The Virginia Cavaliers are once again the headline team in the south region. Will this be the year for them? Or will the south home to Badgers, Bearcats, and Wildcats offer up a few surprises along the way? Let’s see who might be making their way to Minneapolis. Unfortunately reader we cannot go through every scenario and permutation for this region as that would take quite some time. So let’s make one breakdown and try to predict just how the south will be won this time around.
Round of 64
(1) Virginia vs. (16) Gardner-Webb
It can’t happen again, can it?
Once again, the Virginia Cavaliers are No. 1 seed in a region, one year removed from being the first team to be upset be a No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Last year’s tournament saw the Cavaliers fall to the UMBC Retrievers, earning UMBC a place in history.
Now here we are again. This time around Virginia will be playing the Gardner-Webb Runnin’ Bulldogs. This is the first time in program history that Gardner-Webb has made the NCAA Tournament. hey came close in 2005 when they were in the Atlantic Sun Conference, but faltered at the finish line in the conference championship game against UCF.
Now they are here, and their first order of business will be taking UVA. These Cavaliers are much more balanced on offense and defense, and have continued their strangulation of opponents over the course of this season. They have only lost to two teams this season: Duke and Florida State. Gardner-Webb has won games against ACC oppositions this season in the form of Georgia Tech and Wake Forest.
Impressive, but not close to the level that Virginia this season. It should be a straight forward win for the Cavaliers as they go marching on in the tournament into the round of 32. Though what is life without dreams and memes?
(8) Ole Miss vs. (9) Oklahoma
The 8-9 game is an ever intriguing affair that can put through a strong team into the next round. In this region, it will be the No. 8 seeded Ole Miss Rebels against the 9 seeded Oklahoma Sooners. This feels like it should be played on a gridiron in the fall, rather than on a basketball court.
This is a wonky matchup, as Ole Miss can run hot and cold depending on the game and Oklahoma are limping into this year’s tournament having lost eight of their last 12 games among, which included their upset loss over West Virginia in the Big 12 Tournament. They have also had their struggles on the offensive side of the ball this season. Who will win this? Well, in all honesty, it could be a coin flip. But if Ole Miss can build onto an early lead and Breein Tyree and Terence Davis play their parts, then the Rebels should carry the day.
Pick: Ole Miss
(5) Wisconsin vs. (12) Oregon
It has been quite a turn around for Dana Altman’s team this season. In what was looking like a lost season in a down Pac-12, he has helped to turn it into a Pac-12 Tournament-winning season with a hot streak to ride into the tournament.
The Ducks boast a strong defensive unit that could be tough to break down and it will be interesting to see how Wisconsin tries to pick them apart. On the reverse side, Wisconsin led by Ethan Happ, can boast themselves a strong defensive unit as well.
This should be a fun game to watch, and I do think that Wisconsin has a bit more in their chamber to overcome the Ducks, Bu itt would not be surprised if Oregon were to win this one.
(4) Kansas State vs. (13) UC Irvine
After a stellar regular season that saw them win a share of the Big XII title, the Kansas State Wildcats get their tournament underway against the UC Irvine Anteaters. This is the second time in program history that the Anteaters have made the tournament. They come into this year’s tournament as a 13 seed after a impressive 30-win season.
They are pretty strong off the ball and that could be interesting to see against K-State, who in this one could have the ball quite often in their hands. The Wildcats are strong on both sides of the ball with four players who average double figures.
Kansas State should win this one with some ease, but things will get interesting going forward as much of Kansas State’s success hinges on the health of Dean Wade in this tournament.
Pick: Kansas State
(6) Villanova vs. (11) Saint Mary’s
The reigning NCAA and Big East champs get their tournament underway in Hartford, Connecticut at the XL Center. Unlike last season where the Villanova Wildcats entered the tournament as a 1 seed and a strong favorite to (and eventually) win the tournament, they will be head into this year’s affair a 6 seed. Meeting them will be the No. 11-seeded Saint Mary’s Gaels the surprise upstart winners of the WCC Championship.
Against Gonzaga, they were able to suppress the Bulldogs offense for the duration of the game and most likely will be doing the same the against the Wildcats. Led by seniors Phil Booth and Eric Paschall with Collin Gillespie bringing up the rear, Villanova have an effective trio from beyond the arc who led the Cats in scoring.
Villanova should win this one but it could be close as Saint Mary’s is a good team. Though the Wildcats will have to be on their best game to avoid pitfalls of their depth issues.
(3) Purdue vs. (14) Old Dominion
It should be interesting to see what Purdue team shows up in this one.
Despite winning a share of the Big Ten regular season title, there are some lingering signs of issues for the Boilermakers. Carsen Edwards has the hot hands to carry Matt Painter’s squad far into this tournament, but has fallen on a lengthy shooting slump. Hopefully they have made adjustments since their loss to Minnesota early in the Big Ten Tournament.
Opposite Purdue will the No. 14-seeded Old Dominion Monarchs, who are among one of the best defensive teams in the nation. In terms of Adjusted Defensive Efficiency, they are 45th in the nation, on par with fellow tournament teams Utah State and Minnesota. The Monarchs also boast two solid scorers in seniors B.J. Stith and Ahmad Caver.
