The CBT Bracket Breakdown: South Region

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See the rest of our regional breakdowns here.

Final Four Favorite: No. 1 Kentucky: Kentucky is the best team in the country. That much is not exactly debatable. They are going to be the heavy favorite to win a national title, even with the loss to Vanderbilt in the SEC title game, and that’s not going to be wrong. It doesn’t hurt that the Wildcats have a very easy bracket. They aren’t going to lose in Louisville, where their first two games are played. I know Indiana has already beaten the Wildcats, but Anthony Davis was in foul trouble and Terrence Jones spent the game pouting. Duke or Baylor? Not buying it. I’ll get into Wichita State in a bit, but I just don’t see a team in this bracket that is capable of beating Kentucky.

And if they lose…?: No. 3 Baylor: I like Baylor more than Duke here. On paper, Baylor is one of the most talented teams in the country. The issue with the Bears is that they haven’t been able to play up to that potential this season. Well, on Friday night, they did. And they beat Kansas in the process. What was more impressive than the win, however, was the fact that Baylor didn’t fold when the Jayhawks put a run on them. Baylor was up by 13. Kansas went on an 18-3 run. Baylor answered, and ended up winning by nine. Do they have enough confidence to win these games now?

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Sweet 16 sleeper (9 or lower): No. 12 VCU: Who else was I going to pick? The Rams made the run to the Final Four last season out of the 11 seed. Why wouldn’t they be able to do it out of the 12 seed this year? VCU started off the season slowly after graduating four of their five starters from last season, but they’ve been as hot as any team in the country, winning 16 of their last 17 games and cruising to a win in the CAA Tournament. They still press, they still force turnovers and they still hit threes. HAVOC!!!

Final Four sleeper (5 or lower): No. 5 Wichita State: To be honest, I think that Wichita State is one of maybe two teams (Baylor) in this bracket that can knock off Kentucky. They have size, they defend, they have shooter and they have good guard play. They are a very, very good basketball team. The problem? I honestly would not be surprised if they lost in the opening round of the tournament. That’s what happens when you get VCU in the first round.

Player to watch (top 8 seeds): Royce White, Iowa State: If haven’t seen White play, be sure to tune in for the opening round game between the Cyclones and No. 9 UConn. He might be the most difficult matchup in the country. At 6’9″ and 270 lb, he’s actually ISU’s point guard. He leads the team in scoring, rebounding, assists, block and steals. You don’t come across that too often.

source: AP

Player to watch (bottom 8 seeds): Nate Wolters, South Dakota State: Wolters was put on a lot of top player lists at the start of the season, and people were critical of the decision. But the fact of the matter is that this kid can play. He’s a bigger point guard, about 6’4″, and while he’s not overly quick, he’s a crafty penetrator. His game is to get into the lane and kick the ball out of SDSU’s myriad of shooters.

Also keep an eye on CJ McCollum of Lehigh. He’s a kid with a future in the NBA. He ended up at Lehigh because he grew three inches once he committed to Lehigh. He’s a big time scorer with range, the kind of player that may be able to carry the Mountainhawks to win over Duke.

Best potential matchup: No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 2 Duke: I think that Kentucky would win this game fairly easily, but the history behind this matchup is too much. 20 years ago this year, quite possibly the greatest game in the history of college basketball was played. Between Duke and Kentucky. For the right to go to the Final Four. Sportswriters will have a field day if this matchup happens.

So who is getting upset?:

– I can see Duke getting knocked off by Xavier in the third round if the Musketeers and the Blue Devils both advance. Duke struggles to defend on the perimeter, and Xavier has a pair of talented back court players.

– One game to keep an eye on would be UConn and Kentucky in the third round. UConn has the talent to be a Final Four contender and knock off the Wildcats. That UConn has been a rare sight this season.

– Lehigh over Duke in the opening round, especially if Ryan Kelly is still hurt, and South Dakota State over Baylor are two risky upset picks that could pay off.

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Brad Underwood pokes fun at his version of ‘Take Me Out to the Ball Game’

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On Thursday afternoon, Brad Underwood, the new head coach of Illinois, was invited to Wrigley Field to throw out the first pitch and sing ‘Take Me Out To The Ball Game’ during the seventh inning stretch.

While the ceremonial first pitch went well, his rendition of the ballpark classic did not go as smoothly.

Underwood was at least able to poke fun at his vocals following his performance.

“I’d rather coach naked than sing in front of 40,000,” Underwood said afterward. “There’s a reason my wife won’t let me sing in church.”

Underwood took over Illinois in mid-March following a one-year stint at Oklahoma State. He had previously led Stephen F. Austin to three NCAA Tournament appearances in as many seasons.

 

AAC plan men’s basketball tourney at new Texas arena in ’20

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FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) — The American Athletic Conference will hold its men’s basketball tournament in a new arena in North Texas in 2020.

AAC Commissioner Mike Aresco announced Wednesday that Dickies Arena in Fort Worth has been selected to host the tournament for three years, starting in March 2020. That is only four months after the facility is scheduled to open.

On the same day of a groundbreaking ceremony for the 14,000-seat arena last April, the NCAA announced that first- and second-round games of the 2022 NCAA men’s basketball tournament would be held there. The NCAA women’s gymnastics championships are scheduled there from 2020-22.

The closest AAC school to the new arena is SMU, with its campus in Dallas about 40 miles away.

