A lot of people placing NCAA Tournament Picks for the South Region are going to expect that only two teams have a real chance of coming out of this region, but one of the underdogs might upset.
Game 1: UCLA Bruins vs. Gonzaga Bulldogs – Friday, March 27
The UCLA Bruins were viewed by a lot of experts as a team that really shouldn’t have been allowed into the NCAA Tournament. The Bruins lost to Arizona in the semifinals of the Pac-12 tournament, which was supposed to have marked the end of their final desperate bid to get into March Madness. However, when the brackets were revealed, UCLA saw its name come up on the screen. The Bruins have taken advantage. They beat SMU in their first game on a very controversial goaltending call in the final 15 seconds, and then they played a number 14 seed in the South Region, the UAB Blazers, who beat third-seeded Iowa State earlier in the tournament. By getting that easier matchup in the second game of the tournament, UCLA was able to get this far. The Bruins, though, must now try to beat a Gonzaga team that defeated UCLA by double digits on UCLA’s home court in the non-conference part of the season. Gonzaga looked very sharp in rolling past Iowa on Sunday. The Bulldogs won by a score of 87-68, shooting 61.5 percent from the field. The Bulldogs were 10 of 16 in shooting three-pointers. If Gonzaga could easily handle UCLA in a true road game, the Bulldogs should be able to handle UCLA in a neutral-court game as well.
NCAA Tournament Pick: Gonzaga -8.5 at Pinnacle
Game 2: Utah Utes vs. Duke Blue Devils – Friday, March 27
The Utah Utes looked very strong in beating the Georgetown Hoyas this past Saturday. The Utes moved the ball well and got a lot of players involved in their offense. They hit 58 percent of their shots against Georgetown, 57 percent from three-point range. Utah outscored Georgetown from the free throw line, 23 to 7. The Utes played the game the way they wanted to play it. If Utah does hit a lot of shots in this game, Duke will have a real battle on its hands. The Blue Devils know that Jahlil Okafor is a great offensive center, but it’s his defense which needs work. If Utah’s interior players are able to play well on offense and force Okafor to work hard on defense, the Utes might get Okafor in foul trouble, and then they can attack Duke in an even more direct way. However, Utah’s interior players have not been consistently good through the season, and Duke has such a good backcourt with Tyus Jones leading the charge. The Blue Devils should have enough to pull away in this game.
NCAA Tournament Pick: Duke as favorites in NCAA Tournament odds
Projected Elite Eight Game: Gonzaga Bulldogs vs. Duke Blue Devils – Sunday, March 29
These are the two best teams in the region, and they have teams that can exploit the other’s weaknesses. Gonzaga can score on Duke with Kyle Wiltjer, who hit 10 of 12 shots on Sunday against Iowa. Duke hit over 54 percent of its field goals and committed only nine turnovers against San Diego State on Sunday. If the Blue Devils are anywhere near those numbers in this game, they’ll be our NCAA Tournament pick to win.