Andy Behrens, Pete Thamel, Krysten Peek and Preston Johnson break down the South Region of the 2021 NCAA men’s tournament field - including top-seeded Baylor, who is hoping to secure its first Final Four berth since 1950.
ANDY BEHRENS: All right, we're going to dive back into the brackets in the South Region. And we are going to start with a fun match-up, a wild match up that I was looking forward to. When we didn't even know the field, I was hoping these two teams would play. Its Villanova, it's Winthrop. The Winthrop Eagles have been fun. They only have one loss on the season, they have balanced scoring, they have a former top 100 recruit in DJ Burns. Can they knock off Villanova, Pete.
PETE THAMEL: I think it would be an upset if Villanova won at this point. Look, Winthrop is my favorite team in this NCAA tournament. They go 11 deep. They crash the glass with four guys. They are led by two Division II transfer-ups, my favorite being Adonis Arms. Could you imagine being named Adonis Arms? The pressure to do bicep curls that it brings? He transferred from a Division II school in Idaho. Chandler Vaudrin transferred from a Division II school in Ohio. They play fast, which is exactly what Villanova can't do without Collin Gillespie, who's out injured.
KRYSTEN PEEK: I disagree. Everyone's picking Winthrop for this upset. I'm going to pick the non-upset upset and go with Villanova. You guys are all forgetting the winning culture of Jay Wright and what he's built there. Yes, Gillespie's out. Justin Moore is banged up with an ankle sprain. But an assistant told me that he's feeling better each and every day. This time has been good for him to take some time, rest it, and they expect him to be close to full strength by Friday. So I think this non-upset upset can actually happen and Villanova can get this first win.
PRESTON JOHNSON: I'm with Kristin. Look, I didn't call it a non-upset upset but I was going to make the point that there's a rare match-up every year, it seems like, in the bracket, where the favorite is the contrarian side. And look, I don't think I'm going to be betting Villanova at minus 6, but it's been dropping down. This was 7, 7 and 1/2 even last night when it first opened up. And I understand everyone likes Winthrop, they like the tempo, Villanova-- no Gillespie. I understand.
If this keeps creeping lower-- like if it gets to minus 5-- I could only look at the Nova side. But Winthrop, in the past, they've shot elite from behind the 3-point line. This year they only rank-- I think it's about 96, only 35% from 3. They're good, but they're not as late as they were in the past. and I think Villanova can slow them down with their half court D and a game plan from Jay Wright.
So I think Nova advances, not going to bet it though. But if they go just a little bit lower-- minus 5 is kind of my bye point for a bet, actually, on the Cats--where everyone else is on the other side.
ANDY BEHRENS: All right. Next match up we want to dive into Texas Tech and Utah State. Texas Tech is only a year removed from playing for a title. Really good team but 3-5 in their last eight. Utah State number eight in defensive efficiency. Pete, do we have an upset possibility here?
PETE THAMEL: I think we do. I really like Utah State. This is a program that's been rising for a while. They made the last tournament which was two seasons ago under Craig Smith. They were positioned to make the tournament last season before it obviously got shuttered, and I really feel like this is their best team. The name to know here is Neemius Queta. You can call Neemi. He's from Portugal, from the under-18 team. He's 7', towering presence, he's fifth in the nation in block percentage. If he can be an eraser, Utah State can erase Texas Tech.
KRYSTEN PEEK: All right, Pete, well let me give you a name on Texas Tech. If you have not seen Mac McClung play, you are in for a treat. He is a high-flying guard in transition and-- true story-- was the second best dunker in high school right behind someone-- you may know him-- Zion Williamson. He brings high energy to this Texas Tech team, leading the team in scoring, averaging 16 points per game. And I think he's going to be a great tournament player and help this team win some games.
PRESTON JOHNSON: I'm torn here. Look, I love Chris Beard, what he's done in the tournament in recent years, he'll be either 3-0 in the first round, 4-0 as a higher seed. They're even 5-3 straight up as the lower seed. He's done fantastic things defensively. They've been great.
But this is basically the worst possible match-up for them. Because what Utah State does so well behind Queta-- who I think is going to be an NBA prospect, blocks over three shots per game-- he gives the Utah State Aggies rim protection that forces Texas Tech basically to hit 3s's It forces anyone that they play to hit 3's. And Texas Tech just doesn't shoot well from 3 this year, they're about 34.7%. They're about league average-- or country average, I should say. And so ultimately, if they're not able to attack and they're relying on 3, I think Utah State can hang.
This number is about five. I lean on the Aggie side not quite a bit. I also lean under 132 and 1/2, and I think it's a little bit high as far as the total is concerned as well.
ANDY BEHRENS: Pete, give us another team to watch in the South Region.
