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Bracket Breakdown: South Region

by Photo of Andrew Lontos

Kentucky headlines a region filled with exciting, big name schools.

Bracket Breakdown: South Region

The brackets are out, which means only one thing: March Madness has arrived. Before the tournament begins, CHARGED.fm will give you a breakdown of each region of the bracket. Here's what to expect in the South Region.

Overview: The number one overall seed is John Calipari's Kentucky, led by probable first overall pick Anthony Davis and a plethora of other future first-rounders. The Duke Blue Devils are overrated as a two seed but tough nonetheless with Coach K leading the charge and the help referees will give them at some crucial moment (come on, you know it's true). A very talented Baylor team comes in at three while fourth ranked Indiana will be without senior guard Verdell Jones III, who tore his ACL during the Big Ten Tournament. Wichita State, UNLV, Notre Dame, Iowa State, Connecticut, and Xavier come in at five through ten. VCU and Shaka Smart will look for the same magic that got them to the Final Four a year ago as a 12 seed.

Most Compelling Matchup: 8th seed Iowa State versus 9th seed Connecticut

Iowa State finished tied for third in the Big 12 and had its share of highs and lows throughout the season. Bad losses early to Drake and Northern Iowa show that the Cyclones have flaws and can be beat if they don't bring their "A" game (they were 111th in the nation in field goal percentage). When playing their best, however, Iowa State has looked very good. They won seven straight games heading into conference play, where they did plenty of damage as well. Finishing 12-6 in the Big 12, the team's two best wins came against Kansas at Baylor, who they beat by eight respectively.

The one guy that makes Iowa State dangerous is big man Royce White. The Minnesota transfer had a monster season for the cyclones, averaging 13,1 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 5.1 assists per game while standing 6'9" and weighing in at 270 pounds. He's a matchup nightmare because he can do so many different things, and he represents a big challenge for UConn's front line. If they can get by UConn, Iowa State faces Kentucky in the next round, so they'll need to show the toughness that helped them beat two top ten teams during the regular season.

Connecticut has been disappointing all year long. Picked fourth in the country in the preseason poll, UConn fell out of the top 25 quickly and finished a mere 8-10 in the Big East. After beating Harvard and Florida State early on, the Huskies lost their last six games against ranked opponents. Still, you can't deny the individual talent that Jim Calhoun's team has. Jeremy Lamb (17.7 ppg), Andre Drummond (2.7 bpg), and Ryan Boatright all have lottery futures. Lamb and Shabazz Napier have invaluable tournament experience from last year's championship team. But of course, Kemba Walker isn't there to help them anymore. Will Connecticut finally figure it out, play team basketball, and make a run?    

Upset Lock: 12th seed Virginia Commonwealth University over 5th seed Wichita State

Ah, the old 5-12 matchup that everyone loves to pick as an upset. Count me in despite the fact that Wichita State has won 17 of their last 19 games and is one of the best scoring teams in the country. We all know about VCU and their Final Four run last year. The team graduated Joey Rodriguez, Ed Nixon, Jamie Skeen, and Brandon Rozzell, so it's not like they have a lot of the same blood that made the run. Instead, they have a new nucleus led by dynamic junior guard Darius Theus and senior leader Bradford Burgess. Shaka Smart is still around to lead his team that went 15-3 in the always underrated Colonial Athletic Association. Great coaches win games in the tournament and I think Smart and his "HAVOC" defense can pull out at least one victory. Plus, Harvard thinks VCU will prevail:

John Ezekowitz, a junior at Harvard and the HSAC president, completed a model that empirically shows the likelihood of upsets in Thursday's and Friday's games. He found that 12th-seeded Virginia Commonwealth (pictured)—a surprise Final Four team last season—is the low seed with the best chance to win, giving the Rams a 72% chance to shock fifth-seeded Wichita State.    

X-Factor: Andre Drummond, Connecticut

UConn could get bounced right away by Iowa State or upset Kentucky and make some real noise on their way to New Orleans. Just like his team, what will we see from Andre Drummond? The freshman is more than capable of putting up Anthony Davis-esque numbers, but he just hasn't been that consistent. Teamed up with Alex Oriakhi, Drummond and the Huskies have the ability to control the paint and make it tough for opponents to score inside. Guard play is super important in March, but limiting easy baskets and second chance opportunities will certainly go a long way in making up for a disappointing season for Jim Calhoun's squad.

Honorable Mention: Perry Jones III, Baylor. Another inconsistent player with all the potential in the world, Jones scored 31 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in Baylor's Big 12 semifinal win over Kansas.

Final Four Prediction: Kentucky Wildcats

The Wildcats are just too good. The South Region has been getting a lot of hype but I'm starting to think it might have more style than substance. The names sound nice but are the teams really that good? Duke is the worst two seed in the tournament. Baylor is legit; Indiana beat Kentucky during the season but they lost a key senior to injury and I have VCU taking down Wichita State right away. We've been down this road before with John Calipari's uber-talented squads. But I mean, they have Anthony Davis, who changes games like no one else in the nation. Paired with electric freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague, and that trio would be enough to carry most teams to the Final Four. Also, Kentucky actually has returning players like Terrence Jones and Doron Lamb. That experience has to mean something for a coach who has gone very far in the past without much of it.

Let CHARGED.fm get you the best seats to see the NCAA Tournament live.


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