- Ohio State
The South Regional is led by the Baylor Bears. After their long covid pause there seems to be a bit of hesitation in their abilities to get back to the team they were at the beginning of the season. The loss to Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State along with their struggle to put away lowly Kansas State leaves a lot of question marks on a team that could easily make a run to the championship.
The Ohio State Buckeyes seemed to come from nowhere to the Big Ten Championship game. They have prolific scorers in guard Duane Washington and forward EJ Liddell. It is their role players that can step up at any moment and make an impact on the game. CJ Walker, Seth Towns and Justin Sueing are all players that can make plays when asked upon. The Buckeyes have victories over Illinois, Iowa and Michigan this season. They have been tested all season and have players they can lean on down the stretch of a close game.
Arkansas was and still is one of the hottest teams in all of college basketball. Until running into LSU on Saturday they were winners of 13 straight games. They have an absolutely elite offense led by Moses Moody and Desi Sills. Their matchup with Colgate should be a cake walk for the Razorbacks (don’t listen to anyone that says different), but they could have gotten a rough matchup if Texas Tech finds its way past Utah State. Arkansas arguably has the best offense in the entire bracket, but they will have matchups with teams that will slow them down and that is going to be trouble for Eric Musselman and company.
Purdue worked their way into a #4 seed on the back of their star Trevion Williams. Williams has revitalized the post game in college basketball. The Boilmakers has a solid resume, finishing 13-6 in the vaunted Big 10, there loan bad loss being against a depleted Miami team early in the season. Purdue is a dark horse in this bracket, but they will be tested in the first round by a feisty North Texas team.
Potential First Round Upsets
13. North Texas over 4. Purdue
Purdue could be a sleeper to come out of this bracket but I think they will have their hands full with North Texas. The Mean Green are a stout defensive unit, they give up 60 ppg this season and hold opposing teams to an effective shooting percentage of 45.7%, ranking 20th in the nation. North Texas has been challenged this year playing West Virginia, Arkansas and Loyola-Chicago this year.
Purdue has Trevion Williams, he will be a problem for North Texas, but these two team play similar styles. Purdue can’t look past the Conference USA champions, I think they will and they will pay for it.
11. Utah State over 6. Texas Tech
Utah State was a surprise to make the tournament. Most thought the Mountain West would be a one bid league, but the Aggies deserve to be there and they will show that in their first round matchup against Texas Tech. Utah State is a very solid rebounding team that has a stud in the middle named Neemias Queta. Queta and Justin Bean are tough as they come on the boards and their grind it out style will be a tough matchup for the Red Raiders. This Utah State team has two victories over San Diego State this season, a team that brings a similar toughness that Texas Tech brings to the table. Mac McClung and company have more overall talent but they can have trouble putting together consistent offensive success. Watch out for the Aggies.
Sleeper team to make a run- North Carolina Tarheels
North Carolina enters the 2021 tournament with very little expected of them. A late surge in the season locked them into a spot, but they do feature the talent to make a solid run. Their first round matchup with the Wisconsin Badgers doesn’t look as intimidating as it once did early in the season as the Badgers seem to not be able to win a big game despite all the veteran leadership. They would then likley get a matchup with the Baylor Bears. Baylor’s three point shooting and defense seems like a surefire victory but the Bears will lack the size to handle the Tarheels in the interior.
Carolina’s biggest problem has been lack of consistent guard play and outside shooting, RJ Davis and Leaky Black have found a groove of late that could mean trouble for opposing teams in the South Regional. There is NBA level talent on the Tarheel roster, along with a coach that has been there before. They will be tested right off the bat but they can pass that test without needing to study much. (Hope you got the joke there)
Pick to win the South- Ohio State Buckeyes over Baylor Bears