TOURNAMENT TIME

NCAA South Region preview: Arizona might be main threat to dominant Virginia

A healthy Mo Bamba gives Texas a fighting chance. Chris Covatta/Getty Images

THE TOP 4 SEEDS

Virginia, Cincinnati, Tennessee, Arizona

WHO SHOULD WIN

Virginia

The Cavaliers are the No. 1 team in the country, the No. 1 team in Ken-Pom ratings, and the No. 1 defense in the country by a mile. It is next to impossible to run on them, and this may be the best offensive team Virginia has had in the Tony Bennett era. They lost twice this year, and have only lost once since Dec. 5. They rolled to an ACC title and held three teams under 40 points on the season. The only thing not to like about Virginia is that they got a horrible draw that will match them up against a vastly under-seeded and ultra-talented (albeit distracted) Arizona team unless someone can pull an early upset. 

IF NOT THEM

Arizona

Arizona is an odd case study, as 5 of their 7 losses this year came against non-tournament teams, with an early season loss to Purdue being the only exception. They had massive pre-season expectations that revolve around DeAndre Ayton. The likely first pick in the draft has rounded into a complete monster. He is averaging over 20 points per game to go along with 11.5 rebounds. Allonzo Trier (18.4 PPG) would be the shining star on most teams, but is glad to play second fiddle to the super freshman Ayton. This season has been a whirlwind, with Trier losing games to doping allegations and coach Sean Miller being under investigation for paying Ayton. If they can keep their heads in the game, and not let their defense cost them a close game, the Wildcats are incredibly dangerous. 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

DeAndre Ayton- Arizona

As discussed, Ayton is headed towards the NBA draft lottery, and he has scouts salivating. At 7’1” and 250 lbs, Ayton has drawn comparisons to a young Shaquille O’Neal. He is on a tear right now, averaging 32 points and 16 rebounds in the PAC 12 semi-finals vs. UCLA and finals vs. USC. If Ayton is on his game, and he usually is, Arizona is going to be a tough out, even against the incredible pack-line defense of Virginia.

Kyle Guy- Virginia

Apparently, Kyle Guy was nursing a sprained MCL during the ACC tournament. If you watched him play, and register his first two career dunks, you wouldn’t know it was an issue. At first glance, Guy doesn’t wow you. He is undersized and not particularly athletic. He is an excellent catch and shoot guy, though, and gritty enough to lead the nation’s best team in scoring at 14 PPG. He needs to stay healthy and effective for UVA to reach their potential. 

Mohamed Bamba- Texas

Bamba says he is 100% healthy, and Texas needs that to be the case if they are going to pull an upset against Nevada. Bamba is a double-double machine, and a complete force on the defensive end. On top of his 4 blocks per game, he forces hesitation to go inside against the Horns. As good as Bamba is, someone on Texas will have to hit some shots for us to see more than one Bamba appearance. 

BEST FIRST ROUND MATCHUP

Kentucky vs. Davidson

Here we have two teams who are playing their best basketball of the season. Kentucky is obviously the much more talented team here, but Davidson can shoot. Kentucky has been up and down this season, and when they have been bad it has been because they haven’t been able to defend the 3 (see the Florida blowout where the Gators hit 10 3-pointers). Davidson shoots 40% from deep as a team, and Peyton Aldridge is one of the best players in the Atlantic-10. 

UPSET THREAT

Loyola-Chicago

Loyola-Chicago is 42nd in the KenPom ratings and 24th in adjusted defense. They also happen to have a high-major caliber point guard in Clayton Custer, who will give problems to a switching Miami defense. The Ramblers already have a win over Florida on their resume, and will look to bump Miami en route to a likely matchup with another SEC opponent in Tennessee. 

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The Houston Texans have just a couple of practices before their preseason debut. Here are 11 observations from Tuesday’s workout.

1.The offense stunk on Tuesday. It was inconsistent and resembled more of last year’s disappointing performances than any other practices in this training camp.

2. Davis Mills and his receivers had a few miscommunications on Tuesday. Mills sailed a pass to nobody when he and Brandin Cooks weren’t on the same page. There were some other throws to nowhere in the day. It was something that hadn’t been present at all in training camp to this point.

3. There were a few “good coverage” notes on Tuesday. Not to say there was one specific player, but a handful of team-level efforts that led to the note.

4. It wasn’t all wrong from the offense. After a pass to nowhere Davis Mills and the offense bounced back. It was a second down during a team drill and Mills fired a pass to Chris Moore for six yards. Rex Burkhead would pick up a first down on a rush a play later. A non-positive play last year on first down doomed this team. That hopefully won’t be the case for this year’s team.

5. Chad Beebe is going into his fifth season in the NFL, his first with the Texans. The former Vikings pass catcher has flashed a few times in training camp. He has an uphill battle being new to the team but is trying to make himself a factor.

6. Phillip Dorsett had a big catch over the middle. Davis Mills stood back and delivered as the offensive line held up and Dorsett reeled it in for a huge gain. No defenders were around him. It is between Dorsett and Chris Moore for the chance to be the slot wideout opening day. With Dorsett’s return to practice, it is becoming a fun camp battle.

7.Speaking of returns to practice, Tytus Howard was back. Howard has his reps managed and after practice, offensive line coach George Warhop Howard was “getting his wind” back. When Howard was having his reps managed rookie tackle Austin Deculus played at right tackle. Deculus looks much more consistent than minicamp and OTAs.

8. Kenyon Green is still out with an injury. It is getting to a critical time where the time missed might prevent the first-rounder from starting week one. Max Scharping hasn’t looked bad in his chances with the first team. Offensive line coach George Warhop said they believe in Green and his ability and he has been in meetings to stay up to date.

9. Ka’imi Fairbairn was perfect in one of the special team periods. He drilled all five kicks, each further than the last, and was crushing the football.

10. Derek Stingley was very sticky in some early reps on Nico Collins. The third overall pick is so smooth when he is working. Later his coverage forced a throw from the offense that had no chance of being completed.

11. The play of the day was made by Derek Stingley. The offense was about five or six yards out of the end zone needing a touchdown to win. With six seconds left on the clock, any completed pass that wasn’t a touchdown was game over. Davis Mills dropped back a step and fired to Nico Collins who Stingley covered. The rookie kept the second-year player out of the end zone to earn the defense a win. This was one of the better Stingley days and he did a lot of work. At one point, it looked as though he and Rex Burkhead had some words and almost led to an offense and defense scuffle, but it stayed to just some shouting. The rookie shined today.

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