With the field for the 2021 men's NCAA tournament now official, we're breaking down each team in the field for you in the lead-up to the first tournament in two years. Here's what you need to know about the South region.
1. Baylor (22-2, at-large)
The Bears were long the 1B to Gonzaga’s 1A in 2020-21. But COVID-19 knocked Baylor out of action for a few weeks and the Bears lost to Kansas in the regular season and Oklahoma State in the Big 12 tournament. This is still a deep and dangerous team and incredibly worthy of a No. 1 seed. The Bears boast the best 3-point field goal percentage (41.8%) in the country and are the third-highest scoring team in the nation (84.4 points per game).
2. Ohio State (21-9, at-large)
The Buckeyes went from a losing streak to a winning streak once the postseason started. Ohio State lost its last four games of the regular season — three to top-10 opponents — entering the Big Ten tournament. Then the Buckeyes beat Minnesota, Purdue and Michigan to get to the Big Ten title game. Ohio State has the No. 4 offense according to KenPom.com and sophomore forward E.J. Liddell leads the team with 16.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.
3. Arkansas (22-6, at-large)
The Razorbacks like to push the pace. Arkansas is one of the fastest teams in the country and averages nearly 65 shots per game. Before losing to LSU in the semifinals of the SEC tournament on Saturday, Arkansas had won nine straight games since losing to Oklahoma State on the road on Jan. 30. Arkansas’ leading scorer is Moses Moody at 17.4 points per game and JD Notae (13.3 points per game) is one of the best bench players in the country.
4. Purdue (18-9, at-large)
The Boilermakers won their final five regular-season games before losing to Ohio State in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten tournament. That overtime loss to the Buckeyes came after Purdue swept Ohio State in the regular season. Junior forward Trevion Williams averages a team-high 15.6 points and 9.1 rebounds per game as Purdue has outscored its opponents by an average of five points per game.
5. Villanova (16-6, at-large)
The Wildcats won the Big East regular season title but lost to eventual Big East tournament champions Georgetown in their first game. Villanova has the eighth-best offense according to KenPom.com though the Wildcats shoot just 35% from behind the 3-point line. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl leads the team with 15.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game and the Wildcats will miss point guard Collin Gillespie. He's out with a knee injury.
6. Texas Tech (17-10, at-large)
Can Chris Beard get Texas Tech to at least the Elite Eight for the third time in his five years at the school? The Red Raiders ended the season on a series of streaks. Tech won three straight, then lost two, won three, lost three, won three and ended the season with two consecutive losses. The Red Raiders are content to let opponents shoot threes; Tech allows fewer than 15 twos per game. Mac McClung leads the team with 15.7 points per game.
7. Florida (14-9, at-large)
Wins over Tennessee and West Virginia in January coupled with a 9-7 record in SEC play were enough to get the Gators safely into the tournament. Florida lost SEC preseason player of the year Keyontae Johnson four games into the season after he scarily collapsed on the court against Florida State and was hospitalized. Johnson is back cheering his teammates on the bench as Tre Mann leads the team in scoring with 16 points per game.
8. North Carolina (18-10, at-large)
The Tar Heels opened ACC play with two losses before a 10-4 finish that included two three-game win streaks. After finishing sixth in the ACC, UNC beat Virginia Tech on Thursday to advance to the ACC tournament semifinals against Florida State. The Tar Heels attempt the fourth-most two-pointers in the country and attempt fewer than 18 threes per game.
9. Wisconsin (17-12, at-large)
The Badgers got into the tournament despite a 3-7 finish to the season. Wisconsin was 14-5 after beating Penn State on Feb. 3. Since then, Wisconsin only beat Nebraska, Northwestern and Penn State again and lost to the seven ranked teams that it faced. Yeah, the Big Ten was brutal this season. Senior D’Mitrik Trice leads the team with 13.7 points and 4 assists a game.
10. Virginia Tech (15-6, at-large)
The Hokies finished third in the ACC and lost to North Carolina in their opening game of the NCAA tournament. Virginia Tech’s best non-conference win came in November in an 81-73 overtime win over Villanova. The Hokies rank 54th in KenPom.com’s adjusted offense and defense rankings and are led by Keve Aluma and his 15.6 points and 8 rebounds per game.
11. Utah State (20-8, at-large)
The Aggies’ 13-4 mark in conference play was good enough to get them into the tournament as an at-large after losing the Mountain West title game to San Diego State. Utah State’s defense ranks No. 8 at KenPom.com and the Aggies give up 62.2 points per game. That matchup with Texas Tech is going to be a slugfest. Junior center Neemias Queta averages 15.1 points and 10 rebounds a game.
12. Winthrop (23-1, Big South champion)
After going to the NCAA tournament eight times in 10 years from 1999-2008, Winthrop is making its third appearance in the past 12 tournaments. The Eagles didn’t play any Power Five teams this season but outscored opponents by nearly 13 points per game. And Winthrop won those games with its depth. Four players average 10 or more points per game and 11 players on the roster average over 11 minutes per game.
13. North Texas (17-9, Conference USA champion)
The Mean Green ended the regular season on a three-game losing streak before winning four games in the C-USA tournament. The tournament title came with a 61-57 overtime win over Western Kentucky to seal the school’s first NCAA tournament bid since 2010. North Texas is also one of the slowest teams in the country. While four players average over 10 points per game, UNT is 350th out of 357 in KenPom.com’s adjusted tempo rankings.
14. Colgate (14-1, Patriot champion)
The Raiders’ matchup with Arkansas should be a fun one if you love fast-paced games. Colgate makes nearly 32 shots a game and shoots 39% from the field while giving up nearly 64 shots a game from its opponents. Jordan Burns leads the team with 17 points per game and shoots 42 percent from behind the arc. Jack Ferguson shoots 50 percent from three on over four attempts per game.
15. Oral Roberts (16-10, Summit champion)
The Golden Eagles are in the tournament for the first time since making three consecutive tournament appearances from 2006-2008. Paul Mills’ team averages nearly 82 points per game and is one of the most proficient 3-point shooting teams in the country. The Golden Eagles lead the nation with 11.3 threes per game and shoot 39% as a team from behind the arc.
16. Hartford (15-8, America East champion)
Hartford coach John Gallagher believes that a Wednesday earthquake was a sign that his team was heading to the NCAA tournament for the first time in school history. Gallagher was right after the Hawks beat UMass Lowell in the America East final. Junior guard Austin Williams leads the team in both scoring (13.7 points per game) and rebounding (6.2).
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