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SCS.com College Basketball
NCAA Tournament Preview
SCS.com

By: Jonathan
SouthernCollegeSports.com Editor
Contact Jonathan

NCAA Basketball Tournament

SOUTH REGION PREVIEW

March 18 - 21

Tournament Bracket
Updated with Results

Duke Mississippi State Texas Cincinnati Illinois North Carolina Xavier Seton Hall
Alabama State Monmouth Princeton East Tennessee State Murray State Air Force Louisville Arizona

Region Favorite > Duke
Duke Everyone is saying that the South (or Atlanta) region is the most difficult, and it's hard to argue. The first four seeds are very good, and five through fourteen are very capable of winning a game or two. But Duke is the top seed, and with Coach K in control, the Blue Devils have to be the early favorite to march into San Antonio. Their five-year run in the ACC Tournament was stopped this past weekend, but it took a near-miracle for that to happen. When this team hits their three point shots, they'll be hard to stop.

Region Dark Horse > Louisville
Louisville This team was once ranked in the top five in the country, but it's amazing what six weeks will do. Since the end of January, the Cardinals have won just four games while losing eight. They weren't even part of the five-way tie for the CUSA regular season title. This team may go out in the first round, but there is a reason they were ranked in the top five this season. UofL has the talent and the coach to go a long way in this Tournament. But as with any team, those factors must jell together for success. Watch for Arizona here as well, a team with a similar situation.

Best 1st Round Matchup > (6) North Carolina vs (11) Air Force
North Carolina vs Air Force First of all, don't miss the 7/10 matchup between Xavier and Louisville. We've already discussed the Cardinals, and Xavier is one of the hottest teams in America. But back to UNC/AF... North Carolina relies on the outside shooting of Rashad McCants, Melvin Scott, Raymond Felton, and Jawad Williams. And as any college hoops fan knows, you can live or die by the three-point shot. To contrast UNC's style, Air Force is one of the top defending teams in the country, allowing just 50 points a game and 28% shooting from behind the arc.

Best Bet for an Upset > (13) East Tennessee State over (4) Cincinnati
East Tennessee State vs Cincinnati The Bearcats are fresh off their CUSA Tournament victory and are riding high. With teams like Duke and Arizona on their side of the bracket and a possible second round matchup with Illinois looming, will Cincinnati overlook the Bucs of ETSU? They better not. East Tennessee State is 27-5, lost only one game in conference play, won the regular season title by four games, and won the conference tournament. The Bucs have five players who average double-digits, including sophomore guard Tim Smith with more than 17 a game. ETSU hung right with Texas Tech in Lubbock earlier this season and could do the same against Cincy.

All - Region Squad
  • G - TIM SMITH : EAST TENNESSEE STATE : A small 5'9" guard, Smith gets the job done with 17.4 points per game while dishing out 4.5 assists per contest.
  • G - J.J. REDICK : DUKE : The sophomore is one of the best three-point (40.3%) and free-throw (95.6%) shooters in the land and scores nearly 16 a game.
  • G/F - RASHAD McCANTS : NORTH CAROLINA : This Tar Heel, scoring 20 a night, can play the '2' or the '3' spot since he is a superb 41% from 3-point land.
  • F - FRANCISCO GARCIA : LOUISVILLE : Another sophomore, Garica plays with heart and socres 16.5 a game. He is also clutch, hitting 80% of his free-throws.
  • F/C - LAWRENCE ROBERTS : MISSISSIPPI STATE : A Baylor transfer, this beast scores 17 points per game while pulling down more than 10 boards each night out.
  • Studying the Seeding
    It seems that every "expert" out there has the Atlanta region pegged as the most difficult of any four...and rightly so. Of the sixteen teams in this region, eight won their regular season conference titles, and six won their postseason league tournament. The top four seeds, Duke, Mississippi State, Texas, and Cincinnati, are all above average for their respective seeding. Some, however, questioned Illinois' as a five after losing to Wisconsin in the Big Ten final. UNC is capable at six, Xavier is rolling at seven, Seton Hall is tough, Arizona is capable, and Louisville could be better. Air Force was the Mountain West's best, and Murray State was the only team to be Austin Peay this season. ETSU, as mentioned, is dangerous, as is Princeton (as usual). Monmouth and Alabama State are clearly among the weakest among the 15 and 16 seeds, respectively.

    Rolling > Xavier
    Xavier This was the easiest choice of them all to make. The Musketeers have won thirteen of their last fourteen games. That stretch includes regular season victories against Cincinnati, at Richmond, vs Dayton, and at Temple. Of course the big news-maker came in the A-10 Tourney when XU became the first team all season to knock off St. Joseph's....and by 20 points at that. They concluded their march with a tourney-clinching win over Dayton on the Flyers' home court. Not only is Xavier the hottest team in the Atlanta region, they may be the hottest team in the field.

    Stumbling > Louisville
    Louisville This is another easy choice. The obvious pick is Louisville. As previously discussed, Rick Pitino's team dropped from top five in the country to not even top five in their own conference. They finished the regular season winning only three of seven games and were knocked out after just one win (over East Carolina) in the CUSA Tourney. Injuries have been a problem for this team since the new year and are liable to pop up at any point. If they do, UL will stumble right out just as they have stumbled in. If not, the Cards could dance into Atlanta and the Sweet 16 with two very tough wins.

    Projected Winner > Duke
    Duke This region may be the hardest of all to pick. But because the Blue Devils are the top seed and are the region's favorite, they have to get the nod. The ACC has bragged all season about the strength of the conference. If that has indeed been the case, then Duke should be ready to take on all comers. And in the Atlanta region, they'll have no choice.

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