NCAA Tournament Preview: South Region

Tue, 03/13/2018 - 12:00am

Why Virginia Makes it to the Final Four

Kyle GuyKyle GuyVirginia is the smart pick to win it all this year. They have the nation’s best defense, allowing just 84.4 points per 100 possessions according to, despite playing in the most represented conference in the NCAA Tournament. They have the best record in the nation, debatably the best coach in the nation, but somehow, not even close to the best player in the nation. Kyle Guy has been the Cavalier’s best scorer this season and seems to always be involved on both ends of the court.

While they lack star power, Virginia does all the little things right. With six players that shoot above 75% from the charity stripe, they don’t turn the ball over, they secure defensive rebounds, and they spread the floor extremely well. Devon Hall shoots an absurd 45% from deep while Ty Jerome, and Guy shoot just below 40%. Their attention to detail however is second to none.

Virginia has beaten quality opponents all season en route to a record breaking (31-2) season. They’ve beaten Rhode Island, Davidson, NC State, UNC (twice), Duke, Clemson (twice), Syracuse, and Miami, just to name the tournament teams. Virginia isn’t scared of anybody, and everybody is scared of Virginia.

Why Virginia Won’t Make it to the Final Four

News came out on Tuesday is that standout freshman forward DeAndre Hunter is going to miss the NCAA tourney with a broken wrist, a huge blow for Virginia's title hopes as he provided energy, athleticism and depth to the front court. Virginia is still the best "team" in the region. However, his loss will be felt.

The selection committee didn’t give the Cavaliers an easy ride. They could meet Creighton in the second round who has one of the elite backcourts in the nation, then they would play an extremely dangerous Arizona team with three electric scorers or a Kentucky team comprised of 5-star freshmen. After all of that, they would be faced with Cincinnati, which is essentially their doppelganger, #2 defense in the country, efficient offense, and good three-point shooting. The South region has four conference champions and it will be far from a cake walk.

Virginia doesn’t have a surefire NBA player on the roster, they pride themselves in team play and smart decision making. The NCAA Tournament is often defined by star players making game saving shots and Virginia might be lacking that. Also, Virginia doesn’t crash the offensive glass much as they send three back on defense to stop any fast break opportunities. Match that up with Virginia slow tempo, if shots aren’t falling and opposing teams are hitting threes, it could be hard for UVA to climb back into the lead.

All in all, it will probably take something to go wrong in order for Virginia to not make it to the Final Four, but it’s possible. It’s called March Madness for a reason, anything can happen to any team and any time. In a loaded region like this, Virginia definitely has their work cut out for them.

Best Non-1 Seeds

#4 Arizona

Led by the most physically dominating force in the NCAA, DeAndre Ayton, Arizona is one of the most lethal teams in the field. Allonzo Trier is back and still dynamic as ever and Rawle Alkins is athletic and dangerous. One of, if not, the most dynamic trios in the NCAA could spell trouble for Virginia as well as the rest of their opponents. Arizona has had their fair share of controversy off the court, but have been elite on the court. What Virginia lacks in star power, the Wildacts possess in Ayton. They were ranked as a top five preseason team for a reason, this team is the real deal.

#2 Cincinnati

This region has the top two defenses in the country and Cincinnati is one of them. They did play a relatively weak schedule but haven’t shown any reason to think they can hang in there with the other top seeds in the tournament. Many people wouldn’t consider Cincinnati a top 8 team in the country in terms of talent, but their resume has shown they deserve where they are and will look to silence the doubters as March progresses. If they reach the Elite Eight, they could be a dangerous weekend trap game following a big Arizona-Virginia match up.

Also Dangerous

#5 Kentucky

Kentucky has, as always, one of the most talented teams in the country. This year they haven’t been able to piece it together as much as in previous years but they’re still a very good team. Kevin Knox can score from anywhere on the court and Shai Gilgeous Alexander has become a huge bright spot for Coach Cal. Kentucky seems to find themselves peaking at the right time, coming off of an SEC Championship, and will look to continue their hot streak.

Sweet 16 Sleeper

#11 Loyola Chicago

Loyola Chicago is the sleeper pick in many brackets to get to the Sweet 16. They play a unique small-ball lineup with multiple ball handlers and speed on defense. This team can shoot the deep ball very well and has the 8th highest effective FG% in the nation. The Ramblers don’t settle for bad shots and could very well knock off both Miami and Tennessee to earn themselves a Sweet 16 appearance.

Elite Eight Sleeper

#10 Texas Longhorns

I’m a big fan of Texas coming into the tournament. They’ve played well without Mohamed Bamba at the end of the season and should be even better with him back. I think the Longhorns can get past Nevada in the first round pretty easily and could give Cincinnati a run for their money in the second round. After that, Texas would likely play either Tennessee or Miami, who have both had their cold shooting nights that Texas could capitalize off of. With even just one upset, Texas’ road to the Elite Eight would become easier and even more likely. Don’t sleep on the Longhorns.

Top Potential Matchup

Arizona vs. Virginia

This is really the matchup everybody wants to see. An offensive juggernaut versus a defensive monster. Arizona hasn’t faced much talent in the Pac-12, and this could be their chance to prove they are the real deal. Arizona could be a 1 seed based on talent alone and seeing them as a four seed is somewhat disrespectful. Arizona was the preseason top team, Virginia was far from it. Both of these teams have been through a lot this season and a standoff between the two would be very fun to watch.

Top Five NBA Prospects

1. DeAndre Ayton, C, Arizona

DeAndre AytonDeAndre AytonThe Arizona big man has been completely dominant this season. The man is a walking double-double. He’s drawn comparisons to David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, and even Wilt Chamberlain. A true physical specimen and a possible cornerstone for an NBA franchise, DeAndre Ayton figures to be the #1 pick in draft. NBA Scouts are sure to be flocking to Boise, Idaho in droves this weekend in order to see both Ayton, and the Kentucky freshmen, possibly one last time in action.

2. Mohamed Bamba, C, Texas

7-feet tall and posting a 7’9” wingspan, Mo Bamba is the best defensive player in the draft. An elite rim protector and shot blocker, Bamba has as much potential as anyone in the draft class. At the beginning of the season, Bamba had a limited offensive arsenal, but now, he has shown he can score in a variety of ways. His jumper has left some to be desired but it’ll come. Bamba should be a top ten on the pick but I wouldn’t be surprised if he goes top five.

3. Kevin Knox, SF, Kentucky

Kentucky’s star player and offensive weapon has been a solid player all season long for Coach Cal. He can shoot the deep ball, knock down the mid-range jumper, and score in the post. His defense has some work to do, but in the NBA that is often overlooked. Knox is a modern-day wing, good size, decent handles, and the ability to stretch the floor. Whoever lands Knox might not get an NBA star but worst-case scenario and spark plug off the bench who can score in bunches.

4. Shai Gilgeous Alexander, PG, Kentucky

One of the breakout players of the year, Shai Gilgeous Alexander and turned into Kentucky’s starting point guard. He reminds me of a bigger and a little bit slower De’Aaron Fox. Alexander plays with a high motor and never takes plays off. He can create off the dribble for both himself and others and has turned into a possible lottery pick in this year’s draft.

5. Lonnie Walker, SG. Miami

Besides having one of the best heads of hair in the region, Lonnie Walker also has one of the best games. A dynamic combo guard that just oozes potential. Walker didn’t have the season he wishes he had, but it was impressive nonetheless. Walker might fall a bit in the draft but it would be foolish to pass on him if he falls below the 20 pick. Walker has a lot of growing to do and is just scratching the surface of his overall capabilities.

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