South Region Preview: Winner, Dark Horse, & Cinderella
The madness is just three days away, and we’re here to help you find some profitability along your way in the NCAA Tournament. We look at the South Region, where Alabama is the top dog with plenty of capable contenders. Let’s look at the top seed, a dark horse, a Cinderella, and who we believe will cut down the nets in Louisville on their way to the Final Four.
Top Seed: #1 Alabama (Final Four +190)
‘Bama is the top overall seed in the field and has the second-shortest odds to win the national championship. Not only can the Tide bury you with their electric three-point shooting, but their defense provides an incredibly high floor if they are having an off-night from deep. Teams with multiple ways to win are the most dangerous in the tournament, and that’s what head coach Nate Oats has in Tuscaloosa.
A 64-possession win over Mississippi State in the opening round of the SEC Tournament, where they held the Bulldogs to 49 points, is one way they dominate, while a 108-59 blowout over Georgia on February 18 is another. It will take a near-perfect effort from an opponent to down this Alabama team.
Dark Horse: #6 Creighton (Final Four +800)
Creighton’s had an up-and-down season, but there have been flashes of Final Four potential from the Bluejays at points in the year. An eight-game tear of wins through the middle of the Big East season, including wins over UConn and Xavier, had many around the nation buying in until three losses in four games followed it up. Nevertheless, the pieces are still in place for a sleeper run here.
Seven-footer Ryan Kalkbrenner is an uber-efficient offensive big man who is also one of the nation’s best rim protectors, vital to Creighton’s success. Ryan Nembhard is a reliable point guard who knows precisely when to push the right buttons, whether dialing up his shot or dishing to others. Add in sharpshooters Trey Alexander and Baylor Scheierman, and you have a starting five that can compete with any in the nation. The concern here? The 20.5 percent of minutes coming from the bench is the 15th-least in the nation this year.
Cinderella: #14 UC Santa Barbara (Sweet 16 +1200)
You will hear about plenty of upset specials in this region in the coming days. Furman and Charleston pose stronger mid-majors against higher seeds with questionable tournament results in years past, but we’ll be looking elsewhere in the region.
UC Santa Barbara is a team with plenty of high-major talent with players who have transferred from bigger programs. The Gauchos don’t have any poor losses at the mid-major level other than a road defeat to Cal State Northridge and are on a seven-game win streak entering March Madness.
Ajay Mitchell is a special player that could take over and become a tournament darling. They face off against a Baylor team that is quite lackluster on defense, ranking outside of the top 100 in defensive efficiency in the country. Zig while others zag and look towards the lesser-talked-about upset in the South with UC Santa Barbara.
South Region Winner: #1 Alabama (Final Four +190)
Alabama’s talent feels unmatched, and they have a cakewalk to at least the Elite Eight. A complete team on both sides should be able to reach Houston, at least where they will face teams closer to their level. Back the Tide to get out of the South.
Odds Courtesy FanDuel Sportsbook