PETE THAMEL: Well, this is where I get a little frisky with my Final Four pick. I like Arkansas. If you really drilled down on the Hogs, they are 21-2 with graduate student-- super senior-- Justin Smith, who's obviously an Indiana transfer. He is like a super glue guy and he's the perfect complement to Moses Moody who we've talked about a little bit in the show. He's going to be a one and done. Arkansas assistant David Patrick told me this week look, we all know Moses Moody's going to be one and done, but he hasn't acted that way. And that epitomizes why Eric Musselman's team is right for the tournament. They have guys who are perfect for roles. They have a couple defensive stoppers in Jalen Tate and DeVonte Davis. They have a refined six man in JD Notae. I really feel like this Arkansas team has all the pieces to make it fit.
ANDY BEHRENS: Krysten, give us a player to focus on in this region.
PRESTON JOHNSON: I mean I'm going to stick with Arkansas, and Pete touched about him, but I'm going to talk about freshman Moses Moody. Coach Musselman does not like to start freshman and Moses has started every single game. Like you said-- he's the projected lottery pick, he's 6'6", shooting guard shooting 38% from three, and ranks into-- ready for this-- 98th percentile in spot-up shooting, averaging 1.13 points per possession. The fact that he's that good of a shooter, and consistent, and knows his role in the team, I think he'll help Arkansas go far. And we'll hear his name called very early in the NBA draft this year.
ANDY BEHRENS: Preston, help us make a little coin in this region. What bets do you like here?
PRESTON JOHNSON: All right. We're going to go with another side and another total. The first one-- I know you generally hear you're supposed to bet underdogs, it's the sharp side-- that's not always the case. I like Baylor minus 25 and 1/2 points. I know that they started falling off down the stretch, but I think that's what we're kind of getting a buy-low opportunity. And really they shouldn't get hung up against the Hartford squad that's just inferior.
And what's interesting about Hartford defensively this year-- the reason they were able to even win games-- is their opponents only shot 28.7% from 3. It's absurdly low. It's not sustainable. Now they turn and face a Baylor team that was number one in the country in 3-point shooting. They shot nearly 42%. Hartford, can they hang offensively? No. They ranked outside the top 250 in adjusted efficiency. They don't get to the free-throw line, they don't create offensive rebounds for extra possessions. | think this is a runaway. I think it's Baylor side. I had a projected 27 and 1/2, so 25 and 1/2 I think it's a worthwhile bet.
And then, real quick, for the total. Oral Roberts-Ohio State. Oral Roberts is going to run up and down. They also have one of the worst defenses in the country. I think they rank 278th. We know about Ohio State's offense. We just saw them make a run in the Big Ten Tournament. Everyone discusses Gonzaga, Iowa, Baylor, those three offenses. Guess who's number four? It's the Buckeyes. They're going to be able to score at will. And Oral Roberts, they shoot 39% from 3-- 10th best in the country-- I think they'll make a few and they can hang, so I see over the 154 1/2 points.
ANDY BEHRENS: All right let's see who's actually taking Arkansas to win this region. Pete, we'll start with you. Who do you like here?
PETE THAMEL: I'm hesitant to call the Hogs because that has always been a little bit of a hang up to do publicly. Remember when Bobby Petrino tried it at his press conference? Dana Altman wouldn't call the Hogs when he took the job and then he left and went back to Creighton. I am just going to jump on the Muss bus and let it ride to downtown Indie.
KRYSTEN PEEK: I'm with Pete. I love Arkansas through this Region. Coach Musselman plays 8-9 man deep rotation and I think that will help them in a tournament with quick turnaround games. I have them going to the Final Four, too.
PRESTON JOHNSON: I'm going to stay on the contrarian side but I don't love Arkansas And we just talked about Ohio State and what they can do offensively. Recently-- and you don't want to always just include and weigh in just what you saw recently-- but Ohio State's defense is now playing near an elite level and we know their offense is top five in the country anyways. I'm going to ride that, all right.
I don't want to go with Baylor. It's a little too chalky. I have Baylor winning the region more often than not from an actual sheer projection standpoint, but Ohio State's next. I think that they went nearly one out of every four times. That's enough for me. I think it's a good contrarian spot where I think most people are going to pick Baylor. Go with Ohio State. Don't trust Purdue, Villanova-- not healthy enough. I think it's Ohio State-Baylor, and they can pull off the upset there.
ANDY BEHRENS: Call me crazy-- I'm going to take the one seed here. I'm going to go chalk, and I'm going to take the Baylor Bears. For most of this season-- and prior to the COVID pause-- Baylor was right there with Gonzaga in terms of adjusted efficiency margin on the season. They're great. They've got plenty of scoring options. They got Butler, they got Mitchell, they got Teague-- very good team. Preston mentioned it-- they are number one in the country in terms of shooting percentage. I love them here. I actually think they have a pretty easy route relatively speaking to the Final Four and I am taking them to win this region.