2018 NCAA Tournament Preview: South Region

March 15, 2018
By K. Becks

I used to start my NCAA Tournament previews with a disclaimer about using any of this information for your betting purposes. But since we’re creeping up on a decade since I’ve won a Tournament bracket pool, I don’t think it’s necessary anymore.

I’m also not 17 anymore, so no links to girls in bikinis. Just basketball, baby.

The South Region could be accurately characterized as the Group of Death, which has to have Tony Bennett and the Virginia Cavaliers throwing up their hands in disbelief. Although the Cavaliers are the top overall seed in the 2018 Dance, the region features heavy hitters Arizona, Kentucky and dangerous upstarts such as Cincinnati and Tennessee. Expect some great matchups in this side of the bracket as the Tournament progresses.

Let’s take a closer look at the South Region.

Round of 64 Games to Watch

#5 Kentucky vs. #12 Davidson (Thursday, 7:10 PM ET)

This young Kentucky team is playing its best basketball of the season at precisely the right time, but there’s a reason that Coach Calipari had so much praise to shower Davidson with when asked about his first round opponent during an interview with ESPN a couple of days ago. The Atlantic 10 Conference tournament champs are no slouch, combining solid team play on offense with the ability to hurt opposing teams with the three ball. Forward Peyton Aldridge provides a nice presence in the post to give the Wildcats a multifaceted look when they have the ball.

I’ve heard multiple people tell me they were thinking about taking Davidson over the SEC tournament champs but were unable to overcome the fact that it’s Kentucky, Coach Cal and a team that is hitting its stride in March. I will admit that while I feel the same way, there is plenty of hope for those that went all in on Bob McKillop’s squad. The Atlantic 10 has already bested college basketball royalty in the First Four and Davidson has the ability to take down another in Boise.

#6 Miami (FL) vs. #11 Loyola-Chicago (Thursday, approximately 3:10 PM ET)

Jim LarraƱaga is all too familiar with what an 11 seed can accomplish in the NCAA Tournament, which to some extent makes Loyola-Chicago’s job more difficult, since the Hurricanes are unlikely to underestimate the Ramblers. However, the Missouri Valley regular season and conference tournament champions are an extremely solid basketball team and have enough senior leadership to put together a magical Tournament run with only a bit of luck.

Five players average double digits in scoring for the Ramblers, which is normally a good attribute in potential Cinderella teams. A nice break for Loyola-Chicago is that Miami will be without its leading rebounder, Bruce Brown Jr. The sophomore pulled down nearly eight boards per game for the Hurricanes and was also a capable scorer as well. The Ramblers are not a good rebounding team by any stretch of the imagination, so the absence of Brown could prove to be a huge factor. Solid team play on offense and a stifling defense (Loyola-Chicago is No. 5 in the country in points per game allowed) have the underdog in good position to put pressure on the ‘Canes.

Team That Could Make a Run

Nevada

Perhaps the only thing that could stop the Wolfpack from making a run to the Sweet 16 or beyond are themselves. Nevada had somewhat of a head scratching result in the Mountain West semis against San Diego State, getting blown out by the Aztecs and allowing the its third highest points total to an opponent this season. The loss was also the second in three games to San Diego State, so it could just be that the Aztecs have the Wolfpack’s number. Or, it could be a foreshadowing of more unfortunate things to come.

Eric Musselman’s squad is as talented as plenty of Power 5 conference teams, a testament to what the third year coach for Nevada has been able to do while the rest of the Mountain West Conference has taken a bit of step back. The Wolfpack will try to score a ton of points, which sets up as an interesting contrast to its first round opponent Texas and also the way that its likely second opponent Cincinnati prefers to win basketball games. If Musselman’s team can refocus itself in the Big Dance and avoid a first half performance that has it chasing in the second 20 minutes, there is no reason why a second weekend trip isn’t possible for them.

My Picks

First Round

#1 Virginia over #16 UMBC

#9 Kansas State over #8 Creighton

#5 Kentucky over #12 Davidson

#4 Arizona over #13 Buffalo

#6 Loyola-Chicago over #6 Miami (FL) (upset alert)

#3 Tennessee over #14 Wright State

#7 Nevada over #10 Texas

#2 Cincinnati over #15 Georgia State

Second Round

#1 Virginia over #9 Kansas State

#4 Arizona over #5 Kentucky

#3 Tennessee over #11 Loyola-Chicago

#2 Cincinnati over #7 Nevada

Sweet 16

#4 Arizona over #1 Virginia (upset alert)

#3 Tennessee over #2 Cincinnati

Elite 8

#4 Arizona over #3 Tennessee

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