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NCAA Tournament South Region: Top first-round matchups, upsets, predictions

The South Pocket of the 2024 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament can also be termed … Guardland. 

That’s as it includes a ridiculous selection of backcourt ability all rolled into one patch. You’ve were given Jamal Shead, LJ Cryer and a Houston workforce that, regardless of shedding to Iowa Shape within the Large 12 Match championship sport, nonetheless possesses as a lot toughness as someone in faculty basketball and has the crowd’s Incorrect. 2 protection. 

You’ve additionally were given a Marquette workforce that, with Tyler Kolek again within the line along Kam Jones and Stevie Mitchell, is an actual warning to construct the Ultimate 4 as a result of their distinctive talent all set and the flexible weapon, Oso Ighodaro

After, you could have one of the vital explosive backcourts within the nation with Reed Sheppard, Rob Dillingham and an All-American veteran in Antonio Reeves charging a Kentucky workforce that should advance on a run this era. They’re too proficient to be an early move once more. It’s date for John Calipari to construct a run. 

In any case, if that’s no longer plenty, the trio of Jeremy Roach, Tyrese Proctor and Jared McCain top a Duke workforce that’s in search of a second-weekend leap forward nearest a first-weekend move in Jon Scheyer’s opening era on the helm. 

So, there are blue bloods, All-American citizens and a lot more, however shield play games is the consistent within the South. 

Right here’s an entire breakdown of the South:

1. Of the top-four seeds, who has probably the most favorable draw? 

Listed here are the peak 4 groups on this patch: Houston, Marquette, Kentucky and Duke. I’m in reality moving to advance in a distinct route than the peak seed and announcing … Kentucky! 

We in reality don’t know what Tyler Kolek goes so to do for the Golden Eagles, because the All-American level shield has ignored the endmost six video games with an indirect shock. Sure, Marquette reached the Large East Match ultimate future UK used to be an early move within the SEC Match, however in the event you’re moving to be caught being a 3-seed, I’d in lieu play games anyone within the Candy 16 with some shock considerations state their level shield than no longer.

Houston would meet both Nebraska or Texas A&M in the second one around, and the Aggies do have a stunning backcourt in Tyrece Radford and Wade Taylor IV, and are blazing nearest a component SEC Match efficiency. There are days when Duke seems like probably the most crowd’s absolute best, and that Candy 16 sport with Jamal Shead and LJ Cryer assembly Jeremy Roach, Tyrese Proctor and Jared McCain can be fairly a matchup.

I just like the Cougars fairly somewhat, however alternative knocks for Kentucky. The Wildcats want to keep away from the disappointed warning towards Greg Kampe and Oakland, nearest get Texas Tech or NC Shape. Sure, the Wolf Bind are red-hot, however either one of the ones groups are beatable for a workforce as proficient as Kentucky – negative hesitation. It’s date for John Calipari to advance on a run and I felt this used to be a manageable trail. 

2. What’s the maximum impish first-round matchup on this patch?

I’m going with Wisconsin taking over a 31-3 James Madison workforce that I think is bad coming into the match. The Dukes have an incredible duo in Terrence Edwards Jr. and TJ Bickerstaff, who mix to moderate over 30 issues consistent with sport in a KenPom top-60 offense. This workforce’s talent to stand and i’m sick can build problems, and they’ll be unfazed by means of the Badgers. JMU already owns a win over the Large Ten, having crushed Michigan Shape on opening evening.

In the meantime, Wisconsin entered the Large Ten Match having long past 3-8 in its endmost 11 video games however publish 3 wins in as many nights, together with one over Purdue, to progress to stand Illinois in a dramatic 93-87 loss within the ultimate. The Badgers appear to have regained their offensive rhythm with AJ Storr scoring 90 issues in 4 Large Ten Match video games. That being stated, I nonetheless don’t know the way a lot I believe Wisconsin, and I consider in James Madison’s talent to offer the Badgers’ protection problems. If James Madison can keep away from letting Wisconsin dictate the physicality of the sport, be careful.

3. Who’re 3 must-see avid gamers on this patch? 

Reed Sheppard, shield, Kentucky: He’s been probably the most well-rounded freshman in faculty basketball and is so environment friendly, averaging 13 issues, 5 assists and 4 rebounds consistent with sport future taking pictures 54% from the grassland. 

Jamal Shead, shield Houston: He’s the hardest shield in faculty basketball and is the tone-setter on each ends for Kelvin Sampson’s workforce. If the Cougars win this patch, it begins with him (13.1 PPG, 6.2 APG, 3.8 RPG). 

Tyler Kolek, shield, Marquette: Simply how wholesome will he be coming off the indirect shock that has sidelined him for 6 video games? That’s the most important query mark on this patch. The Yellowish Eagles have been noteceable in attaining the Large East Match championship sport with out their famous person level shield, however they are able to’t construct a regional ultimate with out Kolek. He’ll play games Friday within the first around towards Western Kentucky. 

4. What workforce must be on disappointed alert within the opening around?

Watch out, Duke. Vermont fanatics will go right down to Brooklyn in droves for Friday’s matchup with the Blue Devils, and the whole lot of the Barclays Heart, but even so Duke trustworthy, might be rooting for UVM. John Becker’s workforce performs a pace that sits at 349th within the nation.  In alternative phrases, they sluggish it i’m sick and feature 5 guys averaging between 8.8 and 12.2 issues consistent with sport. Young shield TJ Long leads the way in which and will get blazing from downtown. Before, there was, TJ Sorrentine and the Catamounts surprised Syracuse within the Large Dance.

5. Which workforce do you view as the prospective Cinderella of this patch? 

I advance again to James Madison. They’ve misplaced 3 times all of the season. Why no longer the Dukes! 

6. Who might be within the regional ultimate, and who will win it? 

I’ve were given Houston’s difficult, hard-nosed protection going up towards the workforce with probably the most upside on this grassland of 68, the Kentucky Wildcats. When it’s all stated and finished, give me the need and toughness of Shead, LJ Cryer and Emanuel Sharp to decelerate Sheppard and Rob Dillingham. I’ll whip Kelvin Sampson to get again to the Ultimate 4.

John Fanta is a countrywide faculty basketball broadcaster and scribbler for FOX Sports activities. He covers the game in plenty of capacities, from calling video games on FS1 to serving as top host at the BIG EAST Virtual Community to offering observation on The Ground of 68 Media Community. Observe him at @John_Fanta.

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