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Bracket Breakdown: The South Regional

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We start our tournament coverage with a look at the South Region, where the Longhorns sit on the two line. The breakdown begins with a look at the region's teams from top to bottom in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency (as rated by Ken Pomeroy), followed by analysis of the region's statistical make up. The regional preview concludes with a session of Tourney Talk between AW and PB.

SOUTH REGION EFFICIENCY BREAKDOWN

All data from Ken Pomeroy. Teams listed in order of best to worst within each category. Each team's national rank is listed in parentheses.
South Region Adjusted Efficiencies
Bracket Rank Offensive Efficiency Defensive Efficiency
1 Texas (2) Memphis (2)
2 Oregon (4) Marquette (6)
3 Pittsburgh (10) Stanford (9)
4 Michigan St (15) Mississippi St (16)
5 Memphis (19) Michigan St (26)
6 Stanford (25) Texas (32)
7 Marquette (38) Oral Roberts (36)
8 Miami (39) Kentucky (39)
9 Temple (43) St. Mary’s (42)
10 St. Mary’s (69) Pittsburgh (57)
11 Mississippi St (88) Miami (72)
12 Cornell (91) Temple (97)
13 Kentucky (95) Oregon (125)
14 Oral Roberts (147) UT-Arlington (185)
15 Austin Peay (161) Austin Peay (195)
16 UT-Arlington (197) Cornell (197)

Full bracket analysis, including Tourney Talk, after the jump.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS. . .

These numbers fit neatly with my eyeball reaction to this region: solid teams, but no juggernauts/statistically awesome squads who bring me to my knees. At the top, Memphis’ superior athleticism and rebounding is reflected by their excellent overall efficiency numbers, but they only rate 19th in adjusted offensive efficiency, in large measure due to their lack of consistent outside shooting. The Tigers’ 35 percent mark from three point range rates 171st nationally.

Among the contenders in Texas' half of the bracket, both Stanford and Marquette boast impressive defensive resumes. The Cardinal can attribute their good numbers to a ferocious interior defense - holding opponents to a meager 41.6% of their two-point shot attempts – and outstanding defensive rebounding. Marquette’s profile is highlighted by elite perimeter defense, both in terms of three point shooting percentage (allowing only 29.5% on the year) and stealing the basketball (5th best rate in the country.)

The South Regional team with arguably the best balance is fifth seeded Michigan State, who appears to me to have underperformed in their won-loss record for the third season in a row. Texas fans certainly know well how scary the Spartans can be when everything’s clicking. With Pittsburgh entering the tournament playing their best basketball of the season, the winner of Pitt-MSU could present a terrific challenge to Memphis on Friday night in Houston. Assuming, of course, that all advance. You never know... (PB)

SOUTH REGIONAL TOURNEY TALK. . .

AW: After breaking down the numbers, how do you feel about the Longhorns' chances now?

PB: As noted above, I'm comforted. The numbers reflect what I've been feeling generally: this isn't exactly a weak bracket... but there aren't any absolute juggernauts, either.

AW: The second round match up that jumps off the bracket for me is Michigan State and Pitt. The Panthers are obviously on quite a run right now, while the Spartans fell apart in the Big 10 semis. Do you give Izzo's boys a chance?

PB: Without question. And by the way, this is more good news for Texas. When you look at the teams in this region, the two teams who jump out as being able to make a Final Four run from a lower seed are Pittsburgh and Michigan State. As far as I'm concerned, that's Memphis' problem until Sunday.

Texas, meanwhile, potentially deals with teams I view as more fundamentally flawed: Marquette lives and dies (much like Notre Dame of last year and this year) with elite guard play and outside shooting. And after watching Stanford in Pauley two weeks ago, my one thought about the Cardinal was that they're going to be ruined by a quick team. Which both Marquette and Texas are.

AW: Wait a minutes, are you saying that Stanford doesn't even make it to Houston?

PB: I'm saying Stanford's vulnerable both to Marquette and to Texas. That if they get past one team with great guards in Marquette, they'll immediately face another in Texas. That's not a good match up for them.

AW: Ok, good point. Then you’re also conceding that your Wildcats have no chance to spring an upset without a healthy Patrick Patterson, correct?

PB: Not only that, but I'll go ahead and note that I have trouble rooting for the 'Cats under BKG. My family ties to the Wildcats run deep, but I tired of the way UK fans treated Tubby, and I'm not eager to see the hotshot from West Texas enjoy too much immediate glory. He's already obnoxious enough, as is. From a pure on-the-court standpoint, though - I'm definitely not seeing Kentucky with the guns to get to Houston. Perhaps with Patterson, but there's not enough consistent scoring among the current crop for me to see them winning two games.

Let me turn this to you, now. What do you make of Memphis? We know they're athletic and have some elite playmakers, but they haven't been tested as much as some, and they don't shoot the ball exceptionally well. Should we nonetheless consider them favorites in the South?

AW: Even with the Horns getting blessed with the Houston Regional, Memphis still has to be considered the favorites. I’d argue they have two of the best six players in the country. Rose is an outstanding point guard with exactly the type of speed and size to give AJ Abrams and DJ Augustin fits. Dorsey can disappear at times, but when he shows up, he's a beast. And Chris Douglas-Roberts on the wing would give Justin Mason his toughest defensive assignment of the year. On top of that, Calipari knows how to win. This team hasn't been coached or challenged to win Conference USA regular season games. Calipari has been preparing this group to win championships since he arrived in Memphis. They’ve been to back-to-back Elite Eights and I won't be shocked if they take down the ‘Horns in Houston.

PB: I can't argue too much with that, only adding this: I'm typically skeptical about teams that are all athlete/no basketball players. But Chris Douglas-Roberts is just a terrific, terrific basketball player who happens to be super athletic. Memphis is going to be a tough out for anyone.

South Region lightning round:

Team in this bracket that you don't like?

AW: Personally don't like?

PB: Right. Your personal AW "wave 'em off" team.

AW: Sorry, but that’d be Kentucky. That's my Duke love showing a little.

PB: I'm going with Oregon. That's my 2000 Holiday Bowl hatred showing. 30,000 fans with duck kazoos quacking at me all night long.

Team you secretly crush?

AW: None, really. I do like watching Memphis play and have been treated live to some great Tiger performances in each of the last two tourneys.

PB: I'm rooting for UT-Arlington, of course. Forget the odds - let's send two UT-A's to Houston.  

Finally: your prediction. Give me your Houston participants and regional winners.

AW: Nothing shocking here. I've got Memphis over Pitt, and Texas over Stanford. Then, the Horns moving on down to San Antone.

PB: I've made exactly two Texas-related predictions this year. Asked on the radio by NBC Sports, I took the 'Horns over the Aggies in College Station. And in our Big 12 tourney breakdown, I predicted Texas to cut down the nets in Kansas City. Both my superstitious side and my worry about Texas beating two elite rebounding teams force me to go with Memphis over Michigan State, Texas over Stanford, and Memphis to win the South. No way I'm gonna be the bad luck guy a third time...

AW: Thanks; Rick Barnes would be pleased with your devotion to the team. If we move on, we’ll have to consider the possibility that you contributed in your own way. A little reverse psychology, kinda like Barnes’ comments earlier today about the Razorback fans being assholes.

PB: Absolutely, my friend. Ab-so-lutely. March Madness is all about the vibe. I'm all about the vibe. And BON is about the vibe. Time to groove...