South Region Bracket Breakdown: Upset Picks, Sleeper Team, and Regional Champion Prediction

The South region boasts the overall top seed in Kentucky, but the Wildcats weren’t given an easy road to the Final Four.

To get there, they may have to go through the defending champions and the team that gave them their first loss of the season, and that’s just to get to the Elite Eight.  Throw in athletic teams like Baylor and UNLV to go with arguably the best “mid-major” team in Wichita State, and you have a loaded region, which should be a blast to watch.

Related: See Andy’s other bracket breakdowns – Midwest | East | West

South Region Info

First Round Matchup I’m Looking Forward To: #5 Wichita State vs. #11 VCU

Unfortunately the selection committee has a cruel sense of humor, because they set up this early matchup between two of the best mid-majors in the field.

Defense will be the name of the game in this one, with both teams ranking in the Top 30 in defensive efficiency.  The Rams want to press and push the tempo, but with veteran guards like Toure’ Murry and Joe Ragland, don’t expect Wichita State to get rattled easily.


Shaka Smart and the Rams are going to have their hands full with Wichita State's experienced guards.

The difference here will be Wichita State’s offense, which has been much more efficient than VCU’s this season, particularly on the interior where guys like Garrett Stutz and Carl Hall should be able to hit the glass and take advantage of VCU’s relatively poor two-point defense.

Second Round Matchup I’d Like to See: #3 Baylor vs. #6 UNLV

I fully expect this game to take place, and I can’t wait.

The Bears and Rebels both have athletes galore, and I would love to see UNLV’s Mike Moser match up with Perry Jones III and Quincy Acy.  Throw in Anthony Marshall versus Pierre Jackson at the point, and I think you’d have a wildly entertaining, high-scoring affair with a trip to the Sweet Sixteen on the line.

First Round Upset I’m Picking: #10 Xavier over #7 Notre Dame

I actually don’t love any of the upset picks in this region and won’t be so ridiculous as to throw out a nine seed over an eight as an upset.  I loved the Musketeers early in the season, but the Crosstown Brawl set them back and I’m still not sure they have truly recovered.  However, they started to show signs of life in the Atlantic 10 Tournament, and strong backcourt play is always important in March, which bodes well for a Xavier team with two senior guards who ooze toughness.  The other key factor here is X’s three-point defense, which is in the Top 30 nationally and could slow down a Notre Dame offense that is at its best when long-range jumpers are falling.  The Musketeers also have a strong defensive rebounding percentage, and they’ll need it to keep Jack Cooley off the offensive glass.

First Round Upset I’m Avoiding: #11 Colorado over #6 UNLV

Colorado ripped off four straight wins to earn the Pac-12 automatic bid, but I don’t see them extending that streak in the Big Dance.

The Rebels are the better defensive team, and Colorado’s only real advantage on offense is its high free throw rate.  I wouldn’t expect a tournament game to be called too closely though, which negates a bit of that advantage, and I also think Mike Moser can help to neutralize Colorado sophomore Andre Roberson.

First Top Four Seed to Lose: #2 Duke

Throughout the year, Duke’s flaws have been a major discussion point, and in spite of those, they have ripped off a number of quality wins.  However, the status of forward Ryan Kelly is unknown after he missed the ACC Tournament with a foot injury.  When healthy, he allows them to stretch the floor and open up more driving lanes for Austin Rivers.

I think either Notre Dame or Xavier could give Duke issues based on the driving ability of their guards and the length they could put on Rivers defensively.

Sleeper Team: #5 Wichita State

While I don’t love the draw for the Shockers, there are a number of reasons to love this team.

They are loaded with experienced players, including the backcourt duo of Toure’ Murry and Joe Ragland.  They have a solid big man in Garrett Stutz and a number of capable contributors who come off the bench.  The Shockers have terrific efficiency numbers on both ends of the floor and will be a tough out for anyone they face.

Winner: #1 Kentucky

After all that, I’m going chalk.

Despite their loss in the SEC Tournament, the Wildcats have been as dominant as any team in the country from start to finish.  Anthony Davis is a game-changer on the defensive end, and the ultra-competitive Michael Kidd-Gilchrist should thrive in a tournament setting.


Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Kentucky are poised to get back to the Final Four.

If Baylor can make it to the regional final, it would be an interesting matchup along the front line, but I think Kentucky’s defense will put them over the top.


South Region Bracket, TV Schedule, Sites, Announcers, Point Spreads

Game Matchup Date Time Location Announcers TV Spread
  FIRST ROUND            
  Western Kentucky def Miss Val St. 59-58 Tue, 3/13 6:40 ET Dayton Nantz-Kellogg-Kerr truTV WKU -4.5
  SECOND ROUND            
1 #1 Kentucky def #16 Western Kentucky 81-66 Thu, 3/15 6:50 ET Louisville Lundquist-Raftery TBS UK -24.5
2 #8 Iowa State def #9 UConn 77-64 Thu, 3/15 9:15 ET Louisville Lundquist-Raftery TBS CON -2
3 #4 Indiana def #13 New Mexico State 79-66 Thu, 3/15 9:40 ET Portland Anderson-Bonner CBS IU -6.5
4 #12 VCU def #5 Wichita State 62-59 Thu, 3/15 7:15 ET Portland Anderson-Bonner CBS WICH -6
5 #15 Lehigh def #2 Duke 75-70 Fri, 3/16 7:15 ET Greensboro Nantz-Kellogg TBS DUKE -12
6 #10 Xavier def #7 Notre Dame 67-63 Fri, 3/16 9:40 ET Greensboro Nantz-Kellogg TBS ND -2.5
7 #3 Baylor def #14 South Dakota State 68-60 Thu, 3/15 7:27 ET Albuquerque Dedes-Wenzel truTV BAY -8
8 #11 Colorado def #6 UNLV 68-64 Thu, 3/15 9:52 ET Albuquerque Dedes-Wenzel truTV UNLV -5
  THIRD ROUND            
9 #1 Kentucky def #8 Iowa State 87-71 Sat, 3/17 7:45 ET Louisville Lundquist-Raftery CBS UK -11.5
10 #4 Indiana def #12 VCU 63-61 Sat, 3/17 7:10 ET Portland Anderson-Bonner TBS IU -6
11 #10 Xavier def #15 Lehigh 70-58 Sun, 3/18 7:45 ET Greensboro Nantz-Kellogg truTV  
12 #3 Baylor def #11 Colorado 80-63 Sat, 3/17 8:40 ET Albuquerque Dedes-Wenzel TNT BAY -7.5
  SWEET 16            
13 #1 Kentucky v #4 Indiana Fri, 3/23   Atlanta     UK -9
14 #3 Baylor v #10 Xavier Fri, 3/23   Atlanta     BAY -6
  ELITE 8 - REGIONAL FINAL            
15 Game 13 Winner v Game 14 Winner Sun, 3/25   Atlanta      

About Andy Bottoms

While Andy was born and raised in Indiana, he would like to point out that he grew up shooting hoops in his driveway and not against the side of a barn like you see in all the March Madness promos or in the middle of a field like Jimmy Chitwood. Andy ranks among the top bracketologists according to the Bracket Matrix and has provided his projections to Fox Sports for the past three seasons. When not compiling excuses for missing work during the NCAA Tournament, Andy enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters. He is a proud IU graduate and co-hosts The Assembly Call postgame show following every IU game. Twitter: @AndyBottoms

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