2022 NCAA Tournament South Region Preview

by Dylan Clemons
2022 NCAA Tournament South Region

It’s here, every basketball fan’s favorite part of the year, March Madness. I for one can't wait to sit on my couch Thursday through Friday this week and watch these teams battle for their teams' seasons. In this article, I will be breaking down the 2022 NCAA Tournament South Region Preview.

After the grueling conference schedule, all of these teams have endured as we finally hit Selection Sunday. Everyone can start filling out their brackets, planning out their knockout pool picks, or just researching games they want to gamble on.

The South Region features some great teams in this region. There are also some sleeper teams, where if a ball bounces a certain way in their favor, they can make a deep run in the tournament. Now let’s jump into breaking down the 2022 NCAA Tournament South Region Preview.

2022 NCAA Tournament South Region Preview

Breakdown of the Top 4 Seeds

#1-Seed Arizona Wildcats (+110 to win the region, +700 to win the title)

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The Arizona Wildcats earned their first NCAA tournament birth in four seasons. Led by Head Coach Tommy Lloyd in his first season with the program led Arizona to a 31-3 and 18-2 record. The former Gonzaga assistant brought them back to the tournament and is a number one seed in the tournament, their first number one seed since 2014.

The Wildcats also won their conference tournament on Saturday, beating UCLA 84-76 giving them their sixth quad one win on the season behind Bennedict Mathurin's 27 points. The Arizona offense is ranked fifth in the country in adjusted offensive efficiency. Led by Mathurin, who is averaging just over 17 points per game. The Wildcats have four starters that averaged double digits in points. As they're very balanced all the way through inside and out.

Arizona takes on the winner of Bryant University who won the Northeast Conference and Wright St who won the Horizon League tournament. Bryant would be the most intriguing matchup with them being led by Peter Kiss who leads the nation in scoring at 25 points per game. With Arizona being ranked in the top 20 in offense and defensive efficiency I expect them to make a deep run in this tournament, perhaps even a final four appearance.

#2-Seed Villanova Wildcats (+400 to win the region, +1400 to win the title)

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Villanova is coming off a wild weekend in which they held off Creighton 54-48 for a Big East tournament championship. Finishing the season 26-7 and 16-4 in the Big East conference. They are the number two seed in this region which is their highest seeding since they won the National Championship back in 2018.

Jay Wright has done another outstanding job with this team, who is led by their two upperclassmen guards. Collin Gillespie and Justin Moore each average just over 15 points per game and are the leaders of this team. Villanova ranks eighth in the country in offensive efficiency and 28th in the country in defensive efficiency.

The road to the final four for Villanova starts against Delaware who finished 22-12 and won the CAA championship to earn their berth into the big dance. Unfortunately for them, I don't see them standing much chance against this Villanova team. Delaware ranks outside the top 100 in offense and defense. If Villanova gets past Deleware they will take on either Loyola-Chicago or Ohio State, a much more intriguing matchup.

#3-Seed Tennesee Volunteers (+500 to win the region, +1400 to win the title)

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Tennesee is coming into this week feeling fantastic after beating Kentucky in the semi-finals and claiming their first SEC tournament championship in 43 seasons. The Vols and Rick Barnes look to bounce back after a first-round upset last season as a five seed.

Tennesee comes in with an impressive resume going 11-7 in quadrant one games.  They are also ranked seventh in KenPom and in the NET. Some seem to think that Tennesee is was worthy of a higher seed, and I won't make an argument otherwise. Freshman guard Kennedy Chandler leads the team in scoring, but the offense isn't the reason why this team is so good, it's the defense.  They rank 10th in defensive rating in the country, and they can really lock a team-up

Tennesee draws the number 14 seeded Longwood who won the Big South regular-season and tournament title. Longwood is a very solid team ranking in the top 30 in offensive rating and top 60 in defensive rating. But I don't know if I can see them upsetting this Vols team. I am intrigued to see a matchup between the Vols and Michigan if they can upset Colorado State. Michigan is a very talented team, that just happened to underachieve this season.

#4-Seed Illinois Fighting Illini (+800 to win the region, +5000 to win the title)

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The Illinois Fighting Illini have had a roller coaster of a season, to say the least. All American Center Kofi Cockburn was suspended for the first three games of the season. Then after Cockburn returned to the lineup, reigning sixth man of the year Andre Curbelo went down with a concussion/neck injury that forced him to miss 11 games.

After all that, the Illini were still able to earn a share of the Big Ten title for the first time in 17 years. The Illini finished with a 22-9 record and 15-5 in the conference while going 6-6 in Quad one opportunities. Last season a lot of people were picking the Illini to make the final four. However, their season ended early in the second last season to eight-seeded Loyola-Chicago. That didn't sit well with the Illini team or fans.

