We have previewed every region so far, but the South Region, and the South Region is no cake walk. The South features some of the biggest team names from Kansas, to Duke, to Michigan State, and even Oklahoma. Whoever comes out of the South Region is going to have earned it.
Three initial thoughts
1. Trae Young got in
There were many people that believed Oklahoma shouldn’t have gotten into the tournament, but now that they are in watch out. Trae Young is one player, much like Collin Sexton, that can will a team to a win or two in the tournament. The talent around Young is not amazing, but if Rhode Island isn’t careful and Young gets hot early we may get a Trae Young vs Duke second round doozy of a matchup.
2. Penn isn’t your usual 16 seed
Now, don’t confuse, I am not saying Penn will beat Kansas, I am just saying that I think they will hang around with them. Penn is a top 10 defensive team defending the three, something Kansas relies on with a struggling inside game, Penn has a big by the name of A.J. Brodeur, who if he can stay out of follow trouble can battle down low with any other big, and they have a senior point guard in Darnell Foreman who can control the game and make big buckets when needed. This isn’t going to be the year that a 16 beats a 1, but don’t be surprised if Penn is within single digits at the final under 4 timeout.
3. Welcome to our biggest sleeper
Welcome New Mexico State. This team has all the makings of a deep run in the NCAA tournament. They are a senior laden team (Zach Lofton, Jemerrio Jones), they have been here before (3rd straight NCAA apperance), and they have stars. Remember the name Jemerrio Jones, the 6-5 forward averages 11 ppg with just over 13 rpg, add that to Lofton’s 20 ppg and this is a scary team, especially for a Clemson team in the first round that is missing their best player Donte Grantham.
Top matchup I want to see
Michigan St vs Duke, Sweet 16: A battle of the bluest of blue bloods. Two teams that have the making of winning it all have a chance to battle in the Sweet 16. Also, who doesn’t want to see a Bagley vs Bridges matchup.
Best 1st round matchup
Rhode Island vs Oklahoma: Trae Young against the stingy, tough defense of Rhode Island, yes please! Both teams have all the makings of making a deep run, but they first must get past the other in the 1st round.
Upset to watch for
New Mexico St over Clemson: This is a trendy pick, but there is a reason for that. New Mexico State has size, depth, and seniors, while Clemson is without their best player and since he got hurt they are just 7-6. Watch out for the Aggies not just in the first round, but throughout the tournament.
Final Four Prediction
Michigan State. I know the Big Ten had the long layoff, but Michigan State is built for this. They have Bridges, they have Nick Ward, Josh Langford, but they have an x-factor is Cassius Winston. If Winston can take care of the ball and score the basketball like he did late in the year, this Michigan State team is as good as any team in the NCAA.