March Madness Bracket Predictions: South Region
by Robert Ferringo - 3/16/2010
This right here is why I make money every year with my college basketball picks and predictions:
A story that’s bouncing around the bobblehead media discusses how Duke was given the easiest bracket and the easiest road to the Final Four as some sort of conspiracy by CBS to juice up their ratings for March Madness and the NCAA Tournament. Notorious scumbag Jason Whitlock was one of the first to put that thought out into the ether and Colin Cowherd then took it and ran with it on his ESPN radio show. So now apparently this is a story.
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Here is the problem: neither Cowherd nor Whitlock knows dick about college basketball. I mean, they think they do. They want to. They figure they’ve watched a dozen or so games in the last couple weeks so they have their finger on the pulse. But the reality is that these guys are clueless. They don’t follow these teams as religiously as someone who pays their mortgage based on their skill and level of knowledge of the sport (like, say, your friendly neighborhood college basketball handicapper). They have the benefit of bombast and hype and they don’t have any consequences to being wrong, repeatedly.
Here is the reality – the Midwest is the most difficult region in the NCAA Tournament bracket. And Duke has the most difficult road of any No. 1 seed to make it to the Final Four. And it’s not even close. Kentucky and Syracuse have red carpets rolled out in front of them. Kansas has a brutal bracket but most of the best teams are in the bottom half. But Duke could have to play either:
- California, a team with three probable professional players on the roster and a preseason Top 15 team, or Louisville, a team that beat Syracuse not once, but twice, this year and is just 12 months removed from being the tournament’s overall No. 1 seed.
- Then in the Sweet 16 they could have to face Purdue, which was a national title contender until losing Robbie Hummel, but still has a pretty darn good squad. Or they could have to play Texas A&M, a notoriously rabid dog, in their back yard in Houston.
- After that, it’s either the same Villanova team that beat the Blue Devils by over 20 points in the Sweet 16 last year or Baylor (another Texas school on its home turf) and their incredible athletes.
So all of that is what lies in front of Duke before they even get to the Final Four! This is a very good Blue Devils team. It’s their best in five years. But with that big bull’s eye on their chest and that murderer’s row of teams waiting for them there is no way that they are making it to Indianapolis.
So with that is one South Region prediction for you. Here are the rest of Doc’s Sports March Madness South Region bracket predictions:
No. 1 Duke (29-5 SU, 19-13 ATS)
The Blue Devils are better equipped for a deep NCAA Tournament run than they have been in the last half-decade. The main reason is that they finally have some size and strength in the post. Brian Zoubek and the Plumlee twins, Miles and Mason, give the Blue Devils a presence near the basket to defend and rebound. That allows the triumvirate of Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith to do their thing. That trio averages a combined 53 points per game. All three can shoot, rebound, hit threes, handle the ball, and have experience in key games.
There are two big problems for Duke. First, because of who they are they play with a big bull’s eye on their backs. On a wish list for all the teams in the field, I would wager that knocking the Blue Devils out of the tournament is probably No. 2 to winning the national title. The second issue is what I discussed in the open as far as the Blue Devils having a tricky road in a tough venue. This is a very good team. And as a Duke hater that’s tough to say. But realistically they don’t have a chance in hell of making it out of this field.
Duke March Madness Prediction: The Blue Devils come up short yet again in March and fail to make the Final Four.
No. 2 – Villanova (24-7 SU, 18-12 ATS)
It wasn’t long ago that the Wildcats were one of the top five or six teams in the country, a legit national title contender and a team to be penciled in for a repeat Final Four appearance. But the wheels have come off in the last month. Villanova is just 2-5 straight up in their last seven games and the two wins were over South Florida and a squeaker over Cincinnati.
This team has the best backcourt in the country with Scottie Reynolds, Corey Fisher, Reggie Redding and Corey Stokes all proven commodities.
But this team has two problems. First, their big men aren’t that big, aren’t that tough, and there aren’t enough of them. The second problem is that it seems like they still don’t have a pronounced rotation and I think Jay Wright is using too many guys. He has a legit nine-man rotation, but sometimes a guy like Taylor King plays 30 minutes and other times he plays seven. This team is still very, very dangerous. But unless their bigs get it together I don’t know if they can beat the other elite teams. They are just 2-4 this year against the other top teams that they’ve played.
Villanova March Madness Prediction: The Wildcats finally put it together and take this region, making it back-to-back Final Four appearances.
No. 3 – Baylor (25-7 SU, 16-9 ATS)
Well, the word is out. Baylor spent the majority of the season as the most underrated top team in the country. But in securing a No. 3 seed the jig is up and everyone is wise to the Bears. Their makeup is very straightforward: two stellar scoring guards on the perimeter and dominating forwards controlling the post.
