The best weekend of the year has been shifted back a day, but that just gives us another 24 hours to get ready. Xavier is emphasizing individual instruction to prepare for 2021-22, but the rest of us are just going to park in front of the television for 96 hours to watch 68 teams turn into 16. We’re going to be breaking down each region for you in the next couple of days.
Baylor and Ohio State take the top two seeds in the South region and it’s not particularly surprising. Baylor has been excellent all year and OSU knocked of Michigan in the Big Ten tournament. Villanova comes in as the 5 seed but without Collin Gillespie and will rely heavily on Jeremiah Robinson-Earl to carry them to the second weekend. The 8/9 matchup features UNC and Wisconsin who both have good Kenpom numbers but resumes that feature no stellar wins and both of them lost to Marquette.
The top 3 seeds all have a solid case for making it out of the region but will have tough tests to get there. The 8/9 and 7/10 games both feature high-major teams that could cause problems for the top 2 seeds in the second round. Of course, all of this is just words. Anything can happen in March.
Best Matchup: Arkansas vs Colgate
It’s no secret that this game is gonna played at a high pace. Both this teams are top 25 in the country in adjusted tempo and keep an average possession under 16 seconds. Colgate shoots a breathtaking 40% from 3, 55% from 2 and is 5th in the country in TOrate. All of this was done against teams much worse than Arkansas but Colgate has the ability to get scalding hot. Arkansas shoots inside the arc much more thanks to their crazt athleticism. On defense, they force tough shots, block shots and force a decent amount of turnovers. This all means their defense is 14th in Kenpom. Colgate doesn’t believe in defense and will find it difficult to stop Arkansas superior athletes. Regardless of all the numbers this game will be a track meet and should be very fun to watch.
Potential Darkhorse: Texas Tech
A six seed coming out of the Big 12 may seem like an odd choice for darkhorse but hang with me. The worst team Tech lost to this year was Oklahoma State and they also beat Oklahoma and Texas both twice. They play smothering defense inside the arc, force a lot of turnovers and block a lot of shots. Offesnsively, they play very slowly, don’t turn th eball over much and shoot mostly inside the arc and get a lot of offensive rebounds. They do have their issues though. They don’t rebound that well defensively and they don’t defend the 3 that well, but they have proven they can beat almost anyone so they will be a tough out for anyone.
Hot Take: Winthrop Will Not Beat Villanova
This has been a trendy upset pick mostly because Collin Gillespie is out for Villanova. Gillespie brings a lot to this team but they are far from a one man show. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl was also 1⁄3 Big East POTY and is a force inside the arc. Justin Moore is still shaking off an injury from a couple weeks back but is expected to play and also has good numbers from 2 without turning the ball over too much. Villanova is a deep and talented team but we should also look at Winthrop. Their resume features a win over Furman, a loss to UNC Asheville (236th in Kenpom) and a bunch of wins over very crappy competition. Winthrop tries to play fast while Nova plays at a methodical pace and Nova has executed their tempo over better competition. Thet two contrasting styles make for an interesting matchup and the absence of Gillespie is a factor, but Villanova still has good enough players and execution to win this one.
Sometimes the obvious choice is obvious for a reason. Baylor has the best 3pt shooting in the country and they attempt a lot of them. Apart from Mark Vital (who has attempted only 5 threes this year) the worst 3pt percentage in the starting five is 38.6%. They also shoot well inside the arc and get back 37% of their own misses. Defensively, Baylor forces a lot of turnovers and force tough shots in the paint. They can be had on the glass and beyond the arc but usually outperform their opponents in these categories. All things considered, Baylor is a darn good team and the only thing that has stopped then this year is going ice cold from deep. If they can avoid a poor showing from three, these guys should be dancing deep into the tournament.