Well, here we are one day away from the real start of March Madness (The first four games don’t count! They are merely an appetizer for the main course. Nice, but not filling) and the excitement couldn’t be any more palpable as the hysteria is about to envelop the whole nation. Yes, even your Grandma, who likes Oregon because ducks are cute, will hooting and hollering.
And just like I did for the Big East Tournament, I will be live blogging all day during the NCAA Tournament. (Yes, I have no life. Well, at least not on those two days, as to me they are the best two days of the year!)
However, before we start with that, let’s dissect this year’s bracket as I dispense some thoughts, tidbits and things to watch, with some predictions thrown in as well. This is the last of a four-part series (If you want, you can catch up with the East, West and Midwest) with a look at each region. We’ll now conclude with the South region.
- Duke comes in as the No.1 seed, and they definitely have the makeup of a team that can go all the way with Jahlil Okafor doing work inside and Tyus Jones and Quinn Cook doing damage outside. Any Coach K team will be dangerous, and this current crop of Blue Devils could conceivably bring him home his fifth title.
- Awaiting Duke in the round of 32 will be the winner of the St. John’s/San Diego State matchup. It’s too bad the Red Storm’s Chris Obekpa smoked his way out of playing in the tournament and thus also affecting his team’s chance for a run. Also of note is that Steve Lavin’s first recruit at St. John’s was Dwayne Polee, who now happens to play for the Aztecs. So, that should be an interesting subplot. It’s also just good to see Polee back on the court after missing time with a heart issue (he collapsed during a game in December).
- Can the Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin pull off another upset? As a 12-seed last year, they tallied a shocker and beat VCU. Well, with that experience to lean on and the fact that the team has won 28 of their last 29 games (BTW, they lost in overtime to Northern Iowa this season while also wining at Memphis), they will assuredly be a trendy pick to upset Utah.
- Eastern Washington is another mid-major school you have to be conscious of. They have a scorer in Tyler Harvey that can go off at a moment’s notice, as he averaged 22.9 points per game this season while shooting .429 percent from three. Already this year, the Eagles won on the road at Indiana. So, they will not be intimidated by Georgetown, who, by the way, has lost to double-digit seeds in their last five appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
- I like the look at the bottom of this bracket. Between Gonzaga, Iowa State, SMU, Iowa and Davidson, we got some great squads that are about as well-coached as any in the entire field. Whoever will get to Elite Eight out of this group will have earned it. What all those teams have in common is that they all have great shooters, and we know how important shooting from the perimeter is in the Big Dance.
Winner: I have Gonzaga to finally breaking through and making the Final Four once and for all. The Zags have great size with Przemek Karnowski and Domantas Sabonis down low. They also have a versatile scoring wing in Kyle Wiltjer and a headstrong backcourt of Gary Bell Jr. and Kevin Pangos. Mark Few is a darn good coach, and it’s time he gets through to the promised land. Gonzaga has the size and depth to upend Duke.