2013 NCAA Tournament Predictions: South Region

March 20, 2013

While some regions are unpredictable because every team is so good, other regions are just as unpredictable because the top seeds don’t appear to be that strong. Such is the case with the South Region, where things could get messy early if some of the lower seeds take advantage of certain matchups.

Here is my breakdown of the South Region.

Second Round Games to Watch

#6 UCLA vs. #11 Minnesota (Fri, following Florida vs. Northwestern State game)

Minnesota is the most unpredictable team in the entire NCAA Tournament. The Golden Gophers have solid wins over Memphis, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Indiana, but also ended the regular season by dropping games to Iowa, Nebraska and Purdue (all on the road). In fact, I don’t even think that Minnesota should have made the tournament over a team like Iowa the way the two teams ended the year, but that’s a moot point.

Similarly, we no longer know what we’re going to get with the UCLA Bruins. Once a team that looked destined to be a No. 4 or 5 seed, the Bruins suffered a tough loss in the Pac-12 tournament when freshman guard Jordan Adams broke his foot in a win over Arizona. UCLA will miss their second leading scorer dearly, and frankly may not have enough to compete with the athleticism of Minnesota. Of course, you can’t say that with too much certainty, because it is anyone’s guess as to how the Golden Gophers will play. Expect this game to come down to the wire, but know that you could be watching one of the tournament’s sleeper teams in the victor.

#2 Georgetown vs. #15 Florida Gulf Coast (Fri, following Creighton vs. Cincinnati game)

The Hoyas have been playing well lately, losing only two games since January 21st, but there is concern that John Thompson III’s team may not be as good as its record indicates. Quite surprisingly, Florida Gulf Coast is being pegged as a dangerous squad that could pull off one of the monumental second round upsets similar to what we witnessed in last year’s tournament when Norfolk State took down No. 2 seed Missouri.

I’m not extremely high on Georgetown, but there are two reasons why I think the Eagles will have a very difficult time pulling off the improbable upset. First is the fact that the game is being played in Philadelphia, not too far a trip for the Hoyas but definitely a plane’s ride away for Florida Gulf Coast. Secondly, the Eagles’ chances appear to hinge on the play of guard Sherwood Brown who, while a solid player, is not a miracle worker. The Eagles would need a great game from each of their three starting guards and hope that the post defense finds a way to contain Otto Porter Jr. I think that this game has the potential to be interesting as far as a 2 vs. 15 matchup is concerned, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it an upset waiting to happen.

Team That Could Make a Run

Virginia Commonwealth

Shaka Smart’s team is a No. 5 seed, but could find themselves with a very similar scenario that could propel them back into the national spotlight and perhaps into the Final Four. If the Rams were to make it to the Sweet 16 (which is very possible), it would set up a likely date with No. 1 seed Kansas, the same school that VCU shocked two years ago as an No. 11 seed which made it to the Final Four. Like in 2011, the Rams would be a very difficult team for Kansas, which struggles with turnovers and could fall prey to Smart’s “Havoc” defensive scheme once again.

As weak as the top seeds appear, it would not be all that surprising if the Rams were the team that was left standing when the dust settles in the South Region. Playing in the Atlantic 10 for the first time bolstered VCU’s in-conference competition, but the Rams were still able to do what they do best: Wreak havoc on defense. They say defense wins championships, and the Rams may be able to prove that once again this year.

My Picks

Second Round

#1 Kansas over #16 Western Kentucky

#8 North Carolina over #9 Villanova

#5 Virginia Commonwealth over #12 Akron

#13 South Dakota State over #4 Michigan (upset alert)

#11 Minnesota over #6 UCLA (upset alert)

#3 Florida over #14 Northwestern State

#10 Oklahoma over #7 San Diego State

#2 Georgetown over #15 Florida Gulf Coast

Third Round

#1 Kansas over #8 North Carolina

#5 Virginia Commonwealth over #13 South Dakota State

#3 Florida over #11 Minnesota

#10 Oklahoma over #2 Georgetown (upset alert)

Sweet 16

#1 Kansas over #5 Virginia Commonwealth

#3 Florida over #10 Oklahoma

Elite 8

#1 Kansas over #3 Florida

– K. Becks

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