2021 NCAA Tournament South Region Preview


The conclusion of Selection Sunday means it’s time. Time for the greatest basketball tournament to ensue, time for history to be made. Time for sanitizer? Anyway, here is the 2021 NCAA Tournament South Region Preview.

Okay, admittedly having a national basketball tournament in the COVID-19 era is going to be a logistical nightmare. But the fact that we’ll be able to watch the Big Dance at all is a godsend for sports enthusiasts and college hoops aficionados alike.

March means it’s time for basketball madness and even though the general perception pertaining to the pandemic feels as though it’s moving in the right direction, there are huge concerns over the safety of the student-athletes and staff. A bubble in Indianapolis was put in place for the tournament — an unprecedented undertaking for the organizers of the National Championship.

Still, as was shown with Duke being disqualified in conference competition after two Blue Devils players tested positive for COVID-19, the entire dynamic of the tournament can be flipped on its head with a few infected participants.

At this point, all we can do is cross our fingers.

The 2021 men’s NCAA tournament bracket was released and there’s little time before the action begins. Tipoff of the first round goes this Friday, but before you go filling out brackets and jumping into debates as to which Cinderella team is going to steal the show or who is going to be the next Jimmer Fredette, we’ll take some time to break down the regional brackets, giving you the upper hand.

With the 2021 NCAA Tournament South Region Preview, we’ll get into the information you need to create the best bracket or to service your gambling proclivities.

2021 NCAA Tournament South Region Preview

Click here to read Tomlin’s NCAA Tournament Gambling Tips

Breakdown of the Top 4 Seeds

#1-Seed Baylor Bears

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With a 22-2 record under their belts, the Baylor Bears have a rough path to the promised land.

The South Region is stacked with brand-name teams including North Carolina, Villanova, Florida, and Wisconsin, to name only a few. 

Despite household recognition of these historically dominant programs, Baylor should be on the shortlist of contenders to make it to the Final Four.

Dominance has been Baylor’s mantra all season long, dropping just one regular-season game to Kansas. The Bears’ offense is scarily well put together. With the best 3-point percentage (.418) in the nation and top-5 in offensive efficiency, Baylor can extend leads in the blink of an eye.

They can bang in the paint as well, and their offensive rebound percentage of .375 also ranks in the top-5 at the national level.

The offense is run through Jared Butler, a 6-foot-3 junior who won AP Big 12 Player of the Year honors. Averaging 17.1 points per game, Butler led the Big 12 conference in both steals and 3-point shooting. 

Butler is paired in the backcourt with MaCio Teague, who averaged 16.2 points per game with a 39.2 3-point percentage. On the defensive side, Davion Mitchell received praise as the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, while averaging over 14 points per game.

With multiple future first-round NBA Draft picks on their roster, Baylor is a force to be reckoned with coming out of the South Region.

#2-Seed Ohio State Buckeyes

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While their 21-9 record doesn’t exactly scream dominance the way Baylor’s 22-2 record does, the Ohio State Buckeyes are one still of the most well-rounded teams in the nation. 

The Big Ten is by far the most competitive conference in college basketball and the Buckeyes were one win away from clinching their first Big 10 title in eight years. Ultimately, Ohio State lost in an overtime nail-biter to an extremely capable Illinois squad.

Forward E.J. Liddell is the team leader in points (16.1), rebounds (6.4), and blocks (1.0) per game, but Ohio State doesn’t solely rely on the sophomore for success. 

Duane Washington Jr. leads the Buckeyes in minutes played per game, serving as the anchor to the team’s offense. Washington Jr. steps up in big games— against Illinois, the junior scored 32 points and grabbed eight boards.

The Buckeyes have a deep bench of effective role players at both ends of the court. Should foul trouble play a factor in their regional games (as it often does), Ohio would be less affected than teams with a more shallow pool of talent.

#3-Seed Arkansas Razorbacks

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The Hogs are hot.

Well, at least they were until LSU iced them in the SEC semifinals.

Arkansas was on fire, having not lost a single game in the month of February and March until the Tigers doused the embers. Still, the Razorbacks fit the profile of a team that can make a serious run at the Big Dance.

This is the first night on the town for Arkansas under the leadership of second-year head coach Eric Musselman. Previously, the Hogs bench boss brought Nevada to three-consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament from 2017-19.

Although his name might suggest otherwise, Musselman and the Razorbacks employ a speedy transition offense that is prone to offensive shootouts. 

Moses Moody, the SEC Freshman of the Year, will garner ample attention for his flashy playmaking ability and his ability to score at will. Moody averaged 17.4 points per game, but if he gets going, he makes both driving to the rim or stepping back from behind the arc look nonchalant. In three of his past four outings, Moody scored at least 28 points.

Moody may be the most talented player on the Razorbacks, but forward Justin Smith is the glue that holds the team together.

The Razorbacks started the season off to a 9-0 record but lost four during a five-game stretch in early January after Smith went down with an injury. While he’s in the lineup, the Hogs have gone 22-2.

Both Moody and Smith will be integral pieces for Arkansas.

