Mar 18, 2013, 9:20 AM EST
Here’s the irony about the South Region: there is more star power in this portion of the bracket than anywhere else, yet it is as wide-open as any region this season.
Let’s start with the coaches, as ten of them — Bill Self, Roy Williams, Jay Wright, Shaka Smart, Ben Howland, Tubby Smith, Billy Donovan, Steve Fisher, Lon Kruger and John Thompson III — have made at least one Final Four. That list doesn’t include John Beilein.
That’s almost as impressive as the number of stars that will be setting foot on the court. Trey Burke, Otto Porter, Ben McLemore, Jeff Withey, Shabazz Muhammad, Nate Wolters, Jamaal Franklin, James Michael-McAdoo.
There will be no shortage of people to write about in the South.
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Three story lines to watch
- Will this be the end of the road for Ben Howland at UCLA? The chatter about his job status that started back in November hasn’t exactly subsided. With the amount of talent that he brought into the program this season, what does Howland need to do to save his job, assuming he even wants to remain with the Bruins? A Sweet 16? An Elite 8? Without Jordan Adams? That’s a tall task.
- Take a look at who Howland drew in the opening round: Minnesota and head coach Tubby Smith, who is dealing with his own hot seat issues right now. Winner remains employed?
- With the obvious caveat that they first need to knock off Villanova in the opening round, how awesome would it be to see Kansas reunite with former head coach Roy Williams in the round of 32? And to have the game take place in Kansas City, no less?
The Elite 8 matchup is…?: No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 3 Florida
I still think that Kansas is probably the favorite to come out of the South, although I think that they are probably the least likely of the No. 1 seeds to make the Final Four. Their back court play has been better of late, but the Jayhawks still don’t have a true point guard. Ben McLemore is going to be a top five pick, but at this point in his career he’s still more of a spot-up shooter and transition finisher than he is a go-to guy. But their defense, anchored by Jeff Withey, can be dominant when it needs to be, and Kansas will need it to be.
As far as Florida is concerned, I’m very well aware of their issues in close games. They are 0-6 in games decided by single digits. But those account for six of just seven losses, meaning that they’ve won a lot of games by a lot of points, which is part of the reason why the Gators are the only team in the country in the top five in offensive and defensive efficiency. I don’t think they get challenged until the Sweet 16 and Georgetown, and I think that Florida’s smothering defense — and Will Yeguete on Otto Porter — may be enough to get them to the Elite 8.
Final Four sleeper: VCU Rams
And they may be more than just a ‘sleeper’. Think about it like this. VCU’s press can be flat-out devastating. Akron’s starting point guard was suspended after getting arrested. Michigan may be the nation’s least turnover-prone team, but they are also very young, they haven’t seen a press this season and they’ll have about 48 hours to prepare for it. Kansas has all kinds of turnover issues in their back court. Georgetown and Florida aren’t exactly striking fear in the hearts of Shaka Smart’s club. Am I losing it?
Best opening round matchups
- No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 13 South Dakota State: This may actually be the single-best opening round matchup int he entire tournament. Similar styles. Nate Wolters vs. Trey Burke. Thank you, Selection Committee.
- No. 7 San Diego State vs. No. 10 Oklahoma: Lon Kruger knows the Aztecs well from his time at UNLV in the Mountain West, but will that be enough to handle Jamaal Franklin and company?
Matchups to root for
- No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 8 North Carolina: It’s more than just the Roy Williams thing. UNC actually has a chance to win this game. Going four guards, spreading the floor and forcing Withey to defend on the perimeter is how Oklahoma beat Kansas and how Iowa State nearly beat Kansas twice. That’s what the Heels will do.
- No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 5 VCU: The clash of styles would just be so intriguing to watch.
- No. 6 UCLA vs. No. 7 San Diego State: These two schools have developed a bit of a SoCal’s finest rivalry over the past couple of seasons. There are some hurt feelings from the recruiting trail involved here.
