March Madness 2023 – South Region Preview

March Madness 2023 South Region Schedule, Preview & Picks

South Region Storylines

  • The South features the top overall seed in Alabama, which is aiming for its first national championship but faces a tough road with a defensive-minded Virginia team lurking as a four-seed, while back-to-back Pac-12 Champions Arizona and 2021 National Champions Baylor sit as the respective two and three seeds on the other side of the bracket
  • The Crimson Tide have been excellent on both sides of the floor and have the talent to win it all, but the team will remain under scrutiny because of the murder of a woman in January involving the gun of now-dismissed player Darius Miles, which police say was brought to Miles by freshman star, and SEC Player of the Year, Brandon Miller
  • Nate Oats is a National Coach of the Year candidate after leading Alabama to their second SEC title in three seasons, and Arizona HC Tommy Lloyd’s 61 wins in the first two seasons are the most for any head coach in NCAA Division I history, but experience won’t be on their side; Baylor HC Scott Drew is the Big 12’s longest-tenured head coach and cut down the nets in 2021, while Virginia HC Tony Bennett led the Cavs to a title in 2019, and West Virginia’s Bobby Huggins is the winningest active coach in college hoops and has two Final Four appearances
  • A handful of dangerous yet streaky teams could also make some noise; San Diego State won a tough Mountain West conference and has one of the best defenses in the land, Creighton has one of the best defensive players in the country in Ryan Kalkbrennar, while Missouri, Maryland, West Virginia and NC State all have multiple, impressive ranked wins, but lack consistency
  • And don’t count out the higher seeds, many of whom like to push the pace and rely on the three-ball, including Utah State, Furman and UCSB, all of whom are playing their best basketball as of late

South Region Schedule & Preview

No. 1 Alabama vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi / Southeast Missouri (Thursday, 2:45pm ET, TBD)

  • The Tide are the tournament’s No. 1 overall seed for a reason; their three-point-heavy offense is averaging 82.2 points per game with seven players having 20+ made triples, and their defensive efficiency ranks third in the land. They’re also the best rebounding team in the country, and freshmen star G Brandon Miller (19.6 PPG, 8.3 REB, 45.1 FG%) is a bonafide lottery pick. Their size, speed and length makes them perhaps the most complete team in the dance. But their one weakness could be inexperience, as their maturity will be tested with controversy looming over the team during a tournament that requires near-perfection
  • Winner: Alabama

No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 15 Princeton (Thursday, 4:10pm ET, TNT)

  • Led by Naismith Trophy semifinalist Azuolas Tubelis, the Wild Cats secured a Pac-12 title for the second consecutive year and have a prolific offense that ranks third in points per game (82.7) and second in assists per game. They can fill it up from three, and Tubelis and Oumar Ballo are a problem inside, but a thin seven-man rotation could deter them from making a deep run
  • Princeton is an intelligent basketball team
  • Winner: Arizona

No. 3 Baylor vs. No. 14 UCSB (Friday, 1:30pm ET, TNT)

  • Despite an early exit in the Big 12 tournament, Baylor is dangerous and their trio of Keyonte George, Adam Flagler and LJ Cryer is potent offensively. Flagler and Cryer run the show, and both shoot over 40% from deep, but George is the leading scorer (15.8 PTS) and soon-to-be lottery selection. With a defense that is left to be desired, they will live and die by the three, but when the shots are falling, the Bears can beat anybody
  • The Gauchos fell a point shy of knocking off No. 5 Creighton as a No. 12 seed in last year’s tournament and are Big West champions for the second time in three seasons. Like Baylor, UCSB likes to go fast, shoots well, and struggles defensively. Look out for Ajay Mitchell, a 6’5″, 190-pound guard and former Belgian professional player who can take games over
  • Winner: Baylor

No. 4 Virginia vs. No. 13 Furman (Thursday, 12:40pm ET, truTV)

