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. 

R.C. Slocum. Wikipedia

Yesterday it was announced that former Texas A&M; Head Football Coach R.C. Slocum will be on the College Football Playoff committee for the next three years. He hasn't coached since 2002 but he hasn't been away from the game. He's been voting in the NFF college football poll and just last year resigned as chair of the American Football Coaches Foundation. He'd been the only president they had ever had. But he decided he needed a new challenge and a few months ago Bill Hancock, the executive director of the CFP committee called. It didn't take long for R.C. to agree to be on board.

"It's a great honor in terms of the committee affecting college football. It's one of the most prestigious committees out there. It's a way to give back. I've spent my whole life in college football. I was wondering which way it would take me. To be at the forefront is exciting."

It'll cut into his golf game but it won't cut into watching his Aggies. The committee meets during the week in Dallas which is a short drive for him from College Station. It's made up of a very impressive group of Athletic Directors, former coaches, a professor and now a four star general.

He's going to watch as many games as possible and do his best to put the best teams in the playoff.

"There's no right or wrong. I want to be able to be able to defend why I voted that way. I expect in those meetings I'll be able to say why I think this team is better than that team. I've always said, 'Look at it like it's a horse race. Which one would you put your money on?' I'll just try to be fair."

As far as changing the system, maybe an eight team playoff? The old ball coach didn't want anything to do with that.

"It wouldn't be very corporate of me to speculate on that. I'm just waiting to see what we do and how we do it. Every argument sounds pretty good while they're making them. This is what we have. We'll just go with that for now."

"I see a game that's as popular as ever. There are more and more games on TV but there's still 100,000 people in the stands and you can't get a ticket. Back when I coached there was a lot more defense. People were running the wishbone. Last week we had two Texas quarterbacks in an NFL playoff game. We didn't have any quarterbacks in the NFL back in the day. 7 on 7 has changed everything. And everyone talks about the quarterbacks but do you see the catches that these guys are making? It's an exciting time."

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