NCAA Tournament: Breaking down the South Region

Updated:

If you’re looking for bluebloods, you’ve come to the right place. If you’re looking for interesting stories beyond the top seed, you’ve also arrived at the optimum destination. The top four seeds – Houston, Marquette, Kentucky and Duke – are worthy of a Final Four. There’s also surging Florida, which seems underseeded after a late-season surge to the Southeastern Conference tournament title game, and 31-win James Madison as a 12 seed that could wind up in the Sweet 16. Want more intrigue? Try the 8-9 matchup with Nebraska and Texas A&M in Memphis. This one could be called the Trev Alberts Bowl as the Cornhuskers’ former athletic director is now heading up the Aggies’ athletic department. If the chalk holds up in the lower part of the bracket, the regional semifinal between Kentucky and Marquette would be a fascinating contrast in styles. John Calipari’s high-paced, high-scoring attack against Shaka Smart’s suffocating full-court defense. One of them has to crack, right? TOP SHOT Houston is a defensive powerhouse that, aside from getting blown out by Iowa State in the Big 12 tournament final Saturday, has actually created a top 20 offense in terms of efficiency rating via kenpom.com. Perhaps no point guard and coach are joined as closely at the hip as are Jamal Shead and Kelvin Sampson. Marquette earned its second seed with consistent performances in the regular season but will need point guard Tyler Kolek to play in the tournament instead of wearing civilian clothes.

Kolek has been out the past six games with an oblique injury but is expected to be ready for the Golden Eagles’ first-round matchup with Western Kentucky. GAMES TO WATCH No. 8 Nebraska vs. No. 9 Texas A&M. Excellent contrast in styles with the Cornhuskers’ free-flowing, high-scoring offense facing Buzz Williams’ Aggies who love to grind opponents into the floorboards. If Wade Taylor is making shots, look out for A&M. No. 10 Boise State vs. No. 10 Colorado. This is a First Four matchup in Dayton, Ohio, matching teams that probably should have been seeded a bit higher. The Buffs’ K.J. Simpson can stuff a stat sheet on a nightly basis but will face a challenge from a Broncos defense that is top 30 in kenpom.com. No. 5 Wisconsin vs. No. 12 James Madison. This is the 5-12 matchup that most experts believe will produce an upset. The Dukes won 31 games, including a season-opening road decision at Michigan State, and the Badgers are one of the more efficient offenses in Division I. GET TO KNOW Antonio Reeves, guard, Kentucky. The guy who led the Missouri Valley Conference in scoring two years ago at Illinois State nearly led the SEC, pumping in 20.2 ppg on 50.7 percent shooting. Reeves is a true three-level scorer. Kyle Filipkowski, forward, Duke. The latest Blue Devils star to become a polarizing figure after being clipped in a Wake Forest court-storming and then tripping a North Carolina player, Filipkowski is a five-tool player who could carry this team a long way in the tournament. Terrance Edwards, guard, James Madison. If the Dukes do damage, there’s a great chance Edwards is holding the hammer. Edwards led his team with 17.4 ppg while adding 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists. SPREAD THE NEWS No. 8 Nebraska is a 2.5-point favorite over Texas A&M in a game that bettors should approach warily. The Cornhuskers can score in a hurry, but the Aggies have a way of mucking up those kinds of teams. No. 6 Texas Tech is a 5.5-point overdog against an NC State team that won five games in as many days to earn the ACC title and an automatic bid. The Red Raiders might be your play because history shows teams such as the Wolfpack who are coming off that type of run sometimes have nothing left in the tank for the next assignment. No. 1 Houston is favored by 23.5 points against Longwood. Poor Lancers. All they have to do is play a team that’s probably chapped by the beatdown Iowa State laid on them Saturday night. This could get ugly in a hurry. OUT OF THE SOUTH There are flaws for every team in this region but Houston seems to have few of them.