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Bracket Analysis: South Region

Quinn Cook
Despite not winning the ACC regular season nor championship nor the conference tournament, Duke's victories over Virginia, North Carolina and Wisconsin were enough to earn them the No. 1 seed in the South Region. The Blue Devils will be lead be their usual fair share of star power, including center Jahlil Okafor, swingman Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones, who has been clutch in big games this year for the Blue Devils. Add in steady veterans like Quinn Cook, who joins Jones in the backcourt, along with Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones, and on paper the Blue Devils certainly have a Final Four-caliber squad. Though, Duke has had moments where they've choked in the tournament big time. Last year, despite having Jabari Parker and All-ACC forward Rodney Hood, Duke was upset by Mercer in the second round. And, losses in years prior to teams like VCU as an 11 seed taking down the Blue Devils all the way back in '07 and the all-too-familiar loss to Lehigh as a 2 seed. Though, the road to a deep run inside the region is not necessarily that difficult. Duke should be able to handle the winner of San Diego State/St. John's and both Utah and Georgetown, who could be their Sweet 16 matchups appear to be on serious upset alert. While a meeting with Iowa State or Gonzaga could be a huge matchup down in the Elite Eight pairing, Duke appears primed to at least make some moves this season.

Stephen F. Austin's upset over VCU was one of the craziest, heart-wrenching moments in the Tournament a year ago, and the Lumberjacks return to the Field of 68. Down a year ago by four late in the game to the Rams, a Lumberjack was fouled while hitting a three. He would hit the free throw and in overtime, SFA would take down the Rams in a popular upset pick. Don't be surprised if the Lumberjacks break another five seed's heart. Utah could be their victim this season. While the Utes do have spectacular senior guard Delon Wright, an All-Pac-12 player they don't have much depth and their offense has been absolutely streaky. The Lumberjacks space the floor extremely well, pass well and are smart and have two solid scorers to lead their efficient offense in Thomas Walkup (15.7 points per game) and Jacob Parker (14.1). Don't be surprised if SFA uses their size down low and three-point shooting ability to stun a very vulnerable Utes team, a program making their first appearance in the Big Dance since moving to the Pac-12.

The Lumberjacks opponent in the third round could also be a "Cinderella" possibility. Georgetown also has a long history of choking, most notoriously two tournaments ago, when "Dunk City" and Florida Gulf Coast dominated them as a 15 seed. The Hoyas have put together an impressive season but many were still surprised when a team without many big wins and a lackluster Big East Tournament showing were awarded with a four seed. They will meet the Big Sky Champ, the Eastern Washington Eagles, another balanced team with an efficient offense. While the Eagles did beat up on Big Sky opponents all year, they also proved they can beat the big boys too, stunning Tom Crean's Indiana team earlier in the year. The Eagles are blessed with one of the nation's most underrated guards in sophomore Tyler Harvey, who is averaging nearly 23 points per game and shooting 43 percent from deep. The Hoyas are a good defensive team but they can be beat in transition and speed by the opponent. If the Eagles can shut down Georgetown star D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, a great scorer who has also been prone to bad decisions, and contain massive center Joshua smith, a former UCLA transfer, they will be in prime position for a huge upset and will set up a third round between two double-digit seeds.

For the second straight season, Iowa State dominated the Big 12 Tournament, culminating in a huge win in the Championship over Kansas, the second time the Cyclones beat the Jayhawks on the year. Despite the run in the conference tournament, the Cyclones were given a 3 seed and earned a label as somewhat of a "dark horse" in the tournament. The Cyclones are led by one of the nation's best forwards Georges Niang, a junior who does it all. He averages 15.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game and is one of the nation's best passing big man averaging 3.5 per game. ISU also has streaky scoring Monte Morris to lead the offense and their usual stud transfer in UNLV product Bryce Dejean-Jones, who can score in a variety of different ways. 14th-seeded UAB made an impressive run in the Conference USA Tournament but they are not anywhere close to the level of the Cyclones. While a possible meeting with SMU in the third round could be dangerous things don't get that tough until a likely meeting in the Sweet 16 with Gonzaga. While many have openly questioned Gonzaga's resume they still play great basketball and are motivated to make a major run. Even so, the Cyclones have their usual abundance of shooters, a legitimate star in Niang and more experience than they had last season. They could make a huge run this year, and are my pick to make it out of the region.

Legendary head coach Larry Brown has completely transformed SMU from a struggling program consistently near the bottom half of the C-USA to the best team in the still young AAC and a dangerous tournament team. After being snubbed from the field last year, SMU made sure they were a lock winning their conference tournament and earning a six seed. While 6-11 matchups are breeding grounds of upsets, the Mustangs got perhaps the weakest at-large team in the entire field. UCLA has been dominated in meetings with Kentucky, Utah, Arizona and a number of other teams inside their conference and were just 2-8 against the RPI Top 100 (2-8!). While Kevon Looney can give some teams problems down low, the Mustangs are deeper, better-coached and just plain more talented. Meeting Iowa State in the next round would be a huge challenge for Brown and SMU but just getting a win in the Big Dance would continue to show just how far the Mustangs have come and how much potential they have in the future.

South Picks
Second Round

1 Duke over
16 Robert Morris

9 St. John's over
8 San Diego State

12 Stephen F. Austin over
5 Utah

13 Eastern Washington over
4 Georgetown

3 Iowa State over
14 UAB

6 SMU over

7 Iowa over
10 Davidson

2 Gonzaga over
15 North Dakota State

Third Round

1 Duke over
9 St. John's

12 Stephen F. Austin over
13 Eastern Washington

3 Iowa State over

2 Gonzaga over
7 Iowa

Sweet 16

1 Duke over
12 Stephen F. Austin

3 Iowa State over
2 Gonzaga

3 Iowa State over 1 Duke

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