The most exciting tournament in sports needs no introduction. But I’ll give it one anyway, not because it needs one, but because it deserves one … March Madness is here! And that means the national gross domestic product is about to grind to a halt, as every man, woman, and child gives their undivided attention to college basketball. Leading up to the tournament, I’ll be going through each region with my final four pick, sleeper team, and bracket buster. We start with the South region.
Final Four Pick: Kansas Jayhawks (#1 seed)
Kansas enters the NCAA tournament on a 14-game winning streak, having won the Big 12 regular season and conference tournament championship. They can beat you from the inside with 6’8’’ senior forward Perry Ellis, or from the outside with any of their five 40%+ 3-point shooters. Their strength of schedule rated as the very toughest in the country, and they led the nation in wins vs. top 50 RPI opponents with 15. The selection committee deservedly rewarded Kansas with the #1 overall seed in the tournament.
Sleeper: Arizona Wildcats (#6 seed)
Everyone seems to be down on Arizona, but this is a deep team who ranks in the top 35 in both offensive and defensive efficiency. On the inside, they can attack you with talented senior forward Ryan Anderson, or seven-foot senior center Kaleb Tarczewski. As a team, they shot over 40% from three in the Pac-12. Many have Maryland as the team to watch in the South region, but I think Arizona is the real sleeper.
Bracket Buster: Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (#13 seed)
Hawaii excels on the defensive end, holding opponents to just 31.3% shooting from 3-point range, and 43.8% from two. Offensively, they are most effective when attacking the interior of a defense. They jack up plenty of threes, as well, but do not hit a great percentage from there. The star of the team is 6’11’’ stretch four Stefan Jankovic, who led the team in points, rebounds, and blocks, while also shooting 39% from three. Hawaii is going to be a tough out even if the 3-point shot isn’t falling, but if the 3’s are dropping, watch out.
By Michael Halpern
Twitter: Imaginary Brick Wall (@ImaginaryBrickW)