March Madness Betting: South Region Preview
by Robert Ferringo - 03/14/2007
For the next two weekends the South Region will be giving up its body in the name of Science. It's imperative that it do so in order for the Basketball Gods to conduct a very important hoops experiment. And by "very important" I mean that it will be a true rejection of anything moral or ethical. It will be a bloody and tearful mess, leaving women and children screaming and many men emotionally traumatized for the rest of their wretched lives.
Here are the instructions:
On the one hand, take three of the top 20 defensive teams in the country - Ohio State, Louisville and Texas A&M. On the other hand take three run-and-gun offenses ranked in the top 35 in the country - Memphis, Virginia and Tennessee. Now, take those two hands, make a fist with them, and punch yourself in the face repeatedly until you've done so for 15 full games. Whichever fist does the most damage and hurts the most will reveal which style of play deserves to advance onto the Final Four.
It's an interesting study, indeed. And while all the smart money says that defense wins championships, it's still awfully hard not to be seduced by the high-wire acts that are so adroit at putting the proverbial biscuit in the basket. But here we have an actual chance to see this dichotomy at work, with several teams that excel on one end of the court facing others who excel at the exact opposite.
The Dirty South Region will conclude at the Alamodome in San Antonio. It should be a jolly good show with such laughable subplots as "How white IS Nick Fazekas?" and "Which Lopez brother is the good one again?" All in all, this bracket is a hodge-podge of one-dimensional basketball teams. I have to give the edge to whoever wins the Louisville-Texas/A&M game, because those two teams have the best home court edge in this region.
And anyone from the South knows it's all about home cookin'.
Here's one man's look at the South (San Antonio) Region:
No. 1 Seed: Ohio State (30-3 overall, 18-12 against the spread)
I've turned the corner on Ohio State. My original thinking is that they were one of the more overrated teams in the country, but after watching them execute so well over the past two weeks I think they actually do have a chance to hit the Final Four. Beware: if Oden gets in foul trouble they can become over-reliant on the 3-pointer. But the good news is that they don't play the type of team they struggle against - a team with forwards that play above the rim - until the Elite Eight.
No. 2 Seed: Memphis (30-3 overall, 15-15-1 ATS)
Coach Calipari has been trying to sell us on the fact that this team is better this year because they don't have some of the egos. I'm not buying it. Conference USA was one of the worst leagues in the country this season. Granted, the Tigers didn't struggle with it but who knows how they'll respond in a close, pressure-packed contest. What I do really like about Memphis is their defense (No. 8 in FG defense) and having a legit post scorer in Joey Dorsey. If they make it out of Round 2 watch out.
No. 3 Seed: Texas A&M (25-6 overall, 16-10 ATS)
Along with Georgetown the Aggies are the only other team in the Top 10 in the country in both offensive and defensive efficiency. They should destroy Penn in the first round, but then could have a very tricky date with Louisville. The Aggies made a nice run last year and that experience will be invaluable. As will having the nation's No. 1 clutch shooter (Acie Law). The fact that their best nonconference win was against Winthrop is bothersome but being able to play in San Antonio if they make the Sweet 16 makes it a whole lot better.
No. 4 Seed: Virginia (20-10 overall, 13-11 ATS)
You have to love a team with the best backcourt in the country. But what I don't love is that Virginia is overseeded - might have something to do with who was on the selection committee, but I'll leave that one alone - and they are 3-8 SU on the road this year, losing their last three to mighty mites like N.C. State, Wake Forest and Miami (FL). Their lack of inside presence means they have no shot of beating Ohio State. None.
No. 5 Seed: Tennessee (22-10 overall, 15-15 ATS)
I love Bruce Pearl. I really do. The guy can coach and I would have loved to have played for him. But I really think he's having a hard time adjusting to the mindset of not being the underdog when it comes Tournament Time. The Vols have some impressive nonconference wins (Memphis, Texas) and battled hard on the road at Ohio State, but the were just 4-11 ATS away from home this year. But with Chris Lofton they're never out of any game.
Best first-round match-up: No. 5 Tennessee vs. No. 12 Long Beach State
It's going to be a fast-paced, break-neck, go-for-broke type of game that only the tournament can provide. Tennessee has the No. 11 scoring offense and No. 294 scoring defense in the country. Long Beach is No. 9 in scoring and No. 286 in defense. It wouldn't shock me if 200 points were scored in this one. Giddy up!
Best potential second-round match-up: No. 3 Texas A&M vs. No. 6 Louisville
I think the winner of this game has a great chance to come out of this bracket. Louisville does have a trap waiting for them in Stanford in the first round. But if they make it through they'll have the benefit of a little home cooking against A&M. These two teams are outstanding defensively and I give Louisville's athleticism and depth a little edge. Regardless, I think it has a chance to be one of the best games of the opening weekend.
Upset Alert (first round): No. 4 Virginia vs. No. 13 Albany
Albany went on the road against a good Vermont team and beat the Catamounts to steal the automatic bid for their conference. You have to be cold blooded to win in an environment like that, and they did it. These Danes returned the core of the team that took Connecticut to the brink in the first round last year, and I've already detailed the Cavs' road woes.
Upset Alert (second round): No. 7 Nevada vs. No. 2 Memphis
When I first typed this up I had No. 10 Creighton in this spot against Memphis. That's how close that first round match-up is. But no matter who wins that one, either has a shot to sniper this Tigers squad. Nevada and Creighton are both sound defensively and both execute extremely well on offense. If they can keep the Tigers from getting out and running then they could strike some panic into the heart of Memphis. If it is Creighton, No. 10 seeds are 17-for-35 SU and 4-11 ATS in the second round recently.
Dark Horse team: No. 6 Louisville.
Since Derrick Caracter emerged as another solid scoring option in the low post the Cardinals have been one of the hottest teams in the country. If they can make it out of Lexington they'll either be facing a mid-major team or a Memphis club that they match up very well with. Also, I could see David Padgett and Caracter going toe-to-toe with Greg Oden, because if the Cardinals are still around by then they'll have tremendous momentum. But beware: they don't shoot very well and if they have an off night from deep they could get bounced early.
Team That Makes Me Nervous: No. 2 Memphis
The Tigers are tricky because their conference was so bad. But beyond that, they lost at Arizona and Tennessee, lost to Georgia Tech on a neutral court, and barely beat a wounded Gonzaga team by a point in February. So they're up-and-down out of conference. Also, Memphis shoots just 61 percent from the free throw line. I think this will really come back to haunt them. As will playing a pod with two dangerous 7-10 seeds.
Questions or comments for Robert? E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.