The Field of 65: An easy draw for Duke
As you've probably ascertained by now, the South Region has earned general consensus as the weakest section of the 2010 bracket. On the strength of a 12-1 end to its season, Duke is a solid No. 1 seed. After the Blue Devils, each of the next few teams has a potentially fatal flaw.
• No. 3 seed Baylor is in the same boat as Villanova. The Bears score at the fourth-best adjusted rate in the nation but rank 48th defensively. Baylor's offense was efficient enough to push the team into second place in the Big 12 in conference points-per-possession margin, so the Bears are certainly capable of advancing past Villanova or even Duke.
• No. 4 Purdue seemed unstoppable until star forward Robbie Hummel suffered a season-ending injury in late February. Without Hummel the Boilermakers went 3-2 with victories against also-rans Indiana, Penn State and Northwestern and an embarrassing 69-42 loss against Minnesota. To its credit, Purdue did defeat Michigan State without Hummel.
Without any stellar competition among the top four seeds, Duke appears the easy pick to sweep through the South Region, and the computers agree. Basketball Prospectus broke down each team's probability of advancing to the Final Four and taking the championship. Of the 65 teams, Duke was the most likely champion, with a 24.3 percent chance of returning to Carolina with the title. Kansas was a close second at 23.3 percent, despite its more difficult draw.
By now, you have most likely filled in your bracket and decided on your upset picks, so we'll keep it brief and stick to the players, mascots and team to watch in the South Region:
The Region's Best...
The South is the official region of the senior point guard. Vilanova's Scottie Reynolds, Duke's Jon Scheyer, California's Jerome Randle and Baylor's Tweety Carter will all finish accomplished college careers in the next three weeks.
Reynolds and Scheyer get the most attention of the four, whether it be positive or negative. Perhaps due to location, Randle and Carter have remained out of the national spotlight, for the most part. But their stats prove they belong with the big names:
Reynolds — 56.8 eFG%, 26.3% possessions used, 1.21 points per possession.
Scheyer — 50.3 eFG%, 23.4% possessions used, 1.28 points per possession.
Randle — 55.5 eFG%, 26.9% possessions used, 1.13 points per possession.
Carter — 54.2 eFG%, 22.7% possessions used, 1.20 points per possession.
Reynolds — 22.0% Assist Rate, 18.4% Turnover Rate, 1.3 A/TO Ratio
Scheyer — 26.5% Assist Rate, 11.7% Turnover Rate, 2.9 A/TO Ratio
Randle — 24.6% Assist Rate, 22.2% Turnover Rate, 1.3 A/TO Ratio
Carter — 31.4% Assist Rate, 19.3% Turnover Rate, 2.3 A/TO Ratio
Reynolds — 2.8% Steal Rate, 9.5% Rebound Rate
Scheyer — 2.6% Steal Rate, 10.8% Rebound Rate
Randle — 1.2% Steal Rate, 6.6% Rebound Rate
Carter — 2.1% Steal Rate, 7.9% Rebound Rate
Take what you want from those numbers. What the stats do point out are the stylistic differences between the four guards. Carter and Scheyer are distributors before scorers, Randle is a high-usage scorer and Reynolds is the most balanced of the group. Because of his balanced skill set, Scottie Reynolds earns the Player of the Region title.
The South Region has it all. Saints (Siena), Blue Devils (Duke) and two varieties of Aggie (Utah State and Texas A&M) and Bear (California and Baylor).
The Richmond Spiders and Old Dominion Monarchs were automatically disqualified for adopting nicknames too scary and not scary, respectively. Notre Dame might have earned consideration had it played on St. Patrick's Day, but we're now 364 days from next year's holiday, so that's kind of a bummer. The Sam Houston State Bearkats take this region's crown for their ingenuity, odd spelling and all-around whimsy.
Sam Houston State may have the best name in the South corner of the bracket, but Duke is the best team. Scheyer, Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler comprise an excellent backcourt, center Brian Zoubek is an elite rebounder and backup posts Mason and Miles Plumlee provide athleticism and depth.