A quick look at this portion of the bracket reveals that Duke may have the easiest overall path to the Final Four. However, there are several teams in the region that could challenge the Blue Devils, especially a couple in the lower portion of the bracket.
Click through for matchups to watch for and other tidbits about the South Region
First things first
This region boasts a few interesting opening round games that should give you ample opportunity to pick an upset or two. The most obvious upset pick is 13th seeded Siena over 4th seeded Purdue. Purdue, without Robbie Hummel, barely managed to score double figures after the first twenty minutes against Minnesota in the Big Ten tournament. While JuJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore are good players, Siena should be hungry after completing a somewhat disappointing regular season that did not meet preseason expectations. Siena knocked off Ohio State last season and gave #1 seeded Louisville a good game, so these guys definitely know what it takes to win in the NCAA tournament.
Another game that I am looking forward to is #7 Richmond vs. #10 St. Mary's. Richmond boasts a great backcourt of David Gonzalvez and Kevin Anderson while the Gaels depend largely on ginormous center Omar Samhan. This game will ultimately hinge on St. Mary's guard play, specifically their ability to knock down treys and keep the shifty Anderson out of the lane. The Spiders could potentially give Villanova some problems if they can advance to the second round.
Other games to watch:
Notre Dame vs. Old Dominion - The Irish did not really deserve a six seed and they better watch out. The Monarchs play extremely good defense and score effectively in the paint, but will need to pick up their shooting if they want to advance.
Cal vs. Louisville - Cal has one of my favorite players to watch in Jerome Randle, who can and will jack it up from anywhere on the court. Louisville is another bipolar team that does not really bring it every night. That's how you beat Syracuse twice but lose to Cincinnati in the first round of the Big East Tourney.
Texas A&M vs. Utah State - Utah State coach Stew Morrill is one of the best in the business that no one talks about. A&M has surprised a lot of people this season and has a trio of guards in Donald Sloan, Dash Harris and B.J. Holmes that will make it tough on Utah State I guarantee that the Aggies will win.
Who will challenge Duke?
While I can see Louisville or Cal giving the Blue Devils a good game for a while, it would take either ridiculously bad shooting for Duke or a guy like Randle for the Golden Bears just going bonkers for either of these teams to pull off the upset. Looking further into the future, Texas A&M is the only other team in the upper half that would have a realistic shot at beat Duke. Big man Bryan Davis and 18.1 PPG scorer Donald Sloan would have to bring their "A" games though.
Since I really do not see Duke losing in the scenarios above, let's move down to the bottom half where it seems two teams would have a legitimate shot at moving on to the Final Four by beating the guys in blue. The first of these teams is the second seeded Villanova Wildcats, led by super scoring senior guard Scottie Reynolds. Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes are also capable shot-makers, but I question the Wildcats' ability to battle inside with Duke. In this matchup, I feel that the Plumlee brothers and, yes, Brian Zoubek would be too big on the boards for Nova to contend. Antonio Pena would certainly have his hands full and I think Kyle Singler would have a field day against the guard-heavy Cats. In my opinion, this is just not a good matchup for 'Nova.
On the other hand, I think the Baylor Bears have the best shot at beating Duke. If they can get by potential tough matchups against Notre Dame and Villanova, they certainly have the pieces to irritate the Blue Devils. LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter are both extremely dangerous scorers that can explode for 25+ points at any time. Pair that with amazing shot blocker Ekpe Udoh (3.9 BPG) and bouncy forward Quincy Acy and you have yourself a contender. Coach Scott Drew has developed this team nicely throughout this season and they should be ready to prove to the nation that Kansas and Kansas State are not the only Big 12 teams that can make a deep run.
- Arkansas Pine-Bluff started the season 0-11. Amazing story for them to make the field, although they have to play Winthrop in the play-in game to get a shot at Duke.
- Sam Houston St. chose to go with the 'k' instead of the 'c' in Bearkats. Who knew?
- Great names in this region: LaceDarius, Tweety, Abromaitis, E'Twaun, Ekpe Udoh, Dash Harris, Samardo, Omar Samhan, Pooh