2016 NCAA Tournament Preview: South Region

March 15, 2016

By technicality, the NCAA Tournament is officially underway. But many fans don’t pay much attention to the First Four games, so ESPN and the rest of the sites that offer bracket games don’t lock them until the first Thursday game.

I’m a big fan of that, since as a professional now I don’t have time to stay up all hours of the night trying to finish my region-by-region breakdowns before the Tuesday games.

This year, we’ll start the first of four NCAA Tournament previews with the region that contains the bracket’s No. 1 overall seed.

Let’s take a look at the South region.

First Round Games to Watch

#8 Colorado vs. #9 Connecticut (Thursday, 1:30 PM ET on TNT)

The classic 8 versus 9 matchup is often times a tossup, with little to separate two teams that had very similar seasons from a record perspective. This one is no different and looks to be one of the most exciting games of the entire first round, not just the South region. UConn comes into the tournament on a tear typical of the Huskies in March, winning the AAC tournament after needing four overtime periods to beat Cincinnati in the quarterfinals. Many will become enamored with UConn’s run, and granted, the Huskies will come into this game with a lot of confidence. But Colorado is good, too.

The Buffaloes are a top 20 three point shooting team and have two guards at 6’5″ or taller in Josh Fortune and George King that can light it up from behind the arc. The X-factor in this game, though, will be Josh Scott, a 6’10” forward that leads Colorado in scoring. Scott averages over 30 minutes per game and will have a major advantage in the post for the majority of the game. If Scott can suck the defense in to stop him in the paint, it will open things up for Fortune and King. For as exciting as UConn appeared to be in the AAC tourney, the Huskies don’t push the tempo by trade. Kevin Ollie has continued the success in March than Jim Calhoun made the standard at UConn, but moving on to face a potential No. 1 seed will be a battle in the South.

#4 California vs. #13 Hawaii (Friday, 2 PM ET on TBS)

My dad and I love to give Cal a hard time in football, joking that the Golden Bears are “never for real”. But we both agree that this year, the hoops team isn’t a joke. Cal has not one but two future NBA draft lottery picks in Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb. What is potentially more impressive is that even with all the star power on the floor at one time, the Golden Bears are also selfless with the basketball. Five players average double-digits in scoring for the team. All is not lost for Hawaii, however. Stefan Jankovic is a solid player for the Warriors and their best three point shooter. Cal has had issues defending the three point line this season, so Jankovic may find himself taking a lot of shots behind the arc. If he hits them, things will get interesting.

Without an NBA prospect on the roster, Hawaii will need to rely on creativity and ball control in order to knock off the Golden Bears. The gap is talent is evident, but it may not show up in this game. Head coach Eran Ganot has a hard working team and one that would take personal pride in showing the world that the little guys can win games, too. Guard Aaron Valdes was once a walk on and last weekend earned MVP honors in the Big West tournament. Cal comes into this one as a sort of Goliath, but the Warriors will not be intimidated and have the ability to keep this one close for the entire 40 minutes.

Team That Could Make a Run


Hurricanes head coach Jim Larrañaga was quoted as saying that this season was going to be a very good year, and although he would probably rather that not be circulated around the internet prior to his team’s first tournament game, he is speaking the truth. Miami has one of the best backcourts in the country with Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan, two of the four seniors on the roster. Rodriguez has an eagle eye and finds his teammates with ease while McClellan seeks out his shot and is terrific at creating off of the dribble. Guard play is one of the strong points of this region as a whole, and the Hurricanes are right at the top of the hill along with Villanova, Kansas and Maryland.

As a three seed, Miami will not have to face a higher seed until the Sweet 16 at the earliest, but with Villanova’s recent struggles in the NCAA Tournament, the Hurricanes may be the best bet in the bottom half of the South region. As long as Miami is hitting its shots, it should be able to coast to the Sweet 16 where it may face the Wildcats for an epic battle between guards. For Larrañaga, however, the Sweet 16 won’t be satisfactory. His belief in this team suggests he is thinking Final Four, which is where he led George Mason 10 years ago. The Hurricanes absolutely have the ability to do it.

My Picks

First Round

#1 Kansas over #16 Austin Peay

#9 Connecticut over #8 Colorado

#5 Maryland over #12 South Dakota State

#4 California over #13 Hawaii

#11 Wichita State over #6 Arizona (upset alert)

#3 Miami over #14 Buffalo

#7 Iowa over #10 Temple

#2 Villanova over #15 UNC-Asheville

Second Round

#1 Kansas over #9 Connecticut

#5 Maryland over #4 California

#3 Miami over #11 Wichita State

#2 Villanova over #7 Iowa

Sweet 16

#1 Kansas over #4 California

#3 Miami over #2 Villanova

Elite 8

#1 Kansas over #3 Miami

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