Orlando will host the 2018 AAC tournament, which moves to Memphis in 2019.

After hearing, UNC now awaits NCAA ruling in academic case

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North Carolina has wrapped up a two-day hearing with an NCAA infractions committee panel that will decide whether the school faces penalties tied to its multi-year academic scandal.

Now the case goes into yet another holding pattern.

School officials spent much of Wednesday in a closed-door meeting with committee members in Nashville, Tennessee. They returned Thursday morning for a second session lasting about 4½ hours with the panel that will determine whether UNC faces penalties such as fines, probation or vacated wins and championships.

NCAA spokeswoman Stacey Osburn confirmed the hearing was complete but both sides were mum afterward.

Osburn didn’t comment further because the panel must deliberate before issuing a ruling, which typically comes weeks to months after a hearing. UNC athletics spokesman Steve Kirschner said the school wouldn’t have any comments about the hearing either.

Getting through the hearing process was a major step toward resolution in a delay-filled case tied to irregular courses, though there’s still the potential for the case to linger beyond a ruling if UNC decides to appeal or pursue legal action. The school faces five top-level charges, including lack of institutional control.

The focus is independent study-style courses in the formerly named African and Afro-American Studies (AFAM) department. The courses were misidentified as lecture classes that didn’t meet and required a research paper or two for typically high grades.

In a 2014 investigation, former U.S. Justice Department official Kenneth Wainstein estimated more than 3,100 students were affected between 1993 and 2011, with athletes making up roughly half the enrollments.

The NCAA has said UNC used those courses to help keep athletes eligible.

The case grew as an offshoot of a 2010 probe of the football program that resulted in sanctions in March 2012. The NCAA reopened an investigation in summer 2014, filed charges in a May 2015, revised them in April 2016 and then again in December.

Most notably, the NCAA originally treated some of the academic issues as improper benefits by saying athletes received access to the courses and other assistance generally unavailable to non-athletes. The NCAA removed that charge in the second Notice of Allegations (NOA), then revamped and re-inserted it into the third NOA.

UNC has challenged the NCAA’s jurisdiction, saying its accreditation agency — which sanctioned the school with a year of probation — was the proper authority and that the NCAA was overreaching in what should be an academic matter .

The NCAA enforcement staff countered in a July filing: “The issues at the heart of this case are clearly the NCAA’s business.”

UNC has argued non-athletes had access to the courses and athletes didn’t receive special treatment. It has also challenged Wainstein’s estimate of athlete enrollments, saying Wainstein counted athletes who were no longer team members and putting the figure at less than 30 percent.

UNC chancellor Carol Folt, athletic director Bubba Cunningham, men’s basketball coach Roy Williams and women’s basketball coach Sylvia Hatchell attended both hearing days. Football coach Larry Fedora, who wasn’t at UNC at the time in question, attended Wednesday’s session.

None of the coaches are charged with a violation. But football and men’s basketball are referenced in the broad-based improper benefits charge tied to athlete access to the irregular courses, while women’s basketball is tied to a charge focused on a former professor and academic counselor Jan Boxill providing improper assistance on assignments.

Boxill and Deborah Crowder, who is also charged individually in the case, attended Wednesday with their attorneys but didn’t return Thursday. Crowder is a former AFAM office administrator who enrolled students, distributed assignments and graded many of the papers in irregular courses.

The infractions panel is chaired by Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey and includes former U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.

Kansas’ forward Dedric Lawson accused of walking out on $88 bar tab

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Dedric Lawson has been accused of walking out on an $88 bar tab, according to a police report obtained by the Memphis Commercial-Appeal.

Here’s what allegedly happened: He was at a bar in Overton Square in Memphis at 1:30 a.m. when he was handed a bill for more than $88 by a waitress. That waitress, who said she went to high school with Lawson, told police that he walked out of the bar and got into a Nissan Maxima and left without paying the bill.

Dedric has denied the allegation. Appearing on 92.9 FM, an ESPN radio station in Memphis, he said that he ordered two drinks worth a total of $10.50 and gave the waitress $12, but she wanted him to pay for drinks that were ordered by other people for other people. He did not order or drink those drinks, Lawson said, so he did not want to pay for them.

Lawson transferred from Memphis to Kansas this offseason. He was suspended by the Jayhawks for an altercation in practice last month and left home from the team’s trip to Italy earlier this month. He averaged 19.9 points and 9.2 boards for the Tigers last season, and will be sitting out this year as a transfer at Kansas.

Late on Wednesday, another former Tiger, Joe Jackson, was arrested on felony drug and gun charges.

College programs in Barcelona safe after terror attack

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August is the time that college basketball programs take their overseas trips, and one of the most popular destinations for that travel is Barcelona.

On Thursday evening, tragedy struck in one of the city’s most popular tourist locations, as a van driven down Las Ramblas struck pedestrians. Local authorities have confirmed there are fatalities and are terming the incident a “terror attack”.

RELATED: NBC News has the latest on the incident

At least five programs are currently in Barcelona: Clemson, Arizona, Oregon State, Grand Canyon and Tulane. All five programs have released statements confirming that all members of the traveling parties are safe and accounted for.

The attack occurred right outside Clemson’s hotel. The team is currently on lockdown.

According to Oregon State head coach Wayne Tinkle, the attack “happened directly in front of our hotel while we were having a team meal in the restaurant.”