Arguably the most packed bracket in the bunch, the south regions boasts institutions which have combined for 12 final four appearances since 2006 and 4 of the last 6 national champions.
Best player: Otto Porter Jr. In 6 losses this year, Porter only broke 15 twice. When he scores above that mark, the Hoyas are (21-4). Out of 14 players who play on this Hoyas team, there are no seniors. Coach John Thompson has talked tirelessly about the job Markel Starks and Porter have done leading the team. Porter shines bright in the biggest game, hanging 33(5 three pointers) in the dome @ Syracuse, and a 17 point 12 rebound performance against Louisville, both wins. Porters best performance this year was in the 22 point win over Syracuse in their 2nd meeting, when Porter had 10 points, 8 boards, and 7 assists. This was the 6'8 sophomore forward's most complete game of the season and you can see the development in the other facets of the game. Porter shoots 49% from the field and 43% from behind the arc, displaying his ability to take smart shots, also a sold 78% from the line. This Georgetown team rides Porter on the offensive and defensive end and I think he is more important to his team than Marshall Henderson to Ole Miss because of what he does on both ends. Porter is a star and I cannot wait to watch him lead this young and hungry Hoya club.
Best Coach: It was between Steve Fisher and my man Shaka Smart because anytime you stress the defensive side of the basketball like these guys do, your team has a chance in every game. Both use athletes to run a high pressure defensive system. VCU's patented "Havoc" defense is a full court frenzy in which Smart mixes man and zone pressed, attempting to force an mid-court entry pass to the awkward big man who will cough it up, or D you up with fantastic defensive guards such as Darius Theus and Briante Webber. And then you have Steve Fisher's grind you out in the half court defense, which is very similar to Ohio State's suffocating defense. ESPN writer Kevin Gemmel described the Aztecs 69-67 win over UNLV last year. as "more of an MMA scrap then a college basketball game." Coach Fisher wouldn't have it any other way, when asked about the win he replied "this was a wonderful college game." Quite frankly, not a lot has changed. 20 games in this year, 3 teams had broken 70 points against SDSU. It's been an up and down year at times for both teams, VCU had two 2 game losing streaks.... not a common occurrence for the Rams. Smart has done a great job rallying his troops and his enthusiasm is unmatched on the court. There aren't many defensive possessions for the Rams where you won't see Shaka, coat off, down in a stance yelling and screaming. This is a split decision for me, the old timer and the up and comer share the title.
Most overrated team: This one is glaring to me, sorry Gator Nation. The SEC is garbage and the Gators haven't played that many great teams. Their best win was an early season win against Wisconsin on November 14th. The last ranked opponent they played was Kentucky, when the Wildcats were 25th in the country. This is also the game where Nerlens Noel was injured. Which sounds even worse considering the Gators dropped a game @ Rupp Arena a few weeks later. Kenny Boyton's scoring has dropped 3 points, which is a considerable amount, his assists and rebounds have gone up fractionally. His last 20 point game was January 12th against LSU. But it's not just on Boyton, the trio of seniors(Boyton,Mike Rosario, Erik Murphy) have to step up. They visibly gave up in the Gators loss at Arkansas. A potential 2nd round matchup with Minnesota would see the Gators make an early exit in my mind, they haven't played a great team in a considerable stretch, and Minnesota plays strong teams night in and night out in the Big 10(no discredit to UCLA, but the Jordan Adams injury is a sizable blow). The Gators might surprise me with inspired basketball after that heartbreaking loss to Ole Miss, but I do not see it happening for Billy Donavan's club this year.
Most Underrated team: Did you ever think Roy Williams' UNC Tarheels would be underrated in the tournament? After seeing them play live three times in Greensboro, I'm ready to call them a dark horse. Things didn't start off well, but the Heels got it together winning 9 of their last 11 games, and I know the loss to Duke was bad, but they challenged Miami last week in a game where honestly Carolina looked really good in. The Heels have a big 3 in PJ Hairston, Reggie Bullock, and James Michael McAdoo. Also, Freshman Marcus Page hits big shots, as he did against Maryland. Carolina has appeared to have figured it out, and with a man who has been to the mountain top multiple times in Roy Williams, anything is possible.-Josh Neighbors
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