#4-Seed Purdue Boilermakers

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There’s no surprise that another Big 10 would pop up in the top-4. The Purdue Boilermakers has a team that ranks in the nation’s top-25 in both defense and offense.

Head Coach Matt Painter utilizes a nine-man rotation, all of whom average at least 14 minutes per game.

The 6-foot-10 Trevion Williams is the standout on Purdue averaging a team-high 15.6 points and nine rebounds per game. They’ll lean on their powerful inside man, but have a lot of options coming from their deep rotation of role players.

Two years ago Purdue made an admirable run to the Elite Eight. Today, four members of Painter’s Elite Eight team remain, including Williams, Sasha Stefanovic, Aaron Wheeler, and Eric Hunter Jr. These veterans have deep-tournament experience as well as a 2019 Big Ten championship under their belt.

As the only Indiana-based team, Purdue will be right at home looking to provide fans with another titillating run.

Dark Horse Team of the Region

#12-Seed Winthrop Eagles

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The Winthrop Eagles posted a 23-1 record before breezing through the Big South tournament, defeating their opponents by an average of 25.7 points.

Either Winthrop is really good, or the Big South is really bad. 

Regardless, Winthrope takes on No.5 seed Villanova Wildcats on Friday, which will be a test of their mettle. Even though Villanova is ranked fifth, they’ll be without star guard, Collin Gillespie, who was sidelined by a season-ending MCL tear earlier in the month. 

The Wildcats have had a long lay-off due to COVID-19 protocols and have lost their ace in Gillespie, which doesn’t bode well for their chances.

Winthrop on the other hand is thriving behind their star point guard, Chandler Vaudrin. At 6-foot-7, the rangy athlete can take over in all facets of the game. He has the most triple-doubles in the NCAA with three and averages 12.2 points, 7.2 boards, and 6.9 assists. 

While there is a real question regarding their strength of schedule leading up to the Big Dance, head coach Pat Kelsey may lead the Eagles to a surprising tournament run. Keep an eye out for this potential bracket buster.

Other Players to Watch from the Region

Keve Aluma, F, Virginia Tech

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The redshirt junior Keve Aluma has been the go-to guy for Virginia Tech all year. 

Averaging 15.6 points to go along with eight rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game, the 6-foot-9 forward from Berlin, Maryland has the potential to do some damage if the Hokies can put together a run.

This season has been Aluma’s coming out party, doubling his points and assist averages from last season, where he played for Wofford. Transferring to Virginia Tech to follow head coach Mike Young turned out to be a great decision for the 22-year-old, who secured All-ACC Second Team honors and a 15-6 record heading into the tournament.

Keep an eye on Aluma, he might turn some heads.

Jordan Burns, G, Colgate Raiders

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Colgate is extremely fun to watch. They’re all run, all gun, and are always expected to drop monster numbers. 

One of the reasons for their highly potent offense is 6-foot guard, Jordan Burns.

The explosive Burns is known for slashing through the lane, freezing defenders with his break-neck speed. He can also sink the deep ball, hitting 3-pointers at a 41% clip. 

The last time Burns was at the NCAA Tournament, he dropped 32 points against a heavily favored Tennessee squad, nearly providing enough offensive firepower to upset the No.2 seeded Vols.

This year, Burns is averaging 17.1 points per game to go along with 1.6 steals, 5.5 assists, and 4.5 rebounds.

I can’t wait to watch this guy play.

Best Game of the First Round

#3-Seed Arkansas Razorbacks vs #14-Seed Colgate Raiders

If you like high-scoring games, then this one is for you.

Colgate averages an astonishing 86.4 points per game, which ranks second, nationally. Arkansas can also rack up the numbers, averaging 82.4, which is good for seventh in the nation.

It will be interesting to see how the Razorbacks plan to bottle up Jordan Burns because doing so will be a major key to their success against the Raiders.

While I expect Arkansas to be in control of this one, there isn’t much room for error because Colgate has the ability to take big bites out of any lead. 

Keep Your Bags Packed in Indy

The South Region has the potential to be one of the most upset-laden divisions in recent history —Four teams in the region have won at least one National Championship since the mid-’90s. 

With that being said, Baylor’s dominance cannot be understated. A 22-2 record in the Big 12 is nothing to scoff at.

They’ve also got NBA-talent at their disposal. Jared Butler could catapult himself into a top-10 draft pick if he shows out during the Big Dance, and his partner Davion Mitchell can certainly cut a rug as well.

Baylor is ranked No.2 in the nation for a reason and I don’t see the likes of Ohio State or Arkansas toppling the offensive giant during the opening section of the tournament.

Do I think Baylor can win it all? Probably not. It’s the year of the Zags. But with that said, I think they’ll roll into the Sweet Sixteen without much of a problem.

Click here to read the East, West and Midwest Region previews

About Tyler Mulligan

Tyler is a multimedia sports journalist from Toronto, Canada. He's a contributor for Fantasy Six Pack and an analyst at Pro Football Focus. His main areas of focus are football, hockey and basketball, but his heart lies in fantasy sports.

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