South Region Breakdown: Baylor’s Becoming the Trendy Pick for a Reason
Duke is the #1 seed that everyone (except the committee apparently) loves to hate. They've recently struggled in NCAA Tournament play due to being unable to defend athletic players and relying too heavily on the three-point shot. They've improved their front-court depth and rebounding issues from years past, but this year's bunch will only go as far as the big three of Scheyer, Singler, and Smith take them. The lack of a low post scorer has plagued them since Sheldon Williams left town to make an NBA salary and father Candace Parker's children. Duke did luck out with the easiest road of any #1 seed. While the committee fell short in giving them tough opponents, they did contribute something by having the Blue Devils possibly play two Texas-based schools in Houston.
Villanova and Baylor would provide the toughest challenges for Duke. 'Nova's a terrible defensive team who has been exposed in losing five of their last seven games. Have you ever seen that from another #2 seed? Everyone's high on them from previous performance, but this is a different team. Richmond, for one, plays a scrappy defense that could prevent Nova from advancing past the opening weekend. The squad gaining momentum among Vegas sharps and the media is Baylor, my pick to advance from the region. Baylor's big men would give Duke fits on the glass and their guards' ability off the dribble could get Scheyer and Smith into foul trouble. I've got faith in PG Tweety Carter in late game situations. Baylor also has the easiest road of any #3 seed with projected games against Sam Houston St., Notre Dame, Nova, and Duke.
First round upset that will happen: Old Dominion over Notre Dame It's rather amazing to think that three weeks ago Notre Dame wasn't a lock for the tournament and yet today they stand as a #6 seed. Old Dominion actually played a tougher non-conference schedule than the Fighting Irish, so it's fair to say they're battle tested. Notre Dame adjusted their style in the last month, which plays right into the hands of an ODU team that will defend and hit the offensive glass in a workmanlike ethic.
First round upset that won't happen: Siena over Purdue To the uninformed observer, this seems like the easiest upset to call in the first round. Purdue's loss of Robbie Hummel has left them offensively deficient and Siena has been worth an upset special in recent years. The educated word, however, is that this Siena isn't as good as what you're used to and the Saints don't have anyone to defense Purdue's JaJuan Johnson. The tournament's all about matchups and this one doesn't hurt Purdue's chances of advancing.
Best Vegas Bets:
- Richmond (-2) over St. Mary's: There's something likable about this Richmond squad.
- Louisville (PK) over California: It's worth noting that Louisville's Final Four Odds (+1500) are a lot better than Cal's (+3000).
- Baylor (+500) to make the Final Four: My favorite future of the tournament.
- Texas A&M (+1500) to make the Final Four: If you're looking for a sleeper, why not go with the other team who could play two games in their home state.