to the Sweet 16. The Ramblers are also former champions as well having won the NCAA Tournament in 1963. Actually, both the champion and runner up from the ‘63 tournament are in this bracket, with Cincinnati being the two seed in this region.
Okay back on task, the Ramblers are a intriguing team to watch as they are solid 3-point shooting team, averaging 40% from beyond the arc. They are also defensively sound in both broad-ranging defensive efficiency statics and in man-to-man defense. They also have an impressive win against Florida from earlier this season.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility, especially given the errs in Miami’s ways, that the Ramblers can see this one through. With that in mind, I think that Loyola will take this one.
(3) Tennessee vs. (14) Wright State
Wright State could be interesting and their name “Raiders” implies that they can smash and grab this one from Tennessee. They are a pretty solid defensive team and did bowl through the Horizon League Tournament. It is just that the Volunteers may be a bit too malleable for the Raiders to break and take this one.
The Vols will be coming into this one having won six of their last seven games, the seventh being a loss against Kentucky in the SEC Tournament Championship Game. Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams may be a bit too much for things to go all-wright for Wright State. Then again, the Raiders this season have not been that stellar of a shooting team. In the end Tennessee moves on.
(7) Nevada vs. (10) Texas
Everything that Texas will do this game will have an act of deliberation to it. This is a team that moves with deliberate pace and is based on around the play of its frontcourt, which is about the height of a tall forest of Texas Pine Trees.
On the opposite end of things is a high-flying Nevada team that is offensively strong and seems to love to score for fun but has their woes on defense. If Nevada gets at it early on, this one can easily go to the Wolf Pack. In the end, I think it will go to Nevada ,who will use their pace and up-tempo play to easily stymie the deliberate movements of Texas.
(2) Cincinnati vs. (15) Georgia State
As much as it is fun to have Georgia State in the Tournament for their head coach, this one should be pretty straight forward for the Bearcats to march on from and into the Round of 32. Cincinnati does have their woes as a team, but those won’t show in this game.
Round of 32
(1) Virginia vs. (9) Kansas State
This game may be the first true test for Virginia in this tournament. Especially since they will be without DeAndre Hunter, who is out with a broken wrist. There is more than enough for the Cavaliers to get through this one against Kansas State. Even without Hunter, there is still Kyle Guy, Ty Jerome, and Jack Salt to lead the way.
The Wahoos will also once again use their defense to their benefit, as they’ll try to limit and force the Wildcats into bad spots, keeping any and all opportunities to a minimum.
(5) Kentucky vs. (4) Arizona
If you had Wildcats on your bracket, then good news as you can pick Wildcats to go to the Sweet 16 too. A Wildcat team will win this one. Who will it be? Well, you’ll have to watch to find out next time. Snark aside, this game is a pretty spicy match up for the Round of 32. In many ways, similar to the prospect of West Virginia playing Wichita State in this round over in the East Region.
The key battle in this one will be in the paint as Kentucky will look to neutralize Arizona’s size and seek to take advantage of the play of their athletic ability down low.
I think that Arizona has a bit more in them to stretch UK out, leaving the Wildcats high and dry and out in the Round of 32. Wildcats march on and Wildcats go home.
Pick: Wildcats of the Arizona variety
(11) Loyola-Chicago vs. (3) Tennessee
The idea to keep picking Loyola is ever present in this one, especially as it would make their story all the more sweeter. However, Tennessee may what forces them to bow out of this tournament after a win against Miami in the opening round of the tournament.
It is an interesting match up for the way Loyola plays defense. We will see how they will constraint and contract the Vols on the court. It’s just that the Vols will have more than enough to bend and move to the ways of the Ramblers.
Tennessee moves on for more to see.
(7) Nevada vs. (2) Cincinnati
This game, on paper and possibly if it comes to actual fruition on the court, is a tasty watch. You have a ruthlessly up-tempo offense against a ruthlessly aggressive defense. For Cincinnati to advance in this one is to use their defense to the best of their ability and also rely on Gary Clark and Jacob Evans to lead the way on the offensive side of things to get the Bearcats going.
Nevada on the other hand is dealt with the task of trying to shore up their defense. Especially if their offense sputters in the wake of Cincinnati’s pressure. I think though that Nevada can do more than enough to get the job done in this game, especially as they have such a wide array of options to call on that they’ll be moving onto the next round.
(1) Virginia vs. (4) Arizona
This one is the truest of tests for Virginia in this region before getting to San Antonio. You can easily make a argument for why either Arizona or Virginia can win this game let along this region in the brackets. I think that Virginia will take this one and it could be the game that demonstrates the strengths of how Virginia plays with their defensive pressure. It’s possible that UVA doesn’t have an answer for Ayton, but then again not many teams do. If they can work around that, then they will be fine.
(3) Tennessee vs. (7) Nevada
It’s probably not the matchup you were thinking for the second Sweet 16 game in this region, but such is the nature of the tournament.
Tennessee’s run in the tournament comes to an end in this round, as Nevada once again puts up a solid display along the way. The Wolf Pack slowly become a tournament darling, mostly due to the fact that not many have watched them earlier. The last time the Wolf Pack were in the Sweet 16 was 2004, where they lost to Georgia Tech. That was also the only time in their program history that they had made it this far in the tournament. This time will be much sweeter as they move on.
(1) Virginia vs. (7) Nevada
Nevada has never made a elite eight in their history til now whereas Virginia has been hear as recently as 2016. Nevada has never gone to a final four while the last time Virginia made the final four was 1984. Nevada’s trip to the Final Four will have to wait for another date and time, as Virginia takes this one proving to be just too much for the Wolf Pack to handle on the defensive side of things.
By this point, Virginia will have fully adjusted to the absence of Hunter from the roster as well. In the end, UVA and their devilishly handsome coach Tony Bennett march onto San Antonio and the Cavaliers’ first Final Four appearance since the halcyon days of the Terry Holland era of Virginia basketball.
Region Winner: Virginia