Cleat Geeks

Tourney Talk: South Region

Another year of March Madness is finally upon us, so prepare yourself for three weekends full of buzzer beaters, bracket busters, and the occasional Cinderella story. In advance of each round, I’ll be breaking down the best games of each region, starting today with the South.basketball7

Games to Watch:

11 Vanderbilt vs 11 Wichita State

What’s most interesting about this first round matchup tipping off Tuesday night is that both teams make strong cases to not only defeat 6-seeded Arizona, but to even give Miami a run for its money in an effort to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. The Shockers return several tournament veterans in VanVleet and Baker, while not a single Commodore has seen the postseason. But Vandy ranks in the top 35th in overall, offense, and defense, plus have two seven-footers, with NBA prospect Damian Jones leading the way.  If Vanderbilt gets Wichita to play big man basketball, they should win; but if the Shockers force Vandy to go small, they’ll advance.  Either way, expect a thrilling Round of 64 matchup against Arizona, and don’t be surprised to see one of these two 11’s in the Sweet Sixteen.

7 Iowa vs 10 Temple

When the Hawkeyes play their best basketball, they’re no doubt one of the best teams in the nation.  Unfortunately, inconsistency has crippled them all year long, showing most prevalently in an unprecedented loss against sickly Illinois.  Losing six of their last eight, Uthoff’s squad must turn their play around or they’ll be run out of the building by the Owls, who look to create an all-Philly matchup against Villanova in the Round of 32.  If Iowa shows up, this should be one of the hardest-fought games this weekend, with both squads knowing they have a legitimate shot to knock off the 2-seeded Wildcats.

5 Maryland vs 12 South Dakota State

Maryland has one of the most talented squads in the nation, yet just can’t seem to do anything about it. Beating only Illinois, Nebraska, and Michigan in their last four games, the Terps lack one of the most important things of all: confidence. In addition, they’ve greatly struggled against teams who can spread the floor (Indiana, Michigan State, Michigan, and Wisconsin confused the Maryland defense), and the Jackrabbits do just that, shooting 43% from inside the arc.  You’ll hear the the names Marshall, Parks, and Daum a ton in this match-up, as the two scrappy guards and 6’9” forward, respectively, account for more than half of SDSU’s production.  THe Jackrabbits have done it before, and if the Terps don’t show up like usual, they’ll definitely do it again.

Games to Hope For:

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1 Kansas vs 9 UCONN (Round of 32)

Kansas has struggled against nine seeds in the past (Northern Iowa, anyone?), and now the Jayhawks could face the toughest yet in the Huskies.  One’s thing is certain: never count out UCONN in March.  They just won the American in relentless fashion despite finishing sixth in the regular season.  By the way, Kevin Ollie is undefeated in the NCAA Tournament, upsetting four teams on the way to a title in 2014. The Huskies can and will give Kansas a run for its money, as long as they make it past the Buffaloes first.  This is a game that we must see.basketball2

11 Wichita State vs 3 Miami (Round of 32)

Baker and VanVleet have been hoping for some small ball, and Miami presents the most exciting matchup of such. Four Hurricane guards score in the double figures, which will allow both teams to run and spread the floor, two things they each love to do.  If the Shockers make it to play the Canes, expect a fast paced thriller full of jump shots, three pointers, and hard drives to the lane.  This is another must see as Wichita would look to make yet another Sweet Sixteen appearance.


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