March Madness 2019: Previewing the South Region

Welcome to the 3rd of my March Madness regional previews.  Today, I will be looking at the South Region.  Will the Virginia Cavaliers choke again?  Does Tennessee have an easy path to the Final 4, or will somebody stop them?  Find out what I think below.

Here are links to my other articles in the series:

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March Madness 2019: Regional Previews

March Madness 2019: Previewing the East Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the West Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the South Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the Midwest Region

I will be previewing the Sweet 16 next week as well!

Round of 64 Preview

Columbia, SC: Games start Friday, March 22, 2019 at 3:10 PM EST on truTV

#1 Virginia  vs. Image result for gardner webb bulldogs logo #16 Gardner-Webb

Even after being upset by #16 seed UMBC last year, Virginia was among the league’s best for the entirety of the regular season once again.  They may have struggled in the ACC tournament, but Gardner-Webb should be a piece of cake for UVA.  I don’t think they have the same upside that AEC winners like UMBC and Vermont have had in past years.  Maybe Virginia will choke in a later round, but don’t pick against them here.

The Pick: Virginia

#8 Ole Miss Image result for ole miss logo vs. Related image #9 Oklahoma

Ole Miss may have had one of their best basketball seasons in a while.  But they were still pretty inconsistent this year under Kermit Davis, and they haven’t been in March Madness since 2015 (2 years before this series began annually).  The Sooners had a relatively easy schedule, and they weren’t much better on the consistency, but they swept TCU and took down Florida as well as fellow Big 12 team Kansas.  They have proven that they can beat top teams on a regular basis.  Despite their sweep of Auburn, it’s hard to say the same about the Rebels.  Oklahoma will have more confidence coming in and more motivation to move on as they grab the victory.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Oklahoma

San Jose, CA: Games start Friday, March 22, 2019 at 2:45 PM EST on TBS

#4 Kansas State Image result for kansas state logo vs. Image result for uc irvine anteaters logo #13 UC Irvine

Kansas State made it all the way to the Elite 8 last year thanks to UMBC’s upset of Virginia, and the Wildcats come in even stronger this year after keeping up with Kansas and Texas Tech in the Big 12.  The Anteaters have been a regular contender in their conference for several years now, but they do not have a recent reputation for pulling March Madness upsets.  I think the Wildcats will easily outplay them, led by Dean Wade and Barry Brown Jr.

The Pick: Kansas State

#5 Wisconsin Image result for wisconsin badgers logo vs. Related image #12 Oregon

A lot of people picked a Ducks upset here after their surprise Pac-12 victory.  I happen to disagree with that, but one thing is for sure: whoever wins this could have the chance to go far, especially if they can handle Kansas State and Virginia is knocked out early. On momentum alone, I don’t think Oregon will be able to handle the Ethan Happ-led Badgers.  Wisconsin is the far stronger team, and Oregon wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for their success against Pac-12 rivals Arizona State and Washington.  Their out-of-conference performance wasn’t great either.

The Pick: Wisconsin

Hartford, CT: Games start Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 7:20 PM EST on TBS

#6 Villanova Related image vs. Image result for saint marys logo #11 Saint Mary’s

The Wildcats regressed this year after two national championships in three years after losing Jalen Brunson, Donte DiVicenzo and others to the NBA.  They nearly lost the Big East to Marquette.  But Saint Mary’s only real quality win was their upset over Gonzaga that just happened to come when it matters most: in the WCC title game.  They wouldn’t be here this year without that win.  Villanova, now led by Phil Booth among others, should be able to take care of the Gaels with ease.

The Pick: Villanova

#3 Purdue Related image vs. Image result for old dominion monarchs logo #14 Old Dominion

#3 seeds are 115-21 (.846) all time in this tourney against #14 seeds.  But regardless of that stat, I picked two 14-3 upsets this year.  Why?  Well, Texas Tech-NKU, the other upset I picked, is all based on opportunity.  A 2nd time March Madness team looking to pull their first upset after three straight Horizon League regular season wins takes on an upset prone team in Texas Tech.

Many people say Purdue has a good track record in this tournament and should easily take down #14 Old Dominion.  But the Monarchs have thrived in one of the better mid-major conferences, the C-USA.  Purdue has only beat two other Top 25 teams this year: Wisconsin and Michigan State.  They were already upset by Minnesota in the B1G tournament.  Expect Old Dominion to give Purdue a wake up call.  Carsen Edwards has been great for them, but I doubt the team would have a Top 4 seed without Edwards.  Even though Matt Haarms also returned this season, you cannot lean on one or two players to this extent.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Old Dominion

Jacksonville, FL: Games start Friday, March 22, 2019 at 12:15 PM EST on CBS

#7 Cincinnati Image result for cincinnati bearcats logo vs. Related image #10 Iowa

