Here’s a look at the South Region of the NCAA Tournament as March Madness 2021 gets set to tip off Thursday:
No. 1 Baylor (22-2)
Conference: Big 12
Coach: Scott Drew (18th season)
Post-ing up: The Bears’ bid to keep pace with Gonzaga and complete an unbeaten regular season ended with a Feb. 27 loss at Kansas. Junior point guard Davion Mitchell and wings Jared Butler and MaCio Teague provide most of the offensive numbers for the nation’s third-highest scoring team.
No. 16 Hartford (15-8)
Conference: America East
Coach: John Gallagher (11th season)
Post-ing up: After five losing seasons in his first seven years at Hartford, Gallagher has now led the Hawks to four straight winning campaigns. Hartford pulled off one of its biggest wins in years in the America East semifinals by upsetting top seed Vermont. Marist transfer Austin Williams has been integral, averaging team-highs in points (13.6) and rebounds (6.1).
No. 8 North Carolina (18-10)
Coach: Roy Williams (18th season)
Post-ing up: The Tar Heels would have missed the tournament last year anyway, even before the pandemic shutdown, when they finished 6-14 in the ACC and 14-19 overall in only their second losing season since 1962. Freshmen Caleb Love, Day’Ron Sharpe, Kerwin Walton and R.J. Davis logged regular minutes as UNC posted a 10-6 conference mark.
No. 9 Wisconsin
Conference: Big Ten
Coach: Greg Gard (6th season)
Post-ing up: The Badgers of December and January were a second-weekend team capable of making a big run. The February and early March version weren’t even a tournament team, dropping five of their last six games to close the regular season. Wisconsin has one-and-done written all over it.
No. 5 Villanova (16-6)
Conference: Big East
Coach: Jay Wright (20th season)
Post-ing up: A preseason title favorite, it would be a surprise to see the Wildcats reach the second weekend. tri-Big East Player of the Year Collin Gillespie’s season-ending knee surgery dashed any hopes of a trip to the Final Four. It was clear during the Big East Tournament loss to Georgetown that this isn’t the same team.
No. 12 Winthrop (23-1)
Conference: Big South
Coach: Pat Kelsey (9th season)
Post-ing up: The Eagles cruised into the dance, winning their three Big South Tournament games by a combined 77 points. Fourteen of their 23 wins came by double figures, but it should be noted Winthrop didn’t play a single Quad 1 opponent. Kelsey’s team is untested.
No. 4 Purdue (18-9)
Conference: Big Ten
Coach: Matt Painter (16th season)
Post-ing up: Purdue doesn’t have a big star. It isn’t a great shooting team. But it is consistent, a top-25 team in both offensive and defensive efficiency. It is experienced, significant this time of year, and used to March success, with three straight Sweet 16 berths.
No. 13 North Texas (16-9)
Conference: Conference USA
Coach: Grant McCasland (3rd season)
Post-ing up: Few teams play slower than North Texas, which is ranked 347th in the country in pace, according to KenPom.com. It defends and it limits possessions. The style might not be entertaining, but it got the Mean Green into the tournament, and past far more talented Western Kentucky in the Conference USA title game.
No. 6 Texas Tech (17-10)
Conference: Big 12
Coach: Chris Beard (5th season)
Post-ing up: The Red Raiders earned their third bid under Beard, including their magical 2019 run, when they lost in overtime to Virginia in the national championship game. Junior guards Mac McClung and Kyler Edwards and sophomore wing Terrence Shannon Jr. handle much of the scoring.
No. 11 Utah State (20-8)
Conference: Mountain West
Coach: Craig Smith (3rd season)
Post-ing up: The Aggies sealed their second straight NCAA appearance after a seven-year absence after defeating Colorado State in semis of the MWC Tournament to secure an at-large bid. Portuguese junior center Neemias Queta averaged a double-double (14.8 points, 10 rebounds) on the season.
No. 3 Arkansas (22-6)
Coach: Eric Musselman (2nd season)
Post-ing up: The Razorbacks closed the regular season superbly with eight straight conference wins to finish 13-4 in the loaded SEC, landing a spot in the tournament for the first time under Musselman. Freshman guard Moses Moody led the team in scoring while shooting nearly 45 percent from 3-point land.
No. 14 Colgate (14-1)
Conference: Patriot League
Coach: Matt Langel (10th season)
Post-ing up: One day, hopefully the mystery of Colgate’s top-10 NET rating will be revealed. Clearly, the metrics like the Raiders, who shoot it great from the perimeter (38.5 percent) and share it (17.6 assists per game). It’s hard to properly evaluate this team, considering Colgate didn’t play a non-conference schedule.
No. 7 Florida
Coach: Mike White (6th season)
Post-ing up: The Gators made the tournament after overcoming the season-ending loss of star Keyontae Johnson, who collapsed on the court Dec. 12 and was diagnosed with acute myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle). Sophomore guard Tre Mann and junior big man Colin Castleton fronted the Gators to a 9-7 finish in the SEC.
Virginia Tech (15-6)
No. 10 Virginia Tech
Coach: Mike Young (2nd season)
Post-ing up: The Hokies reached the Sweet Sixteen in 2019 to conclude a three-year run of NCAA appearances, leading to Young leaving Wofford to replace Buzz Williams, who moved on to Texas A&M. Tech dealt with some late-season COVID-19 tracing and quarantining issues before getting back on the court in the ACC Tournament.
No. 2 Ohio State (21-9)
Conference: Big Ten
Coach: Chris Holtmann (4th season)
Post-ing up: At one time in the running for a No. 1 seed, a late-season slide cost the Buckeyes that covered spot, and gave Ohio State fans cause for concern. Holtmann’s team lacks a true rim protector and has struggled on the defensive end guarding against the 3 at times.
No. 15 Oral Roberts (16-10)
Coach: Paul Mills (4th season)
Post-ing up: Oral Roberts won’t be an easy out. Just ask Arkansas or Oklahoma State, both of whom struggled with the Golden Eagles. They push pace, shoot a robust 39 percent from deep and feature the nation’s leading scorer in sophomore Max Abmas, who averaged 24.2 points per game.