The South Region had an exciting first round with 3 double-digit seeds advancing, and we got a look at four teams that are contenders to make a deep run this year. Two of these double-digit seeds square off on Sunday after Oregon getting an impressive win over Wisconsin to advance and UC Irvine showing the world that winning 30 games is no joke with their upset over Kansas State. Virginia will continue to look for redemption to last years blunder, and it almost looked like a repeat was possible for the Cavaliers as Gardner-Webb had a 14 point lead before Virginia came out hot in the second half. They will face Oklahoma, who easily handled Ole Miss and put up 95 points. The bottom half of the South Region has one of the most exciting matchups with Purdue lining up with the reigning national champs, Villanova. The final matchup in this region will see Tennessee play against Iowa as these two advanced in games that weren’t over until the very end.
Check out all of our March Madness previews & picks here.
Villanova (6) vs. Purdue (3)
This game is the only Saturday contest in the South Region as they face up in Hartford, Connecticut tomorrow night. Purdue faces a serious obstacle in their path with this second round matchup against Villanova. Both of these teams have tourney experience, and seeds are irrelevant at this point. Villanova is now 14-1 in the tournament since 2016, and Purdue is looking to land in the Sweet 16 for the third year in a row.
For Villanova, it starts with senior captains Phil Booth (20 points vs. St. Mary’s) and Eric Paschall (14 points) to provide veteran leadership as these two have won two national championships in their three years at Nova. Purdue will rely on Carsen Edwards, who led the Big 10 in scoring at 23 points per game, although he is 24 for 89 in his last four games due to a back ailment. The Boilermakers Point guard, Nojel Eastern, is also injured after pre-game warmups and was limited in the second half of their first round over Old Dominion.
The line for this game is Purdue as -3.5 point favorites, but our betting pick is Villanova at +3.5.
Iowa (10) vs. Tennessee (2)
In the first round, Tennessee held off Colgate and Iowa pulled off a small upset of the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Vols played a great first half and will need to play a better second half to beat a team in Iowa with all of the success the Big Ten teams are having in the tournament. On the opposite side, Iowa was down most of their game against Cincy, but they never lost faith or gave up.
The Hawkeyes shot the ball well other than their leading scoring, Tyler Cook, who will need to play better if they want to pull off an upset of Tennessee. Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp shot the lights out, combining for 39 of the teams 79 points. The Volunteers had their trio (Schofield, Williams, Bone) play very well in the first round and those three will need to show out again to put away Iowa who came into the tournament on a bad last five games.
The Volunteers are -8 point favorites, and we expect they will cover that spread in early action on Sunday in Columbus, Ohio.
Oklahoma (9) vs. Virginia (1)
Virginia is never going to hear the end of their loss last year as the first number 1 seed to lose to a 16 seed, and it almost looked like it would happen again with them trailing by as much as 14 to Gardner-Webb. It’s not unusual for a low seed to hang around with a high seed for the first half of the game, but it’s not a guarantee anymore that the high seed will pull away in the second half as Virginia knows very well. They will face the likes of Oklahoma who just handled Ole Miss by putting up a 95 spot on them. The Sooners aren’t likely to get close to that number again as the Cavaliers defense only allows 55.1 points per game on average.
Oklahoma has gone 0-5 when playing top-ranked defenses this season, so they will need Kristian Doolittle to shoot well again as he finished their first-round win with 19 points, 15 rebounds, and 5 assists. OU had four players finished with at least 18 points, but that will not be happening against this Virginia D. Virginia’s offense was led by De’Andre Hunter’s 23 points, and they will need their leading scorer Kyle Guy to shoot better if they want to continue to advance on their redemption run.
Virginia is currently the -11.5 point favorite, but this could be a lower scoring game so the margin should be small. The Betting Pick for this game is Oklahoma as +11.5 point underdogs on Sunday night.
UC Irvine (13) vs. Oregon (12)
The two big upset teams of the South Region get to face off in the latest game on Sunday night in San Jose, California. UC Irvine entered the tournament with 30 wins, which is no joke no matter what conference you play in, and they have now won their 17th consecutive game. Oregon also came in winning eight straight games to finish the year, so neither of these upsets were huge surprises. This game guarantees that a double-digit seed will be in the Sweet 16 yet again. Neither of these teams are worried about their seeds, though, and they both have the swagger and confidence to play against anyone in this field.
UC Irvine’s confidence is led by great guard play of Max Hazzard and Evan Leonard, who each finished the first round win over Kansas State with 19 points. Friday’s win was their first ever win in school history at the NCAA tourney, but they aren’t looking to stop there. Oregon proves to be a formidable opponent to the Anteaters as they are long, athletic, and will squeeze you on defense. Oregon is led by junior guard Payton Pritchard, who started on the Ducks Final Four team in 2017 and scored a team-high 19 points against Wisconsin in the first round. Oregon also has a freshman, Louis King, who has averaged 17.8 points per game in the past four games to help with their scoring attack. On the defensive end, Kenny Wooten provided some elite rim protection against the Badgers, and he has now blocked at least four shots in three consecutive games.
Both of these teams are on hot streaks and can play with any team in the country. Oregon is currently a -5 point favorite for the last game of the second round of action on Sunday night. The betting pick for this game is with Oregon to cover as -5 point favorites.
The South Region Roundup
The South Region is ready for some more madness to begin! But who will it be: Virginia, Tennessee, Purdue, Villanova, Oklahoma, Iowa, Oregon, UC Irvine? We know a double-digit seed will be in the Sweet 16, and 2 of the top 5 seeds have already been eliminated. Virginia will be playing every game to show that last year was a fluke, and their redemption will be so sweet if they can win this Region. Tennessee, Purdue, and the reigning national champs in Villanova will have something to say to that as they will prove to be a difficult path to get through for a trip to the Final Four. Or could one of the lower seeds be the Cinderella Story for this year’s March Madness? I suppose all we can do it wait and find out.
Check out all of our March Madness previews & picks here.