NCAA March Madness Preview: The South Region

March 18, 2009

#16 Radford (21-11, Big South Champs)

The Highlanders will be making their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1998, and are rewarded with a matchup against top seed North Carolina. For Radford to have any hopes at the upset, center Artsiom Parakhouski will have to deliver a heroic performance against the Tar Heels.

Tournament Outlook: A blowout loss against the Tar Heels.

#15 Morgan State (23-11, Mid-Eastern Conf. Champs)

Todd Bozeman’s Golden Bears will be in tough when they face-off against Oklahoma and their all-everything big man Blake Griffin. If Morgan State is to have any hope of shocking the world and winning a tourney game in their first-ever appearance in the Big Dance, point guard Jermaine Bolden will have to try and control the pace.

Tournament Outlook: First-round exit.

#14 Stephen F. Austin (24-7, Southland Conf. Champs)

Coach Danny Kaspar’s team will be led by Southland Conference Player of the Year Matt Kingsley, who played huge all year, and was instrumental in the Lumberjacks winning 10 of their last 11 down the stretch.

Tournament Outlook: Down to Syracuse in round one.

#13 Akron (23-12, Mid-American Conf. Tournament Champs)

The Zips weren’t done any favors by the selection committee, as they were rewarded for earning their first Big Dance invite with a trip to Portland to play a 26-5 Gonzaga team.

Tournament Outlook: The Zips, carried by their scorching shooting from long-range, manage to put a minor scare into the Zags, before running out of steam in the second half.

#12 Western Kentucky (24-8, Sun Belt Conf. Champs)

The Hilltoppers are one of those mid-major teams that never seem to get the respect they deserve, despite their consistent tradition of producing good teams. This year’s team is no different, and with the backcourt tandem of leading scorer A.J Slaughter and Conference Player of the Year Orlando Mendez-Valdez leading the way, expect for them to duplicate last year’s feat in once again providing the obligatory 12-5 upset.

Tournament Outlook: A thrilling, down-to-the-wire win over an Illinois team that sleep walks through most of the first half, followed by another classic game against the Zags, this time the Hilltoppers don’t have enough for the upset, bowing out in the second round against Gonzaga.

#11 Temple (22-11, Atlantic 10 Conf. Champs)

Temple enters the post-season tournament on a roll, having won 5 straight and 10 of their last 12. The Owls will be in arguably the most intriguing, and hard to pick matchup of the entire opening round as they draw #5 seed Arizona State of the Pac-10. Temple will likely be led by Dionte Christmas. As dynamic a scorer as there is in the country, Christmas will undoubtedly be matched bucket-for-bucket by ASU’s own unflappable scorer, sophomore James Harden.

Tournament Outlook: One of those teams that could either make it to the second, and maybe, the third weekend of play, or could go home on their opening night. Most likely, despite matching ASU punch-for-punch and run-for-run, the Owls lose a close one, going home with a heart-breaking opening round loss.

#10 Michigan (20-13, 7th place in Big 10 Conf.)

The Wolverines season seemed headed for big things after impressive early-season non-conference wins against UCLA and Duke. However, they faltered down the stretch before rallying late to qualify for the Tournament.

Tournament Outlook: First round loss to Clemson.

#9 Butler (26-5, Horizon League Champs)

Butler, ranked 16th nationally, didn’t seem to be given favorable, or even fair treatment from the NCAA Committee, as they were awarded a first round matchup with an athletic LSU team, followed by a potential second round meeting with North Carolina in Greensboro.

Tournament Outlook: The Bulldogs come out like gangbusters streaking to an early double-digit lead, and although coming close several times, LSU is never able to completely close the gap. Butler in the 9-8 “upset.”

#8 LSU (26-7 SEC Conf. Regular Season Champs)

The Tigers will need big performances from the inconsistent Marcus Thornton and Tasmin Mitchell, something that hasn’t happened often enough this year.

Tournament Outlook: First round loss to Butler.

#7 Clemson (23-8, 5th place in ACC Conf.)

Terrence Oglesby and KC Rivers will provide the primary offensive output for coach Oliver Purnell’s Tigers. Look for Trevor Booker to try and utilize his athletic advantage over his counterparts on the Michigan front line.

Tournament Outlook: An impressive first round win over the Wolverines, precedes a tough loss against Oklahoma in Round Two.

#6 Arizona State (24-9, 2nd Place in Pac-10 Conf. Tourney)

Herb Sendek’s Sun Devil squad squandered a 15-point lead in losing their conference tournament championship game to USC, and will look to do a better job of protecting the ball, as they turned it over numerous times in the second half against 'SC. If Arizona State is to advance, they will need somebody other than all-conference performer James Harden to provide some scoring punch. Center Jeff Pendergraph would seem to be the most likely candidate.

Tournament Outlook: After surviving an epic slugfest against Temple, ASU carries that momentum and emotion into their second round game against Syracuse, blowing the Orange out of the water before finally succumbing to Oklahoma.

#5 Illinois (24-9, place in Big 10 Conf.)

The Illini will miss guard Chester Frazier immensely.

Tournament Outlook: A first round exit.

#4 Gonzaga (26-5, West Coast Conf. Champs)

As usual, Coach Mark Few and his Zags are seemingly playing their best, and primed for a run into April. The Zags will be led by Jeremy Pargo and Micah Downs in looking to qualify for the first-ever Final Four in school history.

Tournament Outlook: A tougher-than-expected win over Akron State, followed by a win over Western Kentucky before bowing out against North Carolina (if Ty Lawson is back to 100% by then)

#3 Syracuse (26-9, 6th place in Big East Conf.)

After an incredible run at Madison Square Garden during the Big East tournament including a for-the-ages, six-overtime epic against Connecticut, there has to be concern that this Orange team may be drained, both literally and figuratively. However Coach Jim Boeheim’s team is both balanced (5 players average double figures in points per game), composed, and unselfish (average of 18 assists per contest). They certainly won’t shy from the big stage either, having been battle-tested while navigating their way through the tough Big East.

Tournament Outlook: First round victory, second round flameout loss as a fatigued Orange team simply can’t keep up with Arizona State.

#2 Oklahoma (27-5, 2nd in Big 12 Conf. Regular season)

Jeff Capel’s Sooners will need to take better care of the basketball if they are to advance to the tourney’s third weekend of play. They showed a disturbing habit of being careless with the ball, averaging in excess of 16 turnovers a game down the stretch.

Tournament Outlook: Oklahoma catches a spark at the right time, riding the fantastic play of likely #1 overall Draft pick Blake Griffin, and the clutch play of freshman guard Willie Warren. Oklahoma crushes all in its path on the way to the Regional Final, where they triumph in a see-saw game over the Tar Heels from Carolina.

#1 North Carolina (28-4, ACC Conf. Regular Season Champs)

The Tar Heels bowed out of their conference tournament in the semi-finals, dropping a game to Florida State. Coach Roy Williams has to be pleased with being assigned to play their opening two games in nearby Greensboro. As always, the Heels will look to their Player of the Year candidate Tyler Hansbrough to be their emotional sparkplug, especially when considering the uncertain status of star guard Ty Lawson.

Tournament Outlook: The Heels don’t miss Lawson's absence in the first game, easily cruising to a big win over Radford. However, Lawson is cleared to play against Butler, and is largely ineffective and visibly uncomfortable throughout the game. The Heels win nonetheless, but against Oklahoma in the Regional Final, the presence of a still-hobbled Lawson isn’t enough to get the Heels past a determined Sooners squad.

By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for

No comments:

Post a Comment

We encourage all intelligent, passionate comments. Please refrain from any ignorant, racist, or offensive rants.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...