NCAA Tournament South Region: What You Need To Know

    The South is a special bracket because there’s no reason to be surprised if any of seven teams come out of the region, and we’re not talking about just

    March 19, 2015

    The South is a special bracket because there’s no reason to be surprised if any of seven teams come out of the region, and we’re not talking about just the top six seeds. No. 1 Duke, No. 2 Gonzaga, No. 3 Iowa State, No. 5 Utah, No. 6 SMU, No. 10 Davidson and No. 12 Stephen F. Austin all have the talent and the matchups to reach Indianapolis, and they all play different styles.

    You want a blue-blood? Hello, Duke. You want an annual March darling? Sup, Gonzaga. How about a coaching legend whose name doesn’t start with “K”? We see you, Larry Brown and SMU. Little guy? Davidson or Stephen F. Austin. You get the picture.

    Best second-round game

    Two teams looking for respect battle when No. 7 Iowa takes on No. 10 Davidson. The Hawkeyes are the higher seed, but everyone is talking about Davidson being a Cinderella (present company included), and Iowa isn’t thrilled with the lack of respect. The Wildcats, meanwhile, bring plenty of offense to the floor but don’t play a lot of defense. Both teams can hurt opponents in different ways. This is an even matchup, one that could go either way.

    Upset Special

    Don’t overlook the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks. They won a game in the tournament last season, and they won’t be intimidated by Utah in any way, shape or form when they battle in the second round. SFA has lost once since December, and can knock down shots from anywhere on the floor. Utah lacks experience, and even with Delon Wright, a do-everything guard, the Utes will have their hands full and then some with the Lumberjacks.

    Best Player

    There is plenty of talent in the South bracket, but nobody is better than Duke’s Jahlil Okafor. He’s a dominant big man who – despite what he might be saying about sticking around – is going to be potentially playing his final college game every time he takes the floor. He’s a freshman who has maturity beyond his years, and he never tries to do too much. There are flashier players. There are better shooters and defenders. But nobody puts it all together like Okafor.

    Storybook

    Iowa State was looking strong last season in the NCAA Tournament before forward Georges Niang broke his foot in the opening round. ISU got past North Carolina in a controversial finish, but then it ran out of gas vs. UConn. That was last year. Niang is healthy this season, and he doesn’t want to see a short stay in the Dance. ISU should dispatch UAB easily, then it faces an alphabet soup battle between either SMU or UCLA in the round of 32. That game should be a battle, and Niang hopes to be the star of the show.

    Double-digit Love

    We’ve already talked about the strength of Stephen F. Austin and Davidson, but No. 13-seed Eastern Washington will be a dangerous team as well. Georgetown will be the Eagles’ second-round opponent, and the Hoyas have a nasty habit of falling short at the worst times. If EWU gets past G-Town, it could get on a roll. Oh, and No. 11 UCLA has the talent to win a couple of games, especially if it gets its head right.

    Take It to the Bank (Unless We’re Totally Wrong)

    Larry Brown has been coaching so long he used to send messages via carrier pigeon to James Naismith. Well, maybe that isn’t true, but Brown knows how to win games in a tournament setting, and he has a versatile, athletic team that won’t back down from anyone. Look for SMU to knock off UCLA and Iowa State to reach the Sweet 16, and the Mustangs will be a serious threat to move to the Elite Eight no matter who is waiting.

    Winner-to-Be

    There’s just something about this Duke team that seems like it will get everything in line for the Tournament. The Blue Devils have a ton of talent even if it has been a bit unfocused this season, but Coach K is a March master and will have the depth to outlast all comers.

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