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Who Will Win the South Region at March Madness 2021?
To say things haven’t gone according to plan in the South Region would be a massive understatement.
Some of the touts were swearing that Ohio State and Purdue were Baylor’s stiffest competition, and yet neither Big Ten school made it out of the first round.
Instead, Oral Roberts has stolen the headlines and Jay Wright has reminded us never to count Villanova out.
Before unveiling a South Region prediction, let’s take a quick peek at each team and assess their chances of moving forward.
Baylor Bears (-140)
- 1st Round: Defeated #16 Hartford, 79-55
- 2nd Round: Defeated #9 Wisconsin, 76-63
Baylor turned up their defensive intensity in the first round against Hartford, turning the Hawks over 24 times and holding the America East champs to 35.2% shooting.
The Bears flashed their offensive discipline against Wisconsin coughing it up a total of four times.
From First-Team All-American Jered Butler to studs like Davion Mitchell and MaCio Teague, the perimeter players in Waco are tough to contend with.
Mark Vital does the dirty work, and Matthew Mayer demonstrated that he can provide a huge lift off the bench. Mayer led all Bears with 17 points against the Badgers scoring in a variety of different ways.
Matthew Mayer stepping up in the NCAA tournament has been a huge key. Baylor’s supporting cast struggled late in season. Big 12 coach: “If those three guards are rolling and Matt’s running around and dunking on people and playing like a 6-foot-9 guard, you can call it a night.”March 21, 2021
Villanova might have an edge in the paint in the upcoming matchup, but Scott Drew’s bunch is built for the long haul.
Baylor is firmly entrenched in the #2 slot (behind Gonzaga) in the Sweet 16 power rankings.
Arkansas Razorbacks (+200)
- 1st Round: Defeated #14 Colgate, 85-68
- 2nd Round: Defeated #6 Texas Tech, 68-66
There’s a whole lot to like about Arkansas, and not just because they’re a double-digit favorite against Oral Roberts on Saturday.
The Razorbacks average 82 points per contest (12th in the country) and have four individuals who scored at least 10 points in each of the first two tournament games.
Overpowering the opposition on the offensive end is one way Arkansas attacks, but Eric Musselman’s squad isn’t shy about playing asphyxiating defense. The Razorbacks held both Colgate and Texas Tech to under 40% from the floor; the Red Raiders were an abominable 12-41 from inside the arc.
Moses Moody is a sensational freshman averaging north of 17 ppg, but it’s the recent uptick from Justin Smith that has put Coach Musselman in this envious position.
The 6’7” senior from Buffalo Grove, Illinois has been feasting since the SEC Tournament got underway.
|Justin Smith’s Last Four Games – By the Numbers|
|Texas Tech||Points||Rebounds||Field Goals|
Over 64% from the field in his last four games, plus he’s chipped in with seven steals and five blocks. He’s played 79 out of the 80 possible minutes and has turned it over just three times.
Villanova Wildcats (+550)
- 1st Round: Defeated #12 Winthrop, 73-63
- 2nd Round: Defeated #13 North Texas, 84-61
When Collin Gillespie went down, the natural assumption was that Jay Wright and company would sort of just fade off into oblivion. Ensuing losses to Providence and Georgetown seemed to confirm that theory.
Fast forward to today and Nova is in another Sweet 16 after a couple of convincing victories.
Perhaps they caught a break facing Winthrop and North Texas, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Wildcats are poised to make a run at their third title since 2016.
Jeremiah Robinson-Earl has been fantastic all season long, and he’s been even better in the recent stretch without Gillespie on the court. The 6’9” big man is averaging 22 points during the last three games and dished out six assists apiece against the Eagles and Mean Green.
Speaking of stepping up his game in the wake of Gillespie’s season-ending injury, senior Jermaine Samuels is making sure that Villanova does not go down without a fight.
After averaging 10.9 points and 6.2 rebounds during his first 20 games of the year, Samuels clocks in at 16.8 ppg and 7.8 rbg over the last four (without Gillespie in the lineup).
Oral Roberts Golden Eagles (+2200)
- 1st Round: Defeated #2 Ohio State, 75-72
- 2nd Round: Defeated #7 Florida, 81-78
The Golden Eagles knocked off Ohio State and Florida and have the best “1-2” punch in the South Region.
It’s no surprise Jerry Summer latched onto Oral Roberts (+11) as one of his best Sweet 16 bets.
ORU may have lost five games during Summit League play, but they haven’t dropped a game in over a month and won’t be afraid to go toe-to-toe with Arkansas.
Max Abmas is a big-time guard who led the country in scoring; he’s put up 29 and 26 in the first two games. Kevin Obanor has been lights outs (29 pp, 11 rbg) in the tourney, and neither man has missed a single second of the action.
What’s especially intriguing about backing the Golden Eagles on Saturday night is that this team came into the NCAA Tournament shooting 39% from beyond the arc as a group – one of the top 10 marks in the nation. Oral Roberts is shooting just 32.3% from deep through the first two games.
My South Region Prediction for 2021
I picked Arkansas to go to the Final Four when I filled out my bracket. After barely squeaking by Texas Tech and watching Baylor dismantle Wisconsin, I’m changing my South Region prediction.
Laying -140 (MyBookie) with two games to win isn’t the ideal scenario, but it’s better than the -155 price tag attached to the Bears at some of the other top March Madness betting sites.
Four different Baylor players have led the team in scoring in their last five games, and that doesn’t even include Davion Mitchell who’s averaging over 14 ppg and shooting over 46% from three.
Arkansas is fun to watch, but Baylor is the most complete team in this region.