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2023 NCAA Tournament Region Breakdown And Gambling Picks - There Will Be Mayhem In The South Region Thanks To Mid-Majors

I’ll be looking at each region over the next couple of days as the NCAA Tournament gets ready to tip. We’ll look at matchups to watch, previews, picks, players to watch and what team could be a sleeper to come out of each region.  I’ll be releasing my entire bracket on Wednesday or Thursday so there won’t be a ton of revealing here.

South Region

Storylines

1. Alabama as the No. 1 overall seed - We know the Brandon Miller situation so we won't use that as the headline here. But now Alabama as the No. 1 overall seed pressure on them too. Nate Oats needs to make a Final Four. He's already put winning above decency so you better win the whole fucking thing. 

2. Baylor's defense - I thought Baylor would be the best team in the country this year. I love their backcourt because it's elite with a top-5 pick in George. But their defense? Well their defense blows. It's why I'm out on them. Their offense is fine, they hunt ISOs and take advantage of it. But the defense gets torched by like Iowa State. They have the talent to make a Final Four, but that second round game against two damn good offenses could be a massive problem. 

3. Mayhem in the middle - Furman over Virginia is going to be a popular pick, especially with Ben Vander Plas out with a wrist injury. Furman is also good, so that helps. But then you have Charleston and SDSU in the 5/12 game. People know all about Charleston because they were ranked, racked up a bunch of wins and were talked about a ton. We also know about the Mountain West sucking in the NCAA Tournament lately. SDSU is good, but that'll be talked about non stop. There could be mayhem in that bracket and can see any 4 coming out of the pod. 

4. Arizona underrated - I actually think Arizona is a bit underrated because of the Pac-12. That league sucks outside of them and UCLA, which they took 2 of 3 from. Kerr Kriisa is battling a shoulder injury but as a 2 seed they can easily win the title. We saw them lose in the Sweet 16 last year as a 1 seed so there's going to be some 'revenge' in a way. They have an All-American in Tubelis. They have experience. They have the ability to go big with Tubelis and Ballo or run small. 

5. The Creighton dilemma - Creighton was the 'it' team before the season started. Now here they are as a 6 seed, which just feels right. They made the jump from a year ago and it was fine. They went on that losing streak in the middle of the season with Kalkbrenner out and have looked better obviously with your DPOY back. But they got a somewhat brutal draw here because NC State's guards can score with Creighton and DJ Burns is a good big man. I don't know what to do with Creighton. I could see them in the Elite 8, I could see them losing round 1. 

Players to Watch

There are a couple ways to look at this, but I’m looking at this strictly as an intrigue factor. These are players that could be lottery picks in the NBA Draft, could put a team on their back or are just flat out good players. I'll try to avoid the obvious like Zach Edey or Jalen Wilson. 

1. Pelle Larsson (Arizona) - We know about Tubelis, Bello and Kriisa from Arizona so there were a variety of ways to go. Could have taken Courtney Ramey here or Kylan Boswell, but Larsson is the guy. He's a 6'5" guy who plays bigger than he is and does a little bit of everything. Want him to get a bucket? No problem. Need him to make a play and set someone up? He's good at that too. He's a unique matchup and sneaky the x-factor for Arizona to make a run. 

2. Mark Sears (Alabama) - The Ohio transfer is an important piece for Alabama. He's the lead guard with Quinerly and really the key for Sears is 1) to shoot the ball and 2) not turn it over. He can get a little turnover happy but that's just the way he plays. If you get the good version of Sears and a guy who is shooting well, good luck beating Alabama. 

3. JP Pegues (Furman) - I said I love this Furman team and it's mostly because of the experience of Slawson and Bothwell. But Pegues, a sophomore guard, is really the missing piece. He's third on the team in scoring. He was hot during the SoCon Tournament scoring 17 in every game. Teams will plan around Slawson and Bothwell so you need Pegues to attack. 

4. Jonathan Tchamwa-Tchatchoua (Baylor) - I mentioned the guards so we'll go with JTT here. He came back from injury in the middle of the season and started hitting threes. But more importantly he's the one guy that can make the Baylor defense close to average. He doesn't block a ton of shots, but he can bother people at the rim. Teams want to put Baylor in ball screens so you need JTT to be able to adjust. 

5. Kobe Brown (Missouri) - That 7/10 game is fascinating and should be high scoring. But Brown is Mizzou's best player and the way they play he becomes even more important. They are frantic defensively, trying to force turnovers. But on offense they have the freedom to do whatever. That's where Brown comes in. He's a 6'8" wing that can attack off the dribble or take advantage of a mismatch. 

Best Bet To Make The Final Four (via Barstool Sportsbook) - Arizona +350

Again, I don't love much here but we make a pick. I wanted to take Baylor or Creighton but the fact they play each other and Creighton has a tough 1st round draw scares me a bit. Honestly hope for a little chaos so Arizona has a decent draw to the Elite Eight and take my chances there. Alabama at under 2/1 isn't something I want to touch even if they are the heavy favorites. 

Matchup You Most Want To See: No. 1 Alabama vs No. 2 Arizona in the Elite Eight. Simple. The two best teams by a wide margin. 

Best early gut first round play: I'll come out with my final plays day of, so this is just first gut. Don't overthink it.

West Virginia -1.5

I was going to go with the over in Mizzou/Utah State, but we're sticking with sides here. The first reason I'm taking WVU? Maryland hasn't been great away from home. Their wins on neutral/road courts are: Miami (good), St. Louis (average), Louisville (historically bad), Minnesota x2 (really bad). That's it. Now you have a WVU team that will try to get after Jahmir Young and can throw a couple guys on Scott. I like the matchup and I think the Big 12 is loaded so WVU is a little undervalued.