NCAA First Round Preview and Prediction: South Region

The SportmeistersAnalyst IMarch 17, 2009

by Ryan of The Sportmeisters

No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Radford

About North Carolina: The Tar Heels are the only non-Big East team to earn a No. 1 seed, even with an ACC Semifinal loss to Florida State. The big question mark that will determine their long-term tournament hopes is junior Ty Lawson, who was averagine 15.9 points and 6.5 assists, and his toe injury. For the first round, they should be good to go.

About Radford: The Highlanders are on their way to their second NCAA tournament, thanks to their first Big South Championship in 11 years. Junior Artsiom Parakhouski leads the team with his double-double of 16.3 points and 11.2 rebounds.

The Pick: North Carolina, but they need Lawson back soon.

No. 8 LSU vs. No. 9 Butler

About LSU: The Tigers are not the fans of too many bubble teams, thanks to their SEC Championship loss to Tennessee. That does not mean much now, as LSU is dancing due in part to the play of senior Marcus Thornton’s 20.7 points per game.

About Butler: Despite losing the Horizon tournament, Butler, 26-5, was a safe bet. Sophomore Matt Howard leads the team with 14.6 points per game.

The Pick: LSU, strictly on Thornton’s play.

No. 5 Illinois vs. No. 12 Western Kentucky

About Illinois: Injuries hit the Illini hard in the Big Ten Tournament. They still look to be without defensive specialist Chester Frazier, which could hurt a team that relies on its defensive prowess to win games, only allowing an average of 56.6 points per game.

About Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers claimed their seventh Sun Belt Conference title, leading them to their second straight tournament and their 21st overall. Drawing the fated No. 12 spot, they have some major upset potential, especially behind the play of junior A.J. Slaughter and his 15.4 points per game average.

The Pick: Western Kentucky in the 12-5 upset.

No. 4 Gonzaga vs. No. 13 Akron

About Gonzaga: Winners of 19 of their last 20, including the West Coast Conference
championship, the Bulldogs are no longer a Cinderella story as the head to their tenth straight NCAA tournament appearance. Senior Josh Heytvelt leads the team with 14.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game.

About Akron: The Zips came close twice before. On the third time, they won the Mid-American Conference Championship and earned their first NCAA berth since 1986. Senior Nate Linhart (10.1 points, 6.2 rebounds) leads Akron.

The Pick: Gonzaga in a walk

No. 6 Arizona State vs. No. 11 Temple

About Arizona State: A surprising loss to USC in the Pac-10 Championship probably assisted in the 24-9 Sun Devils being ranked No. 6. Despite the loss, they still have Pac-10 Player Of The Year James Harden, who averages 20.8 points per game.

About Temple: The Owls are heading to their second straight NCAA Tournament,
courtesy of their second straight Atlantic-10 title. They are led by senior Dionte Christmas, who has 19.2 points per game.

The pick: Arizona State in a solid victory

No. 3 Syracuse vs. No. 14 Stephen F. Austin

About Syracuse: Even before their seven total overtimes in the Big East tournament ending in the Championship game loss to Louisville, the 26-9 Orange were already prepping for another tournament bid. Ask any Orange fan and they will be sure to mention Sophomore Jonny Flynn, who leads the team with 17.5 points and 6.7 assists.

About Stephen F. Austin: The Lumberjacks are in their first NCAA tournament by way of their Southland tournament title. Senior Matt Kingsley leads the team with 16.9 points and 7.8 rebounds.

The Pick: Syracuse, and it won’t go to overtime

No. 7 Clemson vs. No. 10 Michigan

About Clemson: The Tigers started off hot, but cooled off in the end, losing four of their last five games to limp into the tournament as an at-large. Junior Trevor Booker averages 15.3 points and 9.7 rebounds.

About Michigan: The Wolverines had a decent season, and despite a weak Big 10 record at 9-9, they still were able to use some big non-conference victories to earn the seed. Sophomore Manny Harris leads the team with 16.8 points and 6.9 rebounds

The Pick: Michigan in a minor upset

No. 2 Oklahoma vs. No. 15 Morgan State

About Oklahoma: An early favorite for a No. 1 seed, the Sooners have fallen off, losing four of their last six and getting knocked out in the Big 12 Quarterfinals. Blake Griffin is fully recovered from his earlier concussion, and still leads the team with 21.9 points and 14.3 rebounds.

About Morgan State: The Golden Bears won only their second Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, first since 1977, and are going to the tournament for the first time in school history. Junior Reggie Holmes paces the team with 16.9 points and 5.5 rebounds.

The Pick: Oklahoma in a blowout