Head Coach Brad Underwood is still looking to make the second weekend of the tournament for the first time in his career. First things first, however, they have to get past the Chatanooga Mocs. The Mocs, winners of the Southern Conference tournament on a buzzer-beater isn't going to be a tough out. The Mocs led by former top-40 recruit Kansas Silvio de Sousa and Malachi Smith who is an Illinois native and former Illini recruit are tough matchups. I'm excited about this matchup, and this has a chance to be the best game of the first round of this region.

Dark Horse Team of The Region

#10-Seed Loyola Chicago Ramblers

Is it ok to call the Loyola Ramblers a dark horse in this region after their run to the sweet 16 last season? I think so, Porter Moser departed to Oklahoma after the run last season. So that left the job open for the youngest head coach in college basketball Drew Valentine who is just 30 years old. Valentine led the Ramblers to a 25-7 in his first season and a being 24th ranked in the KenPom.

This team is led by their senior guard Lucas Williamson. I still have a nightmare being an Illini fan of what Lucas Williamson did to Ayo Dosunmu in the second round last year. He is an absolutely awesome defender and also led the team in scoring with 14 points per game. Williamson has led the Ramblers to a top 25 defensive efficiency for the second year in a row. They are also in the top 35 in offensive rating as well. The Ramblers are very well-rounded, and it wouldn't surprise me if they pulled a couple of upsets in this region.

Other Players to Watch From the Region

Ej Liddell, Ohio State

If you told me that EJ Lidell is the best player in the south region I wouldn't be able to argue with you. The Junior forward who is most likely a first-round pick in the NBA draft averaged 19 points per game to go along with seven rebounds.

Liddell is the heart and soul of this Ohio State squad and does it inside and out. He shot a career-high 37% from downtown. If Ohio State wants to beat the Ramblers in the first round, Liddell is going to be the reason why.

Alfonso Plummer, Illinois

Alfonso Plummer is one of the most polarizing players in this NCAA tournament. He is a fifth-year senior who transferred from the University of Utah. Plummer at times is a streaky shooter, but when he is on there isn't a better shooter in the country.

Alfonso Plummer shot 41% from the three-point line this season on seven attempts, which ranks 19th in the country, so he isn't afraid to get shots up. Plummer, along with Andre Curbelo are wild cards for this Illini team. If they are both on that potential Sweet 16 rematch between Arizona and Illinois could be a juicy one.

Best Game Of The First Round

#6 Colorado State vs #11 Michigan Wolverines

This game intrigues me for a couple of different reasons. Michigan opens this game as the betting favorite which is weird to see because they are the 11 seed in this matchup. A lot of people weren't happy with Michigan getting in the tournament as they only went 17-14 on the season and 11-9 in the big ten. But what got them in, for the most part, was their strength of schedule which ranked seventh in the country. This Michigan team definitely underachieved under Juwan Howard this season, but they still have so much talent.

The two five-star freshmen Caleb Houston and Moussa Diabate struggled to begin the year, but have started to really play well. Hunter Dickenson is also a huge matchup problem for teams as he can stretch the floor and hit long-range shots. If this team finally puts it all together it's going to be a great game between these two teams.

Colorado State is a team that can score with anybody. They are led by David Roddy who averaged just under 19 points per game, and also leads the team in rebounding and blocked shots. Colorado State ranks inside the Top 20 nationally according to KenPom’s adjusted efficiency rating, but they can struggle defensively. If you like offense this is the game for you.

Pack Your Bags for New Orleans

I am sorry but I am not going out on a limb with the 2022 NCAA Tournament South Region Preview but I see Arizona coming out of this region and I will have them in the National Championship game in my bracket. This team is just so balanced all the way through and they can score on you in multiple different ways. You cant disregard their defense either as they rank inside the Top 20.

A game that might give Arizona fits is their Sweet 16 matchup of either Illinois or Houston in that 4/5 matchup. I already talked about Illinois as I like their chances against anybody having Kofi Cockburn but Houston is no slouch either. Houston is another team that ranks in the Top 10 in offense and defense efficiency as well. Houston is also a very old team as well, and experience is a big factor in the tournament.

In my eyes, this is the toughest region in the tournament, filled with a ton of must-see games and some really strong individual players. Make sure you keep an eye on Loyola, as they could once again make a run to the Sweet 16. March Madness is finally here, and I for one can't be any more excited.

Check out Tomlin's NCAA Tournament Gambling tips!

Breaking Down the Brackets

East Region
West Region
Midwest Region

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