Today it all begins. We are live from the Dunkin’ Donuts Center in Providence for today’s action. Here’s some links from The Villanovan to get you started:
While the South might be the least top-heavy of all the regions, what it does have is many double-digit seeds that can wreak havoc on anyone’s bracket. This might just be the portion of the bracket that turns out to be the hardest to predict. Here is a look at the potential Cinderellas that might come from the South:
(9) Louisville – Not a double-digit seed but still equally as dangerous. What makes Louisville hard to play against is that its press is unique from every other team in the country. While its up-and-down scoring and injury to Jerry Smith will prevent Louisville from advancing too far, it could pull off an upset or two on the first weekend.
(10) St. Mary’s – The Gaels might just have the best post player in the region in senior center Omar Samhan. He is one of just two players in the nation this season to average at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. Samhan is complimented by a strong group of guards, and they are one of the most underrated teams in the tournament.
(11) Old Dominion – This might be the worst offensive team in the tournament as the Monarchs average just 67.5 points per game and have only one player averaging double-figures in scoring. However, Old Dominion is a lock-down defensive squad, limiting its opponents to just 57.1 ppg. Consider them a poor man’s Temple, and with a little more scoring the Monarchs could survive the first weekend. Keep in mind that they won at Georgetown this season.
(12) Utah State – The Aggies squeaked into the field after falling in the WAC title game. This team is a bit of a mystery as it did not play a team from a major conference this season. What we do know is that it holds opponents to 59.6 ppg, shoots 41.9 percent from beyond the arc and 76.3 percent from the free throw line. Those are all ingredients for a potential upset.
(13) Siena- Despite the low-seed, Siena is being treated by many experts as the favorite because of the way Purdue has played since the injury to Robbie Hummel. The Saints are the perfect candidate for a Cinderella as it has two years of tournament experience under its belt, where it beat Vanderbilt and Ohio State as a lower seed. Siena also has senior point guard Ronald Moore, the nation’s leader in assists per game (7.8).
A year ago, I wrote that no team got helped more by the selection committee than Villanova. While that was mainly because of the sites that Villanova was placed in, I echo those sentiments today.
Villanova played a month of bad basketball and still got the most favorable draw of any two-seed. However, that doesn’t mean a trip back to the Final Four is a lock. Here is a look at the other top seeds in what should be a tumultuous South region.
1) Duke – The Blue Devils won the regular season title and the conference tournament in the ACC. They are more talented than the team that Villanova beat a year ago. Jon Scheyer has become one of the best point guards in the country, something that Duke did not have last season. What they lack in athleticism, they make up for in fundamentals. Duke has a pretty easy path to the Elite Eight, and it should take advantage.
3) Baylor – One of the most underrated teams in the country, the Bears are ready for their national coming out party. With LaceDarius Dunn, Tweety Carter and Empe Udoh, Baylor has a trio that is as talented as any other in the country. Add in that the Bears could be playing the second weekend in Houston, and they become even more dangerous. This would be Villanova’s toughest matchup personnel wise in the region.
4) Purdue – The Boilermakers are a four-seed in name only. After losing by 27 to Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament, it’s clear that Purdue is no longer a threat for a deep run in March. With just two players averaging above 6.6 points per game, Purdue is ripe for an upset by the experienced Siena Saints.
5) Texas A&M – Since losing senior guard Derrick Roland to injury in December, the Aggies have transformed into a grind-it-out, defensive-minded team. The results have been stellar as they went 11-5 in the Big 12 while holding opponents to 64.9 ppg. However, with Donald Sloan as the only Aggie to average in double-figures in scoring, Texas A&M might struggle to score enough to go far in March. One thing that helps is the potential trip to Houston.
6) Notre Dame – In the course of a month, Notre Dame went from NIT bound to a six-seed in the NCAA tournament. With Luke Harangody getting another week to heal, Notre Dame’s best basketball might be ahead of itself. Since he went down with an injury, the Fighting Irish have turned themselves into a ball-control, slow-paced team. It has been a tremendous success, and if they can overcome their depth issues, they could survive the first weekend.
7) Richmond – The Spiders were one of the biggest surprises in college basketball this season as they even made a brief appearance in the top-25. Richmond relies heavily on its backcourt, particularly lightning-quick guard Kevin Anderson, the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year. They prefer to slow down the temple of the game and let Anderson try to make plays.
8 ) California – Despite being the PAC-10 regular season champion, a lot more was expected from the Golden Bears this season. They did nothing in their non-conference and lost the conference title game to Washington. Still, they are a dangerous team that can score with anyone. Jerome Randle is one of the most underrated point guards in the country.