Still though, I think Purdue has enough in their chamber to overcome Old Dominion. But it is not out of the realm of possibility that the Monarchs give the Boilermakers a few scares along the way.
(7) Cincinnati vs. (10) Iowa
This game will be taking place at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. All things considered, this will essentially be a home game for the No. 7-seeded Cincinnati Bearcats as they take on the No. 10-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes.
Home crowd aside, the weight of how Iowa ended their season on 1-5 skid could impact their play heading into this game. The Hawkeyes will also have to contend with a leaky defense that so far this season has given up an average of 73.6 points per game not that Cincinnati is a well rounded scoring team.
25 percent of the Bearcats offense comes from senior Jarron Cumberland. If he’s hot then Cincinnati should thrive, but other than that one can not look over the fact that this will be a Bearcat heavy crowd.
(2) Tennessee vs. (15) Colgate
The Tennessee Volunteers get their tournament stint underway against the Colgate Raiders. This is the third time in program history that Colgate are in the tournament. The last two times were as 16 seeds in 1995 and 1996. Unfortunately, this should be brief cameo appearance in this year’s tournament as it should be a pretty straight forward Tennessee win. The Vols trio of options in Grant Williams, Admiral Schofield, and Jordan Bone will likely be too much for the Raiders to handle.
It should at least be interesting to see Patriot League Player of the Year Rapolas Ivanauskas in action for Colgate.
Vols march on.
Round of 32
(1) Virginia vs. (8) Ole Miss
Remember who for Ole Miss to win they will need a hot start? Well in this case, they will definitely need a hot start and maybe a bit more to overcome Virginia in the Round of 32.
I do not see that happening, as Virginia will likely get to work early and cut off the Rebels’ offensive flow and bring the game down to their level. And by their level, I mean letting Kyle Guy and the rest of the Cavaliers offense do their business.
It will not be a blowout, but the scoreline will feel like that. Then again, it’ll probably be a lowing scoring game as Virginia much like Wisconsin are a slow often deliberate in action team.
(5) Wisconsin vs. (4) Kansas State
This will be the first game for K-State that will hinge on if Dean Wade is healthy or not. If healthy then the Wildcats have a great chance of marching onto the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row. If not, then this might be as far as Kansas State goes in the tournament. And in this case, we are playing in the realm that Wade is doubtful for the tournament and this time looking evermore doubtful he’ll play.
That should not be a problem against UC Irvine, but against Wisconsin, that loss of an option inis significant. And it could mean that Bruce Weber and the Wildcats head home early.
Expect Wisconsin to setup efficiently in this one with feeds to Happ down low. It most likely will be a low scoring one, as the Badgers can suppress a team’s offense just enough to win.
(6) Villanova vs. (3) Purdue
This one should be a fun one with a lot of back and forth offensive action. Although it would be nice to see Villanova march on in the hopes of returning to the Final Four, they’ll fall short in this. Those depth issues and having limited double figure scoring options will come around to hurt.
Purdue, fresh off of their win over Old Dominion, should have enough to play up to their competition in this one especially if the offense is firing on all cylinders.
(7) Cincinnati vs. (2) Tennessee
Cincinnati will once again have home court in this one as this game will also be played in Columbus, Ohio. That might not be enough to overcome Tennessee in this one, unless the Volunteers come out and squander chances like they did in the SEC Tournament.
The Vols have a wide array of options, and those options may be too much for the Cincinnati to handle.
(1) Virginia vs. (5) Wisconsin
Remember that game earlier in the season when Virginia Tech beat NC State by a score of 47-24? Well, this might be the game to challenge that game except this time around its two teams squaring off that love a slow low scoring game. The crockpot of tournament games as Virginia meets Wisconsin in the Sweet 16.
There is a part of me that can see either team advancing to the Elite Eight, but in this case it will be Wisconsin going through as they are able to match up to Virginia on the floor. The other aspect though will be that the pressure on Virginia to get it done might do them in instead.
If both teams make it to this part of the tournament, it could be an interesting matchup in terms of basketball strategy. Maybe not in viewership, but definitely strategy.
(3) Purdue vs. (2) Tennessee
This will be the end of the line for Purdue, as Tennessee will win this one.
It should be a fun matchup, certainly one with a good deal amount of offense. But in the end, I cannot see past the talent of the Volunteers and them losing this one.
Purdue will have to contend with Admiral Schofield and Grant Williams setting up shop and getting to work all the while depending on what Edwards does in this one. Although maybe someone else be it Ryan Cline or Matt Haarms emerges to help Purdue.
Tennessee, for the second time in their program history, will be on their way to the Elite Eight.
(5) Wisconsin vs. (2) Tennessee
The last time Tennessee was in the Elite Eight was 2010, when they lost to Michigan State by a single point. Now they are back again and this time around should have enough to get the job done against Wisconsin. The Badgers will need to rely on all options in this one as Ethan Happ most likely will be isolated from the onset. That means kicking the ball out to either D’Mitrik Trice or Brad Davison for production. Both options are solid secondary scoring options. The Vols, though, have enough to counter this and will find ways to counter the way the Badgers set up in games.
For the first time in program history Tennessee is off to the Final Four.
Region Winner: Tennessee