Your Guide To The 2019 NCAA Men’s Tournament: South region
Best seed outlook: Could No. 1 Virginia exorcise the past year’s demons now that the team is currently at full strength? Our version thinks. The Cavaliers have a 49 percent likelihood of cracking the Final Four and a 31 percent likelihood of reaching what is the program’s first national title match.
Together with De’Andre Hunter, that wasn’t on the court this past year during UVA’s historical loss to No. 16 Maryland Baltimore County, the Cavaliers were dominant on both ends — the only team standing in the top five at Pomeroy’s adjusted offense and protection metrics. Yet again, Tony Bennett’s pack line defense is suffocating most every offensive chance and successfully turning games into stone fights. But this year’s group is even better on the offensive end and ought to breeze to the Elite Eight, in which it might meet Tennessee. Thanks to Grant Williams along with the superbly appointed Admiral Schofield, the No. 2 Volunteers are playing their best basketball in history. We give them a 22 percent likelihood of reaching the Final Four.
Sneaky Final Four select: No. 6 Villanova. Is it”sneaky” to select the team that’s won two of the previous three national titles? Maybe not. But this has not been the same group that coach Jay Wright guided to these championships. After losing a ton of its best players from last year’s title-winning team, the Wildcats had an up-and-down year and lost five of the final eight regular-season Big East games. But they also got hot over the past week, capping off a year in which they still won the Big East regular-season and conference-tournament titles — and had among the 20 best offenses in the nation based on KenPom (powered by an absurd amount of 3-pointers). Our power ratings think they’re the fourth-best team at the South despite being the No. 6 seed, and they have a 5% chance of earning it back into the Final Four for a third time in four seasons.
Do not wager on: No. 4 Kansas State. Coach Bruce Weber’s Wildcats almost made the Final Four final season, however they may find it harder this time around. K-State comes with an elite defense (it ranks fourth in the nation according to Pomeroy’s evaluations ), but its offense is prone to battles — and could be down its second-leading scorer, forward Dean Wade, who missed the team’s Big 12 championship loss to Iowa State with a foot injury. A brutal draw that gives the Wildcats tough No. 13 seed UC Irvine in the first round, then puts them contrary to the Wisconsin-Oregon winner in Round two, could restrict their capability to progress deep into a second consecutive tournament.
Cinderella see: No. 12 Oregon. According to our model, the Ducks have the very best Sweet 16 chances (24 percent) of almost any double-digit seed in the tournament, over twice that of some other candidate. Oregon struggled to string together wins for the majority of the regular season, and its odds seemed sunk following 7-foot-2 phenom Bol Bol was lost for the season with a foot injury in January. But the Ducks have rallied to win eight consecutive games going into the championship, including a convincing victory in Saturday’s Pac-12 championship. Oregon fits a similar mould as K-State — excellent defense with a suspect offense — but that’s telling, given that the Ducks are a 12-seed and the Wildcats are a No. 4. Should they fulfill in the Round of 32, we provide Oregon a 47 percent chance at the upset.
Player to watch: Grant Williams, Tennessee
The junior has come a long way from being”just a fat boy with some ability.” Williams, the de facto leader of Rick Barnes’s Volunteers, has bullied the SEC within the past two seasons, collecting two successive conference player of the year honors.
The Vols might only feature the best offense of Barnes’s training career — and we are talking about a guy who coached Kevin Durant! A lot of that offensive potency could be tracked to Williams, the team’s top scorer and rebounder, that ranks in the 97th percentile in scoring efficacy, according to data courtesy of Synergy Sports.
Williams possesses an old-man match you may find in a regional YMCA, a back-to-the-basket, footwork-proficient offensive attack that manifests primarily in post-ups, where he positions in the 98th percentile in scoring efficiency and shoots an adjusted field-goal proportion of 56.1. He can find the Volunteers buckets from the waning minutes of games, also, as he positions in the 96th percentile in isolation scoring efficacy.
Likeliest first-round upsets: No. 9 Oklahoma over No. 8 Ole Miss (53 percent); No. 12 Oregon over No. 5 Wisconsin (45 percent); No. 10 Iowa over No. 7 Cincinnati (34 percent)
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