The studs you know about
- Trey Burke, Michigan: Point guard. National Player of the Year.
- Otto Porter, Georgetown: Small forward. First team all-american and National Player of the Year runner-up.
- Ben McLemore, Kansas: Future top five pick in the NBA Draft, McLemore may have the prettiest stroke in the country and also throws down windmills in games. Now we’ll see if he can do anything else.
- Nate Wolters, South Dakota State: The kid’s not a secret anymore. He played in the tournament last season after being hyped up all year long. The only surprise people are going to have about Wolters is that he’s still in school.
The studs the nation will find out about
- Jamaal Franklin, San Diego State: You should know who he is after he did this.
- Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova: He’s more than just the complicated last name. The freshman point guard has proven that he has the guts to take and make a big shots.
Upsets that ARE happening
- No. 11 Minnesota over No. 6 UCLA: I know how well Minnesota has played of late. I get it. But they don’t need to play well against the Bruins. All they have to do is play hard. The Gophers are as good as anyone in the country at getting to the offensive glass, and UCLA is small and doesn’t seem to care all that much about rebounding.
Upsets that AREN’T happening
- No. 13 South Dakota State over No. 4 Michigan: The Wolverines and the Jackrabbits just play too similar of a style, as they both rely heavily on the playmaking of a dynamic point guard that dominates the ball.
- No. 7 San Diego State over No. 2 Georgetown: San Diego State struggles shooting from beyond the arc, and that’s exactly what they will be forced to do by the Georgetown defense.
CBT Predictions: As of today, I’m picking Florida over VCU for a trip to the Final Four, but that’s going to chance. Check back on Wednesday for my ‘official’ picks.
You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.
Dec 11, 2013, 9:40 PM EST
With the preseason favorites to win the Summit League visiting South Bend, tonight’s game against North Dakota State was no gimme for Notre Dame. And that’s exactly how it played out, as Marshall Bjorklund and his experienced teammates proved to be too much for the Fighting Irish to handle. Bjorklund scored 26 points on 11-for-14…
Dec 11, 2013, 7:45 PM EST
With some of the biggest names in collegiate athletics attending IMG’s Intercollegiate Athletics Forum in New York City, many of the major issues on the table were discussed. Among those issues were the possibility of giving scholarship athletes stipend to help cover the full cost of attendance, and how the NCAA members with the most…
Dec 11, 2013, 6:17 PM EST
When he committed to UNLV during the summer, forward Jamal Aytes had the look of a player capable of helping the Runnin’ Rebels account for the loss of reserve Savon Goodman, whose off-court issues resulted in his leaving the program. But that didn’t turn out to be the case, as in seven games Aytes saw…
Dec 11, 2013, 5:05 PM EST
Under first-year head coach Ray Giacoletti the Drake Bulldogs are off to a surprising 6-2 start to the 2013-14 season. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs maintaining that start became more difficult, as the school announced on Wednesday that senior guard Gary Ricks Jr. will miss the remainder of the season after fracturing a bone in his…
Dec 11, 2013, 4:00 PM EST
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Dec 11, 2013, 3:44 PM EST
Dayton: A loss at Illinois State has taken some of the luster off of the Flyers’ start this season, but don’t overlook what this group has done this year. They won at Georgia Tech, they beat Gonzaga and Cal in Maui, and they took Baylor to the buzzer. George Washington: The Atlantic 10 looks like…
Dec 11, 2013, 2:09 PM EST
GAME OF THE DAY: New Mexico State at No. 1 Arizona, 9:00 p.m. ET Arizona deserves their No. 1 ranking. They’ve played like the best team in the country all season long. But New Mexico State is good. Let’s start with the obvious: this group is the favorite to win the WAC. Daniel Mullings is…
Dec 11, 2013, 1:04 PM EST