The Bearcats managed to win the AAC this year, but they trailed Houston for most of the year after losing Jacob Evans.  Now led by Jarron Cumberland, Cincinnati takes on the Iowa Hawkeyes in a game that was very difficult for me to pick.  Cincy has the tools to make a run in this tourney, but Iowa improved significantly this year and I feel they were robbed of a higher seed.  They were not so far behind Michigan, MSU, and Purdue in the B1G this year, and they beat both the Wolverines and Iowa State.  I don’t see Cincinnati causing them problems.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Iowa

#2 Tennessee Image result for tennessee volunteers logo vs. Image result for colgate raiders logo  #15 Colgate

Tennessee was among the SEC’s top teams for the second consecutive year.  Look for Tennessee to make a deep run thanks to Old Dominion’s upset of Purdue.  It will all start with a dominant victory over Colgate, who’s above average season was enough to win them the Patriot League and get them into the tournament.  Colgate is no match for Tennessee though, let alone any 1 or 2 seed in this tournament, so this will be an easy win for the Volunteers.

The Pick: Tennessee

Round of 32 and Beyond

Here are my projected Round of 32 match-ups:

#1 Virginia  vs. Related image #9 Oklahoma

#4 Kansas State Image result for kansas state logo  vs. Image result for wisconsin badgers logo #5 Wisconsin

#6 Villanova Related image  vs.Image result for old dominion monarchs logo #14 Old Dominion

#2 Tennessee Image result for tennessee volunteers logo vs. Related image #10 Iowa

Virginia has a history of choking in this tournament, and I could see it happening again against Oklahoma.  Remember: the Sooners already upset Kansas this year.  Kyle Guy and the Cavaliers won’t be that much tougher of an opponent.  Happ has dominated this year after returning for another season with the Badgers, and I expect him to lead Wisconsin in an upset of Kansas State despite a close one.  Old Dominion will carry the momentum from their upset over Purdue into this game and do the same against a weaker, less consistent Villanova squad.  Tennessee will take care of business against Iowa, as Grant Williams and co. simply overpower the Hawkeyes.

And the Projected South Winner is…

Image result for wisconsin badgers logo #5 Wisconsin

The Badgers should have a relatively easy path to the Final 4 as long as they take down KSU.  They will outplay Oklahoma in the Sweet 16, and I see Happ putting up a lot of points against Tennessee, who has allowed almost 70 PPG this season.  Williams and the Volunteers will not make it easy for the Badgers to make the Final 4, especially after tearing apart #14 Old Dominion in the Sweet 16.  But I think Happ will be motivated to lead Wisconsin in one last run, and the team is definitely capable.

That’s all for this 3rd post of my March Madness regional preview series.  I will be posting about the 4th and final region, the Midwest, before the tourney begins.  Stay tuned!

 

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March Madness 2019: Previewing the West Region

Welcome to my 2nd of 4 March Madness regional previews.  Today, I will be looking at what may be the most unpredictable of this year’s regions: the West.  Let’s jump right in.

Note: The upsets I picked in this region may be some of the craziest I’ve picked this year.  However, per NCAA.com, there is an average 12.7 upsets per year in this tourney, and I did not pick any 16-1 or 15-2 upsets this year, as they happen less than 10% of the time.  My upset picks may be gutsy, but they are (somewhat) reasonably thought out and I factor statistics into my picks. My picks are based on a mix of stats, previous team performance (previous tourneys and current regular season), and gut feeling.

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March Madness 2019: Regional Previews

March Madness 2019: Previewing the East Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the West Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the South Region

March Madness 2019: Previewing the Midwest Region

I will be previewing the Sweet 16 next week as well!

Round of 64 Preview

Salt Lake City, UT: Games start Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 7:27 PM EST on truTV

#1 Gonzaga Image result for gonzaga bulldogs logo vs. Image result for ncaa #16 Fairleigh Dickinson/Prairie View A & M

Update: Fairleigh Dickinson has defeated Prairie View A & M in the First Four game.

Whether Gonzaga plays Fairleigh Dickinson or Prairie View A & M, they should be able to win this one easily.  Gonzaga isn’t the strongest #1 seed there is, but it will be the later rounds that challenge them.  Neither Fairleigh Dickinson nor Prairie View A & M even had amazing regular seasons within their own conference, let alone the league.  It would be foolish to pick anything besides a Bulldogs win in this game.

The Pick: Gonzaga

#8 Syracuse Related image vs. Related image #9 Baylor

Syracuse has shown flashes of dominance this season despite inconsistency.  They have proven they are capable of beating elite teams.  They even took down Duke – on the road!  Baylor has been even more inconsistent.  They had a nice run going in the Big 12 in February, but I hadn’t seen them making the Big Dance in the first place after a late season decline and a slow start including losses to mid-majors Stephen F. Austin and Texas Southern.  In my eyes, the Bears do not have the capacity to take down the Orange.

