Thursday, March 18, 2010

March Madness Preview: South Region

Tomorrow March Madness officially begins. To say I am pumped would be a massive understatement as I plan and waking up and spending the entire day on the couch watching college basketball until my eyes bleed.

So far I have covered the West, East and Midwest Regions which means only the South remains. In case you haven't been paying attention my picks to advance to the Final Four so far are Syracuse, West Virginia and Kansas. Not going out on a limb there by any means but you the point is to pick the teams that are going to win.

The #1 seed in the South is Duke. Why is Duke a #1 seed? Because the selection committee wanted to ensure that Duke would remain in the tournament as long as possible to increase ratings because like it or not Duke = ratings. Jason Whitlock wrote an awesome column about this if you want to read more.

Of all the #1 seeds Duke definitely has the easiest route to the Final Four as their bracket contains the weakest #2 seed in Villanova, the weakest #3 seed in Baylor and the weakest #4 seed in Purdue. Basically Duke can walk to the Final Four.

Nonetheless here is my sleeper, player to watch, potential upset and bracket winner:

Sleeper - Louisville

The Cardinals were the only team to beat Syracuse twice this year (one of those wins was on the road). They are led by Senior guard Edgar Sosa who is a great playmaker and also have Samardo Samuels who is a strong presence inside. While the Cardinals have the talent on the floor their biggest asset is their coach Rick Pitino who has been there before and knows what it takes to win.

If the Cardinals can get past Cal in the opening round they have a serious shot at knocking off Duke in the Round of 32. Look for Louisville to blow up a lot of peoples brackets as they are being severely underestimated by quite a few experts, well except me of course.

Potential Upset - 13 Sienna over 4 Purdue

This is hardly considered an upset by most people as no one has any faith in the Boilermakers right now. Since all-star forward Robbie Hummel went down Purdue is 3-2 (they were 24-3 with him in the line up) and have looked awful. In their Big Ten Tournament game against Minnesota they managed only 11 points in the 1st half.

Sienna is no joke either as last year they knocked off Ohio State in the first round of the tournament and in 2008 they beat Vanderbilt as a 13 seed. Sienna will probably continue their giant slaying trend as they take advantage of a wounded Purdue team with their up-tempo pace and crazy athleticism.

The only thing I worry about is Purdue playing the 'no one believes in us' card and going on a crazy run to silence all the critics. But that probably won't happen. Forget I mentioned it.

Player to Watch - Scottie Reynolds of Villanova

To quote a line from the Simpsons Scottie Reynolds is, "like a flower that grew out of a pot of dirt." His supporting cast is lackluster to say the least and yet the Wildcats somehow managed to go 24-7 in the Big East and earn a #2 seed in the tournament. Reynolds did this pretty much by himself scoring 18 ppg and hitting big shots when it mattered.

Reynolds has proven in the past that he thrives on the big stage. Remember his crazy shot to beat Pitt and send Villabova to the Final Four last year? I didn't until I saw this Youtube video. The kid can flat out play and he has no problem being the guy everyone is counting on. I think he might be the best leader of any player in college basketball and the kind of guy that will do anything to win.

A lot of people see Villanova as a weak team but I think as long as they have Reynolds they will be competitive and will be a tough out. By the way Reynolds is a 40% 3-point shooter and hits 82% of his free throws, so yeah he has that going for him too.

Bracket Winner - Villanova

I hate Duke and am 99.99% positive they are going to choke early on like they always do. Villanova on the other hand is a mentally strong team that has shown that when they play their best basketball they can't be beat.

I already mentioned Scottie Reynolds so I won't repeat myself there but he isn't a complete 1 man team. Junior guard Corey Fisher is a solid player who can hit the outside shot and is no slouch at the line. Actually Villanova is one of the better free throw shooting teams in the country as 4 of their starters shoot better than 75% from the charity stripe.

Villanova also benefits from having a terrific coach in Jay Wright. Wright is one of the best coaches in the NCAA and is an expert at causing match up problems for other teams with his 3 guard offense. Since 2004 Wright has failed to make it to the Sweet Sixteen only once. He is a proven winner and can make the difference late in games.

I am mostly going to go with Villanova because of the 'no one believes in us card.' Everyone has Duke penciled in to walk to the Final Four but it seems people are forgetting one major piece of information. Duke sucks. They always find a way to lose. Villanova on the other hand finds ways to win and any team with Scottie Reynolds on it can't get knocked out by Baylor or Richmond.

Random YouTube Video

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