South Regional Preview
March 19, 2014
By Joe Nelson
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Top seeded Florida leads the South region with several high profile programs with great history posted in these matchups. Here is a look at some of the storylines in the South quarter of the bracket and some advantages that may be ahead in the region. The top four seeds have a combined 17 national championships between them.
Favorite – Florida
Florida is the clear favorite in this region and one of the favorites to win the whole tournament. The Gators only lost twice all season with both misses in close games on the road against quality teams. The early season loss at Wisconsin was also without SEC Player of the Year Scottie Wilbekin. Florida has won 26 games in a row but they did have two close calls in the SEC Tournament and the overall strength of the SEC can rightfully be called into question. The Gators beat (South #2 seed) Kansas in the regular season but that was the only win against an elite squad all season. Florida has been impressive on both sides of the ball but the offense can go through some scoring droughts and this is one of the worst free throw shooting teams in the nation despite the success.
Final Four Sleeper – Ohio State
After starting the season 15-0 Ohio State went through an ugly slide losing five of six games in January. The Buckeyes were upset a few times down the stretch as well but Ohio State has wins at Wisconsin and at Iowa, while also getting a win over Michigan State and nearly beating Michigan in the Big Ten Tournament. Going through the Big Ten grind will help the Buckeyes in the tournament and this is a veteran team with elite playmakers though the roster is not very deep. If the Buckeyes get by Dayton they would likely face Syracuse, a #3 seed that has really struggled in recent weeks and then they could have to contend with a young Kansas team that may not have its full complement of players. Thad Matta has 11 NCAA Tournament wins the last four years and the Buckeyes could hang with Florida in fierce defensive battle.
Sweet 16 Sleeper – New Mexico
After being upset against Harvard last season in the NCAA Tournament New Mexico should be on a mission this season. The Lobos just won the Mountain West Tournament and they have lost just six games all season. Statistically the Lobos have strong numbers on both sides of the ball and they will be a threat for a deep run. A first round matchup with Stanford will be a challenge and facing Kansas in St. Louis will be difficult task. Joel Embiid is not likely to play and the Jayhawks are a young team that has had some inconsistency down the stretch despite immense talent however. New Mexico is a team to look out for as a threat to pick up a few wins.
Best Early Round Location Edge – UCLA
The Bruins get to play two hours away in San Diego and while several other teams in this region have similar nearby venues the Bruins have the advantage of its opponents making very long trips out west. UCLA meets Tulsa in an intriguing first round game and the late start time should only help the favorite on Pacific Time. If they meet Virginia Commonwealth in the next round the location edge will be even more prominent. The region moves to Memphis for the Sweet 16 and the Elite 8 and while that is not favorable venue for the Bruins, none of the top contenders will enjoy a big edge in that location either.
Best Opening Game – Virginia Commonwealth vs. Stephen F. Austin
Stephen F. Austin may not have played the most difficult schedule but the Lumberjacks have not lost since November. They do not have any quality wins on the season but rarely do the small conference tournament entrants ride into the field with such a run of dominance. While VCU leads the nation in creating turnovers, SFA is third in the nation in the category while taking better care of the ball on offense. As the spread on this game suggests, this won’t be a major upset if it happens.
Trendy Upset that won’t be – Tulsa over UCLA
Led by Danny Manning the Golden Hurricane have shaken off a 1-6 start to the season to now have won 11 straight games, upsetting Louisiana Tech to win the Conference USA Tournament. It has been a great run but most of the wins came against the bottom of the conference and this looks like a team happy to be in the field. The offensive numbers for the season are pretty poor and this is not a strong shooting team. UCLA has elite talent and the Bruins will get to play close to home in a late night start Friday night. A late season loss to Washington State seems to have been a wake-up call for this squad as they played brilliantly in the Pac-12 Tournament and the Bruins are a threat to make a run in this region.
ODDS TO WIN SOUTH REGIONAL (Memphis, TN)
Provided by the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino (LVH) SuperBook
(Seeds listed in Parenthesis)
(1) FLORIDA 1/1
(2) KANSAS 3/1
(3) SYRACUSE 6/1
(4) UCLA 8/1
(6) OHIO ST 8/1
(5) VCU 12/1
(7) NEW MEXICO 20/1
(9) PITTSBURGH 20/1
(10) STANFORD 50/1
(8) COLORADO 75/1
(11) DAYTON 75/1
(12) STEPHEN F AUSTIN 150/1
(13) TULSA 300/1
(14) WESTERN MICHIGAN 1000/1
(15) EASTERN KENTUCKY 1000/1
(16) ALBANY 1000/1
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