The Pick: Syracuse

Hartford, CT: Games start Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 2:00 PM EST on TBS

#4 Florida State Image result for florida state seminoles logo red vs. Image result for vermont catamounts logo green #13 Vermont

This was honestly one of the toughest games for me to pick.  The Seminoles have put up a pretty strong season, and they weren’t too far behind Duke, Virginia, and UNC (all of whom earned 1 seeds) in the ACC.  But they did have some inconsistent times.  Vermont is coming off a very strong season and topped it off with an AEC win over UMBC.  But do they have what it takes to upset Florida State?  They were in a similar situation two years ago against Purdue, and I called an upset.  But Purdue won, and Vermont lost.  I’m playing it safe this time around, and I didn’t think Vermont could have won any more games after this anyway.

The Pick: Florida State

#5 Marquette   vs. Image result for murray state logo #12 Murray State

Marquette got off to a nice start this season and had some pretty big victories.  But they regressed a bit towards the end of the season and disappointed in the Big East tournament.  Murray State, on the other hand, defeated a very strong Belmont team (who still made it here on an at-large bid) in the OVC, and the Racers come into this tournament hoping to prove that they are a legitimate title contender.  I think they are capable of defeating a struggling Marquette squad.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Murray State

Tulsa, OK: Games start Friday, March 22, 2019 at 1:30 PM EST on TNT

#3 Texas Tech Related image vs. Related image #14 Northern Kentucky

The Red Raiders put up a strong regular season and were not given the respect they deserved for it.  I’m not going to do the same.  But my concern is their Big 12 tourney choke.  Northern Kentucky could surprise them here.  Texas Tech may be underrated this season, but they are not the same #3 seeded Texas Tech that came in to this tourney last year.  In 2018, #14 seeded Stephen F. Austin couldn’t pull the upset, but this year, Northern Kentucky should be able to.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Northern Kentucky

#6 Buffalo Related image vs. Image result for ncaa #11 Arizona State/St. John’s

Buffalo got off to an undefeated start this season, but you would think their MAC performance would be more impressive after the strong start.  The Bulls should come into this with some momentum after their MAC tournament victory though.  St. John’s also started off undefeated, but they really dropped off towards the end of the year in the Big East, so I think Arizona State will beat them out in the First Four.  The Sun Devils were consistenly competitive in the Pac-12 this year, and they did upset Kansas early in the season.  But they didn’t quite come out on top of the Pac-12, in the regular season or the playoffs.  Expect the same in this game.  I have a lot of confidence in Buffalo, though ASU could be a sleeper team.

The Pick: Buffalo

Des Moines, IA: Games start Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 6:50 PM EST on TNT

#7 Nevada Image result for nevada wolfpack logo vs. Related image #10 Florida

The Wolfpack did put up a pretty impressive start to the year considering they are a mid-major team.  But they lost their footing a bit in the MWC and missed out on the MWC finals.  The Gators weren’t the most consistent team, but they are trending upwards after winning 5 in a row to wrap up February and making the SEC semifinals.  I have confidence in Florida to make a surprise run as they have experienced many deep tournament runs before.

The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Florida

#2 Michigan  vs. Image result for montana grizzlies logo #15 Montana

The Wolverines were the last remaining undefeated team this season, and though they were only 13-5 in the B1G after an undefeated start (9-5 since their first loss), they have at least kept up with the top teams in the league, earning them a #2 seed despite a B1G championship loss.  Though they might lose before the Sweet 16 after late struggles, they should easily be able to take down #15 seeded Montana.

The Pick: Michigan

Round of 32 and Beyond

Here are my projected Round of 32 match-ups:

#1 Gonzaga Image result for gonzaga bulldogs logo vs. Related image #8 Syracuse

#4 Florida State Image result for florida state seminoles logo red vs. Image result for murray state logo #12 Murray State

#6 Buffalo Related image vs. Related image #14 Northern Kentucky

#2 Michigan   vs.Related image #10 Florida

Syracuse is not a consistently trustworthy team by any means.  But I think they can pull the upset over a Zags team that just lost to Saint Mary’s.  Gonzaga’s win over the #16 seed won’t nearly be enough to boost morale after the WCC tourney.  The Ja Morant led Murray State could have a chance against FSU after taking down Marquette, but I have confidence in the Seminoles after their upset of Virginia in the ACC tournament and a relatively strong year in the ACC.  The Bulls should have an easy path to the Sweet 16 so long as Texas Tech is upset.  Michigan will give Florida a hard time here, but after their late season stumble, I could see Michigan putting up a dud against a team like Florida.

And the Projected West champion is…

Related image #8 Syracuse

The Orange will run with the momentum after taking down Gonzaga.  I think they can pull another upset over FSU, who has had some bad losses here and there.  Buffalo vs. Florida will be a close battle of two teams looking to make a surprise Final 4 appearance.  But I think the Orange have a better track record than either team and should make the Final 4 with ease after eliminating two Top 4 seeds.  They made it as a #10 seed a couple years back, so I’m not completely crazy to predict them making it as an #8 seed.

Next time, I will be taking a look at the South Region.  Will the Virginia Cavaliers choke again?  Does Tennessee have an easy path to the Final 4, or will somebody stop them?  Find out what I think in my next article.