  • After missing the tournament last year, Tony Bennett looks to have the Hoos poised to make a run. Virginia ranks first nationally in assist/turnover ratio (1.9) and turnovers per game (8.5), and is also seventh in scoring defense (60.3 PPG). Led by ACC Defense Player of the Year G Reece Beekman, their halfcourt pressure can cause fits for opponents, allowing them to control the possession game, but if the Cavs get behind, they lack the offensive firepower to catch up
  • Furman is dancing for the first time since 1980 and will rely on the three-ball to knock off UVA. They’re averaging over 27 three-point attempts per game (which accounts for 46% of their field goal tries) and are led by a pair of fifth-year seniors in Jalen Slawson and Mike Bothwell. Slawson (15.7 PTS, 7.1 REB) is the SoCon Player of the Year and is shooting 39.4% from downtown
  • Winner: Furman

No. 5 San Diego State vs. No. 12 Charleston (Thursday, 3:10pm ET, truTV)

  • The Aztecs have one of the best defenses in the land, holding opponents to under 30% from beyond the arc and are anchored by Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year Nathan Mensah. They’ve only lost three times since December 10th and earned regular-season and tournament titles in the Mountain West, which boasts four teams in the Big Dance. If they can avoid the daunted 12-5 upset, they could be a tough out
  • The Cougars are on a 10-game win streak, including a win in the Colonial final. Their fast-paced offense is scoring 80.8 points per game, and they have six players ranging between 12.3 and 9.0 points per game. However, the lack of a primary scorer and a consistent threat from the outside could be a problem
  • Winner: San Diego State

No. 6 Creighton vs. No. 11 NC State (Friday, 4:00pm ET, TNT)

  • The Bluejays are led by C Ryan Kalkbrennar, who, at 7-foot-1, leads the country in field-goal percentage (71.4%) and is a two-time Big East Defensive Player of the Year. They have a balanced offense that makes free throws and hits threes consistently, but they are coming off a 22-point semifinal loss to Xavier, and lack depth outside of their starting five
  • NC State plays fast and averages 78.2 points per game, but they also allow 70.8 points allowed per game, and depth has been an issue. Their heartbeat is sophomore G Terquavion Smith, who leads the Wolfpack in points per game (17.5) and assists (4.2). At 6’4″, with some tight handles, he can break down just about any defender and is a problem if he gets hot from the outside
  • Winner: NC State

No. 7 Missouri vs. No. 10 Utah State (Thursday, 1:40pm ET, TNT)

  • Lacking size, the Tigers rely on small ball to outpace their opponents with an exciting, run-n-gun style of basketball. Their offensive efficiency is top 10 nationally, but they give up 74.6 points per game, and their rebounding margin (-6) ranks 349th out of Division I’s 352 teams. Not good. If they get hot, they can fill it up (they put up 89 on Kentucky and combined for 165 in two wins against Tennessee, one of the nation’s best defensive teams); if not, Mizzou will be going home early
  • The Aggies also like to get up and down, averaging 78.6 points per game (compared to Missouri’s 79.5) while shooting almost 40% from three on nearly 24 attempts per game, so don’t be surprised to see a high-scoring affair. Junior G Steven Ashworth is their X-factor, as he leads the team in points (16.4), assists (4.6) and steals (1.2) and is a lights-out shooter, averaging 44.8% from long range
  • Winner: Utah State

No. 8 Maryland vs. No. 9 West Virginia (Thursday, 12:15pm ET, CBS)

  • Inconsistency has plagued the Terps all year. They beat Purdue by 14 but also lost to UCLA by 27 and have lost four of their final seven games. Their defense plays hard, allowing just 63.2 points per game while limiting their opponents to a low three-point percentage. However, they gave up the second-most fouls in the Big Ten this year
  • On the other hand, the Mountaineers thrive at getting to the line, averaging 23.2 free throws per game, which ranks 12th nationally and accounts for nearly a quarter of their points. Most of these opportunities come from selling out on the offensive glass, another area in which they excel. However, they struggle to shoot the three, and apart from transfer G Erik Stevenson (15.5 PPG), they lack scorers
  • Winner: West Virginia