One of the more interesting things about the breakdown of the NCAA tournament each year is the breakdowns. Whether you look at the great players, interesting match-ups or just the possibility for that big upset it provides thoughtful discussion. As we go through the breakdown of the South bracket, there are many plots to discuss. Finally, what would a breakdown be without a few predictions? Let’s get to it.
Obviously, the prohibitive favorite is Alabama. The Crimson Tide look nearly unbeatable on the heels of 23 straight victories. However, a potential rematch against one of the most improved teams in the country in Southern California could loom large in the second round. On the opposite side of the bracket, Louisville is one of the only teams that can challenge the Alabama defense. Lastly, the Auburn Tigers may be the second best team in the SEC at this point and have the best ground game in this bracket. Concluding, Alabama is certainly the odds on favorite to make it to the Final Four but not without some challenges along the way.
BEST PLAYERS BY POSITION
The discussion ultimately begins and ends with Lamar Jackson. The Heisman Trophy front-runner has put up ridiculous statistics with one game remaining in the regular season. 47 total touchdowns, nearly 1,400 yards on the ground and a 57% completion percentage are just a few of those impressive numbers. Worth noting as honorable mentions that could carry their teams to a run is Luke Falk of the Washington State Cougars and Mason Rudolph of the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Falk has 36 Touchdowns and seven interceptions on the season while having a 71% completion percentage. Comparatively, Mason Rudolph has thrown for 25 scores while hitting his targets at a 64% completion percentage.
There is an argument that could be made that Lamar Jackson could be considered the best running back as well in this bracket. Having said that, this bracket doesn’t include a superstar, but several solid contributors. From a statistical perspective, look no further than to I’Tavius Mathers. The senior from Middle Tennessee is one of best all around backs in the country. He has over 1,290 yards with 13 scores on the ground. Mathers has added 60 grabs for over 550 yards and three touchdowns through the air. But, when you look at the quality of play the next two guys have put up good yardage in the tougher competition in the Big Ten Conference. Justin Jackson of Northwestern and Rodney Smith of Minnesota have been extremely productive. Jackson has produced over 1,100 yards on the ground while scoring nine times. Smith is just behind him with 1,039 yards but has 15 touchdowns on the season.
When you look at the South bracket, it’s all about star power at the wideout position. You can’t go wrong with the three wideout combination of James Washington, Amba Etta-Tawo and Richie James. Starting with Washington, the senior from Oklahoma State has an incredible 19 yards per reception on the season while amassing 1,159 yards. One of the few bright spots for the Syracuse Orange this season has been Etta-Tawo. He has been a terror on the outside hauling in 81 balls for over 1,300 yards. Finally, we go back to the Blue Raiders of Middle Tennessee where we find Richie James. James is on track to haul in 100 balls on the season as he has 93 with one game to go and has brought in 10 TD grabs.
One of the great things about tournament play is attempting to look at matchups and predicting the upsets. When you look at the South bracket, it’s difficult to see the opportunity for an upset outside of one game. That game would be the 4/13 contest between Baylor and Middle Tennessee. Since the seeding has been released, both of these teams have gone downhill. Baylor has lost four straight. Similarly, the Blue Raiders have lost two of three. Having said that, this still feels like an easy upset pick. Powered behind I’Tavius Mathers and Richie James, Middle Tennessee defeats the Bears 45-35.
Alabama over South Carolina.
USC over Troy
Oklahoma State over Central Florida
Middle Tennessee over Baylor
North Carolina over Northwestern
Auburn over Iowa
Washington State over Minnesota
Louisville over Wake Forest