Leading up to the first round of the NCAA tournament, The Chronicle will preview one of the four regions in the bracket, touching on the true contenders in the region and potential bracket-busting Cinderellas. We'll start with the South:
The No. 1 seed: Virginia Cavaliers
For a team that has appeared in the NCAA tournament 22 times, often as a high seed, the Cavaliers have never captured a national championship. This year could be different.
Virginia had a dominant season, ending with 29 wins. The Cavaliers obliterated their opponents with their pack-line defense, and allowed their opponents to score over 60 points in only five of the 32 games they played.
The big shooters for the Cavaliers this year have been Kyle Guy, De’Andre Hunter, and Ty Jerome. All three of these players are consistent 3-point shooters and use this to their advantage when they’re pushed to make shots from beyond the arc.
Although Virginia performed so well in the season, the question is whether or not they’ll choke in the NCAA tournament. The Cavaliers put on a poor show in the ACC tournament, losing to then-No. 14 Florida State in the semifinal. If Virginia plays like it did against the Seminoles, there’s not much hope for the Cavaliers in the upcoming tournament.
The other contenders: have a good chance of knocking Virginia out
Virginia may have a tough time reaching the final four as they’re up against some solid opponents.
No. 2 Tennessee is unarguably one of the best teams in the nation. The Volunteers strung together a streak of 19 wins midseason, and sat at 23-1 at the end of that stretch. Tennessee was able to shut Kentucky down in the SEC tournament, showing their ability to execute under pressure.
No. 3 Purdue finished in a tie for first in the Big Ten conference. Instead of having a handful of players that take control of the floor for the majority of each game, the Boilermakers do things a little differently, greatly distributing playing time amongst the players. Purdue also has a low turnover rate, averaging at about 10.7 turnovers per game.
The potential Cinderella: Oregon
Although Oregon had a disappointing season, its performance towards the end of the season and in the Pac-12 tournament earned them the potential to exceed expectations.
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The Ducks had a really rough time getting back on their feet after lead scorer Bol Bol was ruled out for the remainder of the season due to a foot injury. Over time, Oregon was able to adjust and players like Payton Pritchard, Louis King and Paul White have given the team a second wind.
Oregon does a really good job of making their opponents fight for a three-pointer, holding them to a 29.4 shooting percentage from beyond the arc.
The regional narrative: a threat by Tennessee
If the Cavaliers play as well as they have all season, they shouldn’t come into any trouble until the elite eight assuming they’ll be up against Tennessee.