This has been a brilliant bounce back year for the Bears. Two years ago they broke onto the scene. Then despite a load of talent and experience back last year they were one of the nation’s biggest underachievers last season. Now they have put together one of the most profitable years of any BCS team and their only losses in the last two months have come on the road against four other tournament teams, all by seven points or less.
This team is No. 9 in the nation in both field goal offense and field goal defense. Senior Tweety Carter is one of the best point guards that no one knows about and LaceDarius Dunn is one of the streakiest and most explosive scorers in the country. Dunn is the type of guy that can keep both teams in the game but there is no doubt that once he gets going he’s tough to stop. Epke Udoh was one of the most important transfers in the nation and is one of the game’s elite defensive players. He sets the tone for this group. Three other large, athletic post players (Quincy Acy, Josh Lomers, Anthony Jones) just get to the basket and make things happen.
This team does not have a strong non-conference resume. And they didn’t beat either of the top teams in the Big 12. So I think they actually may have finally become overrated.
Baylor March Madness Prediction: After a closer-than-it-should-have-been win over Sam Houston, the Bears lay the wood to their second-round opponent. But Villanova’s guards are too much and a poor game by Dunn ends Baylor’s season in the Sweet 16.
No. 4 Purdue (27-5 SU, 12-18 ATS)
Poor Purdue. A month ago this team was one of the best in the country, on the verge of a No. 1 ranking, and was a team to be penciled into the Final Four (which is near their backyard). But then Robbie Hummel, the team’s leader and best all-around player, went down for the year with a knee injury, taking any title dreams the Boilermakers had with him.
In a way they remind me of the Wisconsin team from 2007. That Badgers squad was a No. 2 seed but lost their best player, Brian Butch, late in the season. They didn’t recover and were bounced by UNLV in the second round.
Purdue will still get after it defensively. And E’Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson are as good as any inside-out duo in the nation. But it looks like we’ll have to wait until next year to see if this talented Purdue group will ever win anything.
NCAA Tournament (South Region) Prediction: It’s looking like a first round exit or a pounding at the hands of A&M in Round 2 for the Boilermakers, who just never got over Hummel’s injury.
No. 5 – Texas A&M (23-9 SU, 18-10 ATS)
Go ahead and file the Aggies right there with Michigan State and Xavier as teams that just win in the NCAA Tournament. They have won at least one game in The Big Dance in each of the last four years. Granted, they have had some significant matchup advantages in those games. But winning is winning is winning.
The Aggies are a defense-first team that has athletes to spare. That’ll be helpful against Utah State and if they play Siena in Round 2. A matchup with Purdue would be a slugfest. This team is tough to shake. But they are another crew that is better as an underdog than as a favorite. They went through a stretch this year where they covered the number in 10 consecutive games. But that means that the books will be wise to them.
They have one explosive scorer in Donald Sloan and one go-to big man in Bryan Davis. But beyond that this is a team that doesn’t shoot particularly well and has to get to the basket to do damage.
Texas A&M March Madness Prediction: The Aggies barely escape the opening weekend and then give Duke everything that they can handle in the Sweet 16.
No. 6 - Notre Dame (23-11 SU, 17-10 ATS)
This right here is proof of the inherent hypocrisy and complete and total absurdity of the NCAA Selection Committee. Two weeks ago the Irish were out of the field. Now all of a sudden they are a No. 6 seed? What the hell?
I will give this team credit for being among the hottest in the country. Pitt, Georgetown, Connecticut, and Marquette have all fallen under their sword in the last few weeks. And ever since Mike Brey finally – FINALLY – got his team to focus on the defensive end and focus on playing at a slower tempo this group has turned the corner. The Irish always played too fast. And they didn’t have the athletes to keep up against top teams.
I do wonder if the Irish will suffer a letdown after pushing so hard just to make the field. But this is an upperclassmen-laden team and in Luke Harangody they have a player that could potential carry this team to the second weekend. However, we can’t completely overlook the fact that this team A) did absolutely nothing in the nonconference and B) has been upset by teams like Northwestern, Loyola Marymount, and Rutgers. So they can beat anyone and they can lose to anyone. That’s a dangerous mix.
Notre Dame March Madness Prediction: A tough, low-scoring win over a game Old Dominion team. But after that Baylor will just be too much. A poor shooting night sinks the Irish and sends them home early.