Utah’s non-conference schedule this season has taken plenty of heat. They kicked off their season against something called Evergreen. On Dec. 28th, they play something known as St. Katherine’s. In between those two non-conference bookends, the Utes have 10 games on their schedule. None of them are against high-major opponents. Only one of them is…
Dec 11, 2013, 12:29 PM EST
Marquette will be featured at the Sundance film festival this year, only it won’t be the way you think. Danny Pudi, a Marquette alum that earned fame as an actor on ‘Community’, has teamed up with ESPN’s 30 for 30 guys and written a short film called Untucked. And if you’re a Marquette fan, you…
Dec 11, 2013, 10:43 AM EST
The resurgence that we all expected to see out of the Providence Friars this season looks like it may, once again, have to wait until next season. Kris Dunn, the top point guard in the Class of 2012, will miss the rest of the season to undergo shoulder surgery, according to Kevin McNamara of the…
Dec 11, 2013, 9:20 AM EST
Nevada’s Deonte Burton is one of the most ferocious dunkers in the country, and he proved that again on Tuesday night at Cal’s Haas Pavilion. He beat his man off the dribble where he met David Kravish. And Kravish, who apparently doesn’t read CBT like he should, went up like he was trying to block…
Dec 11, 2013, 9:03 AM EST
Tom Maayan’s career at Seton Hall is over. The Pirate’s sophomore point guard played his final collegiate game on Tuesday night, going scoreless in 13 minutes in a win over NJIT. Maayan will be returning to his native Israel to fulfill his commitment to the Israeli Defense Forces. Maayan spent three months this summer training…
Dec 11, 2013, 12:37 AM EST
GAME OF THE DAY: No. 19 Florida 67, No. 13 Kansas 61 Florida played the first month with many players sidelined for various reason. Chris Walker, the Gators hope, will be another piece they get back soon. On Tuesday night, Scottie Wilbekin and Kasey Hill returned from injuries to team up in the back court. The…
Dec 11, 2013, 12:02 AM EST
Gonzaga had not led since 18:35 left in the first half, but with 4:10 remaining in the game, Kyle Dranginis found the trailing Kevin Pangos, who had struggled to this point, at the top of the key for a wide-open three on the secondary break. The sharpshooter drilled it, giving the Zags a 68-66 lead.…
Dec 10, 2013, 11:49 PM EST
No. 11 Kentucky entered Tuesday night’s matchup with Boise State coming off of a loss to Baylor at the Jerry Dome in Dallas, one in which the Wildcats were crushed on the offensive glass and cut up by the Bears in the pick and roll. It was concerning. What has made John Calipari’s youthful rosters…
Dec 10, 2013, 9:53 PM EST
I wrote this on Saturday after No. 13 Kansas lost to Colorado at the buzzer. The gist of it? Kansas fans should not be too disappointed about the loss, that the more important news was that Andrew Wiggins finally started to play like the Andrew Wiggins we all told you about. I could pretty much…
Dec 10, 2013, 9:30 PM EST
Florida entered the season ranked No. 10 in the AP poll, however, it was with a depleted roster that included players ineligible, suspended or injured. The Gators lost a road game inside the Kohl Center to the currently unbeaten Wisconsin Badgers, which caused them to fall outside the top 10. Last Monday, Shabazz Napier drained…
NAIA allows Cameron Rodriguez to keep $20K after hitting half-court shot at Oklahoma City Thunder game
Dec 10, 2013, 8:55 PM EST
On November 18, Cameron Rodriguez hit a half-court shot during a break in the Denver Nuggets-Oklahoma City Thunder game, with the award being $20,000 dollars. However there was a question if Rodriguez, a student-athlete on the Southwestern College basketball team, could accept the payment. Southwestern College is an NAIA program in Winfield, Kans. The NAIA…
Dec 10, 2013, 7:40 PM EST
Oklahoma sophomore guard Je’lon Hornbeak will miss up to a month and a half with after a breaking a bone in his foot , the school announced on Tuesday. The 6-foot-4 Hornbeak suffered the injury during practice on Tuesday morning, and although the recovery does not require surgery, it will take up four to six weeks…
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