When the Pac-12 has an elite team it is often the top team in the West Region. Arizona was awesome this season but they have been pushed to the South Region due to the presence of Gonzaga, this year’s top overall seed.
Arizona is going to start their Tournament playing the winner of #16 Wright State vs. #16 Bryant in the First Four (I don’t like when AQ teams have to do this but that is another story for another day). Whoever wins is likely to exit quickly, but there are lots of dangerous teams in the Region including Tennessee, one of the few teams that beat Arizona during the season.
Here is a look at the games that offer the best value in the South Region once the Tournament really begins on Thursday.
South Bracket Best Bet
#8 Seton Hall Pirates vs. #9 TCU Horned Frogs
Seton Hall had a disappointing season but they can make up for a lot of that in March. They are going to be on a lot of sleeper lists because this team is talented, and plays defense, 26th in the nation in defensive efficiency. As with lots of Power Conference teams who are not top seeds it was consistency that was a challenge for the Pirates this season. That is why getting TCU as their first-round opponent was so fortunate. The Pirates can beat the Horned Frogs without having to play anything close to their best game. TCU is capable of being good teams, they have wins over Texas Tech, Kansas, and Texas, all in the last few weeks. This game is going to be won on the wings and the Pirates are just better there, with more size and versatility. They are going to be a tough out (even for Arizona, who will get them next)
#4 Illinois Fighting Illini vs. #13 Chattanooga Mocs
Fighting Illini -8
The Illini had an early exit in the Big Ten Tournament, losing to a desperate Indiana team. That knocks them down in my eyes in terms of their championship ceiling but this is a favorable matchup in their first game taking on Chattanooga out of the SoCon. The Mocs are no pushover but they generally play small and their best win of the season was against VCU, a team that did not even make the field of 68. The gap between these teams in seeding is well justified with Kofi Cockburn a massive inside presence for the Illini at both ends. Surrounding him with strong shooters, the Illini should have little trouble with Chattanooga and will be that much more motivated after last year’s disappointing exit. There are a lot of guys from that team still around.
#7 Ohio State Buckeyes vs. #10 Loyola-Chicago Ramblers
The Buckeyes really struggled down the stretch losing three of their last four and failing to win a game in the Big Ten Tournament. Ohio State has gifted offensive players but it is going to be a struggle to try and beat an experienced team like Loyola that is committed on the defensive side. The Ramblers might be the higher seed in the tournament but the predictive metrics all say they are the better team and they are definitely in better form right now. It has been a while since Loyola-Chicago played a team as good as Ohio State but they could not have asked for a better opponent. They eliminated Illinois last season for those who think they don’t have it in them.