Despite the plethora of upsets in the NCAA tournament, the South region has largely followed form and any astute basketball follower is not shocked No.5 Maryland advanced ahead of No.4 California.
This leaves the South as arguably the toughest region remaining if you use the finals coaches poll, which has a composite score of rankings at 35 compared to the 46 for the West, which had all its Top 4 seeds advance. In the interest of full disclosure, the West actually has a lower composite total of teams that could win the national championship at 5Dimes.eu (25 vs. the South at 32), but that is in large part due to the strength assigned to Kansas and Villanova. Anyways, we will talk about each teams path and what the NCAA Tournament Odds are to win the South and to be crowned national champions.
The Jayhawks gave every impression they are a team on a mission is taking out Austin Peay and a very game Connecticut crew. Kansas has won 16 in a row, beating the sportsbooks number a fabulous 13 times and they have won those contests against outstanding competition by 13.6 points a game. As CBS's Doug Gottlieb pointed out in looking ahead to their game with Maryland in the Sweet 16, the Terrapins might have better individual talent at a couple positions, but from team standpoint, hard to find a team playing better together and as cohesively on both ends of the floor. For making NCAA Tournament Picks, just about impossible in finding fault not to make a wager on either Kansas scenario for betting purposes.
With the 800-pound gorilla off their back in advancing to Sweet 16 for first time in seven years after demolishing Iowa, Villanova has no reason to play tight against either Miami or probably Kansas. Though Villanova lost three starters from a year ago, this Wildcats club has more diversity. Freshman Jalen Brunson gives Nova another true point guard along with Ryan Arcidiacono, which frees up Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins to do damage. Villanova has shot over 58 percent in two tourney games and while this is unlikely to happen against the Hurricanes, the Cats confidence level is high and if they can stay at nine made three's like they have averaged and don't get killed on the boards, not a bad wager for region or winning the whole thing.
As experienced as Villanova is, Miami starts three seniors and two juniors. These Hurricanes have weathered many storms this season and just when you want to count them out, they find a way to hang in there. Holding off Buffalo and Wichita State's ferocious rally were just the two latest examples of Jim Larranaga's club who when it comes to crunch time, they just make plays. Having Angel Rodriguez and Sheldon McClellan in the backcourt offer the necessary stability needed and the team's defense has put opponents thus far on lockdown at 36.4 percent. The Canes are a long shot to win twice in Louisville, but the way this year has gone, you cannot dismiss team who has intangibles beyond numbers.
Maryland is the least likely team to advance out of the region given the level of competition they have to overcome. In order for the Terps to have a chance, they must have a lead of three to four points with three minutes to go in the game against Kansas or whomever they would play in an Elite 8 encounter. Maryland was tied for 12th in the country for free throw percentage at 76 percent and have they have further upped the game by making 52 of 58 (89.6%) in the tournament, making them almost impossible to catch late with a lead. Also hard to overlook Melo Trimble and friends are 10 for 41 from deep and if they fall behind, how do they catch up and win any game?