The Editor’s Picks: South Region (Round of 64)
By: Dylan Elder – Editor-in-Chief.
Winner in Bold.
Round of 64:
1. Florida vs. 16. Albany
The Gators cruised their way too an undefeated season in their conference (18-0) an SEC Championship, and a 32-2 overall record. Meanwhile, Albany went 18-14 this season and earned a 16 seed. Not much needed in the form of analysis here, we’ll save the notes on Florida for later in the predictions. Sorry Albany fans (if even such a thing exists).
8. Colorado vs 9. Pittsburgh
This game can be scrutinized every which way, but it ultimately comes down to the fact that the Buffaloes are without their best player, Spencer Dinwiddie. Despite the funny name, Dinwiddie led Colorado in points per game (14.7) three-point percentage (41.3%) and assists per game (3.8). Without their best player, Colorado is a measly 9-8, and are definitely over-seeded at the 8 slot.
Meanwhile Pittsburgh does a multitude of things well. They crash the offensive glass like no other (16th in the country) and score at a rate of 1.107 points per possession, good for 28th nationwide.
Similarly, the Panthers are favored by 5.5 points in this game while being “underdogs” in terms of seeding. The Vegas point-spread is generally a good indicator of which teams are going to win, and if the line is 5.5 points for two closely seeded teams, I’m not turning that down.
5. VCU vs 12. Stephen F. Austin
This game will be one of the most exciting to watch when the tournament officially kicks off. VCU only allows a paltry .886 points per possession from their opponents which is 6th among all NCAA teams. Not only that, but their tenacious defense forces turnovers on 22.3% of opponents possessions. That insane percentage amounts to first in the nation.
However, the Lumberjacks of Stephen F Austin score at a clip of 1.136 points per possession (8th in the USA) and their turnover percentage on offense is in the top 50.
Something is going to have to give in this game and I believe Stephen F Austin is going to crumble under the pressure. Not only have the Lumberjacks not beaten a ranked team all year, but they haven’t even played a ranked team all year. Meanwhile, the Rams have held 1 seeded Virginia to 56 points in victory earlier this year and have beaten fellow 5 seed St. Louis among others. Shaka Smart and friends advance in a game that wont even be close.
4. UCLA vs 13. Tulsa
The Bruins are fresh off of a PAC 12 Tournament Championship and will be riding an ultimate high heading into the NCAA tourney. Guards Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson are bona-fide stars that can both take and make big shots. UCLA really does it’s best work on the offensive end of the floor where they are in the top 10 in terms of points per possession. Their offensive rebounding is atrocious and their defense needs to improve if they want to make a deep run, but the Bruins should be immune to upset for the first round.
I say immune to upset because Tulsa really has no qualities of a “Giant-Killer”. The teams that provide the biggest upsets are the ones that make a lot of shots and create extra possessions from turnovers. The Golden Hurricanes have a team field goal percentage of 49.1% which is in the bottom 150 teams in all the land. Likewise, Tulsa does not force turnovers at an impressive rate. Stick with UCLA here and feel comfortable doing so.
6. Ohio State vs 11. Dayton
To some, Dayton may be a trendy upset pick, but to those who have done their research, that is simply not the case. The Flyers consider 3 pointers to their biggest strength, but they didn’t finish in the top 40 in that category, nor any others for the entire season.
On the other hand, Ohio State has one of the best defenses in the country (8th, to be exact) that will completely shut down Dayton’s wannabe offense. Even though the Buckeye’s have been on the schnide for much of the season, they still are the far superior team. Expect this one to be a rout.
3. Syracuse vs 14. Western Michigan
The Orange, while struggling of late, still have the talent to compete with anyone in the entire tournament. They take care of the basketball and offensive rebound better than almost anyone in the country.
As hard as it is to be over-seeded as a 14… I think Western Michigan is over-seed as a 14; they just don’t do anything very well on the basketball court. Normally good upset picks are elite at just a certain aspect or two, but the Broncos don’t fit the bill. Besides, playing in a weak conference will not have them prepared enough for the vaunted Syracuse zone.
7. New Mexico vs 10. Stanford
Led by Senior Forward Cameron Bairstow (20.3 ppg) the Lobos have the table set for them to make a lot of noise this tournament. Just a few days ago, New Mexico beat San Diego State for the second time this year, and their 27-6 record speaks for itself. Not only that, but this team comes into the tournament scorching hot (9-1 in their last 10 games).
Stanford, on the other hand, looks over-seeded even at 10. Their one strength is defensive rebounding, but New Mexico should still get plenty of second chances against them because of their huge front line. The Cardinal defense is nothing to write home about either as they rank 100th or lower in all major defensive efficiency categories.
2. Kansas vs. 15. Eastern Kentucky
I envision this as one of the games where Eastern Kentucky comes out of the gates hot and people start to worry about a potential upset alert. Kansas will be playing without star center Joel Embiid indefinitely and Eastern Kentucky shoots the ball incredibly well so an upset is not out of the question.
However, once the Jayhawks calm down and Eastern Kentucky comes back to Earth, cooler heads will prevail and Kansas will come out victorious.