clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2023 NCAA Tournament South Region Preview

Scandal stained Alabama won the one seed, but there are loads of teams here to like.

NCAA Basketball: CAA Tournament Semifinals Game Two Charleston Cougars vs Towson Tigers
Noted crazy person Pat Kelsey is coaching in this region
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

After four months of winnowing, the greatest single-elimination contest is sports is set to begin. From 363 D1 basketball programs, 68 have been chosen to spend three weekends playing for the sport’s national title. Each of the four regions will battle to send one representative to the Final Four. Joel did the East, now it’s time for the South.

If you’re a fan of teams that aren’t the huge names of college basketball, the South may be the region for you. Yes, the top three seeds, Alabama, Arizona, and Baylor are the big guns you’ve come to expect. Drill down a bit though, and you get a combination of punchy smaller high majors and some mid majors having a season of dreams.

San Diego State won a brutally tough Mountain West and got a five seed. They were rewarded with a 31 win Charleston squad coached by a legitimate cross the street crazy person whose abs are occasionally visible through his polo. Oh, and that team already beat Virginia Tech and Kent State this year and nearly beat UNC when they were good. The 13 seed is Furman, the nation’s top two point shooting team. Creighton lurks as the six if they can get by the Wolfpack of NC State. No, Duke and Kentucky aren’t in this region, but the lesser heralded names that are here are very, very good.

Who springs the big upset?

Charleston will be the trendy pick here. Their offense bombs away from deep without a ton of success, but they can score inside and SDSU struggles with that. They also will push pace and get a lot of shots up, which can bode well for a low major that gets hot. If it isn’t Charleston that springs the big one, NC State won’t be cowed by Creighton at all. The Wolfpack beat Duke by 24 already this calendar year, a team that Xavier just obliterated won’t scare them.

Easiest team to cheer against: #1 Alabama

Do I really need to explain this? Nate Oats is a gutless coward, one of his players was charged with murder, one delivered the gun used to do the murdering, and one just sort of hung around and watched it all go down. In response to all this the school got rid of the player injured for the year and let everyone else keep playing without punishment. I hope SEMO beats them by 30 and then donates their swag to Jamea Harris’ family.

Most fun team to cheer for: #10 Utah State

I picked this region to preview because I love the Aggies. Did you like Ryan Welage? Well here’s a whole team of him. These guys run and gun. They get threes up, the ball moves, and they waste zero time shooting once they get a good look. They’re 10th in assist rate, 11th in three point percentage, and 12th in EFG%. They also play sneaky good defense, but that’s not what we’re here for. Junior guard Steven Ashworth plays with a swagger that suggests he’s unaware he’s only 6-1, 170. Throw in Ryan Odom, he of the UMBC over Virginia win, and you have a potent mix of skill, entertainment, and great coaching.

Player to watch: D’Moi Hodge, #7 Missouri

Yes, that same D’Moi Hodge who played in the funeral of a first round NIT game at the Cintas last year. He made the jump to the SEC and got much better. He’s a deadeye three point shooter, shoots 63.8% inside the arc, and never turns the ball over. Hodge is a brutally efficient scorer who needed 11 shots to score 21 points in his last game. This 7/10 game is going to be a blast.

Best first round matchup: You already know

Boom or bust team: #6 Creighton

When the Jays are going well they are a Final Four contender. When they aren’t they get smashed by a team playing seven dudes on short rest. Greg McDermott will see this as a region his team can win, but when he closes his eyes at night he’ll worry about NC State and Terquavion Smith ending his season in the first round.

Underseeded: #12 Charleston

The committee did a great job this year. The Cougars could make an argument to be up a seed line, but they ran up 31 wins against pretty poor competition. Sure, they only have one bad loss, but they don’t have big wins to balance that. Could they be an 11 that bumped Providence into the play-in games? Probably, but this seems about right. This is a well balanced region.

Sweet Sixteen Picks

#1 Alabama, #5 SDSU, #3 Baylor, #2 Arizona

Regional final prediction

Arizona over Alabama

“For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.”

I hope. If the Tide wins I’ll wretch.