Best first-round match up: No. 8 California vs. No. 9 Louisville
The East is loaded with great first-round matchups. Utah State and Texas A&M is an interesting game. Siena vs. Purdue is a good one. Richmond and St. Mary’s are two elite mid-majors going head-to-head. But I’m going with the Bears and the Cardinals. These are two streaky and dangerous teams full of experienced and talented players. Cal has three potential pros on its team and is underseeded and undervalued coming into the tournament. Louisville has beaten Syracuse twice this year and has some big near misses on the road. But they are far from a sure thing and they haven’t beaten another tournament team since a 90-81 win over Morgan State back in November. These two teams like to jack up three-pointers this one will come down to which club is hotter from the perimeter. The Golden Bears are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 but are weak on the inside and have gotten blown out on the road. The Cardinals are tougher and more athletic but are one of the weaker Big East teams in the field. The winner has a realistic shot at knocking off Duke in the next round. But who will win is anyone’s guess.
Best potential second-round match up: No. 4 Purdue vs. No. 5 Texas A&M
Both of these teams have a lot of work to do to take care of the feisty mid-major underdogs that they face in the first round. But if the chalk holds form this is a very intriguing matchup in round two. These are two of the toughest, most physical, best defensive teams in the country and they will be locked into a slugfest if they get to play. These are two dark horse teams coming out of this region and either could give Duke a great game in the Sweet 16. They each have stellar lead guards (Sloan vs. Moore), exceptional post players (Davis vs. Johnson) and a host of role players waiting to step up. Unfortunately, I don’t think this matchup will happen because one of the two will likely get upset in Round 1. But if they do square off it will be a good one.
Upset Alert (first round): No. 13 Siena vs. No. 4 Purdue
Which brings us to this game. Siena is one of the few teams in the nation that have won a first round game in each of the last two tournaments. Two years ago they rolled No. 4 seeded Vanderbilt by 21 points. Last year they shot down No. 8 Ohio State in overtime. Siena doesn’t beat good BCS teams during the non-conference portion of the schedule but they more than hold their own come tourney time. They have a group of experienced players and the core of this team is the same group that scored the upsets each of the past two years. And that is a huge difference heading into this one: Purdue has more talent but Siena is playing with infinitely more confidence.
Upset Alert (second round): No. 7 Richmond vs. No. 2 Villanova
The Spiders will have their hands full with St. Mary’s in the opening round. But if they do advance they should give Villanova everything they can handle. Richmond runs a modified Princeton offense and has two guards that can absolutely fill it up. Villanova has more talent but I feel like Richmond is much more confident in its system and rotations. Richmond has knocked off Mississippi State, Missouri and Florida this year all on the road or on neutral courts. They also lost to Wake Forest on the road in overtime. So they have the talent to compete with top BCS teams. Villanova should survive but Richmond won’t make it easy on them.
Dark Horse team: No. 7 Richmond
The biggest question here is how much the Spiders have left in the tank after a run to the Atlantic 10 Tournament championship game. After three games in three nights this team has to gear up for a trip to Providence and a Thursday game against rested St. Mary’s. But this is a very experienced and very skilled Richmond team that, as I have mentioned, has gone toe-to-toe with a lot of NCAA Tournament teams. (They also beat Old Dominion, Xavier, Temple and Lehigh to give them seven wins over NCAA Tournament teams. Kevin Anderson and David Gonzalvez can each go off at any time, Forwards Justin Harper and Ryan Butler are excellent all-around pieces and center Dan Geriot is as crafty as they come. Because of their system they can give all kinds of teams all kinds of problems. But with St. Mary’s, Villanova and Baylor as their potential first three games they’ll have to earn anything they get.
Team That Makes Me Nervous: No. 3 Baylor
I have been riding the Bears all season long and they have made me a lot of money this year. But the word is out on this team and they are underrated no more. Everyone is clued into what a talented, athletic, skilled group this is. But I think that they were overseeded and that things are lining up almost too perfectly for them to make a significant run. If they survive the opening weekend they get to play in Houston in front of what I’m sure will be a wild, homer crowd. But Baylor worries me for two reasons. First, Dunn is a streak and volume shooter. And if he is off then a 3-for-16 isn’t out of the question. Second, they really haven’t beaten anyone out of conference and even though they went stride-for-stride with top tier teams like Kansas and Kansas State they haven’t beaten any of those teams this year. Also, their first round matchup isn’t a cakewalk. They are playing an in-state team that will be approaching this game like it was the Super Bowl. Sam Houston is a very talented offensive team (No. 11 in the country in scoring) and is in the Top 40 in the nation in shooting. So if the Bears are looking ahead they shouldn’t be. But then again, if they end up in the Final Four I could be kicking myself for jumping off the bandwagon after I had been driving it for three months.
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper and he has gained around +190 Units in the last 12-plus months in college basketball. He’s posted four of five winning Marches over the last five years and you can purchase his college basketball picks here.
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