Welcome to the region of pressure defense, where the steal should reign supreme. VCU, Stephen F. Austin, and Eastern Kentucky rank 1st, 3rd, and 4th, respectively in the percentage of opponent's possessions that end with a turnover. VCU is well-known for their pressing, while SFA and EKU play aggressive ball-denying half court defenses that often lead to easy points at the other end.
But the favorites in this bracket will not be outdone when it comes to getting in passing lanes. Florida, Ohio State, and Syracuse rank 14th, 15th, and 16 nationally in opponent turnover percentages, while UCLA is in the top 50.
The NCAA committee must have liked Florida, or perhaps they simply don't put much time into bracketing teams. Compared to a few of the other regions, the South appears to be soft as a pillow, and Florida's path could be the least obstructed of any No. 1. No. 2 seed Kansas is uncertain as to when it will regain the services of star center Joe Embiid, while No. 3 seed Syracuse has been swooning after looking like a world-beater early in the season. UCLA is fine for a four seed, although no where near as good as fellow fours in other regions like Louisville or Michigan State.
The sleeper, as always, is VCU. The Rams are actually ranked higher in the kenpom.com ratings than either Syracuse or UCLA, and are only a few slots below Kansas. A potential Sweet 16 match up between Billy Donovan of Florida and his former assistant Shaka Smart will briefly be a big story, should it happen.
Stephen F. Austin is a tough defensive team that seems to be everyone's sleeper after winning its last 28 games. The Southand Conference champs play aggressive defense and are patient with the ball. Dayton is also an intriguing team, with enough sharp-shooters (including the truly terrifying Jordan Sibert) to make any team sweat.
My only complaint about this bracket is that the selection committee should have thrown a better three or four seed into the mix here. Perhaps making Louisville the No. 4 seed in this bracket would have strengthened things up; it would also have fit nicely with the forcing turnovers theme. (That Louisville is a four seed is a crazy joke, but that is for someone else who actually has the Cardinals in their regional preview to complain about.)
Best First Round Match Up
I will be watching New Mexico vs. Stanford with great interest. If you like teams with a lot of size, than this could be the game for you. Stanford's 6-10 Dwight Powell and 6-11 Stefan Nastic will go head-to-head with 7-0 New Mexico giant Alex Kirk. On paper, this appears to be the closest match up in the first round of the South region.
12 over 5?
Stephen F. Austin is the sexy pick this season -- although sexy surely doesn't describe their play. But I think VCU is the best five seed in the whole tournament, so I am going against the trend-setters, and picking the Rams over the Lumberjacks.
All Region Team
Andrew Wiggins (Kansas)
Treveon Graham (VCU)
Casey Prather (Florida)
Patric Young (Florida)
Tyler Ennis (Syracuse)
Defensive player of the region:
Briante Weber (VCU) -- Sorry, Aaron Craft.
It is hard to go wrong with Billy Donovan. Donovan's track record cannot be argued against, and this season and last season's teams have been two of his best. With this version of the Gators, he has built almost the perfect machine, a team that simply does everything well. Florida presses, and yet drops back on defense to protect the rim. The Gators can score with anyone, equally adept at hitting the long ball or going inside to Patric Young. And when the shot is missed, Donovan's team goes and gets it, at either end of the court.
Regional Final To Root For
I will tell you what I am rooting against -- any final that involves Syracuse. Watching the Orange play basketball can be excruciating, and I would like to see them out of the tournament as quickly as possible. Florida vs. Kansas, with a healthy Joe Embiid, would be a game worth watching.
(1) Florida over (16) Albany
(9) Pitt over (8) Colorado
(5) VCU over (12) Stephen F. Austin -- Sorry, but the fun has to end at some point.
(4) UCLA over (13) Tulsa
(6) Ohio St. over (11) Dayton
(3) Syracuse over (14) Western Michigan
(7) New Mexico over (10) Stanford
(2) Kansas over (15) EKU
(1) Florida over (9) Pitt
(5) VCU over (4) UCLA
(3) Syracuse over (6) Ohio State -- Ugliest game of the tournament.
(7) New Mexico over (2)Kansas -- I have to pick an upset eventually.
(1) Florida over (5) VCU
(3) Syracuse over (7)New Mexico -- Already regretting that upset pick.
(1) Florida over (3) Syracuse