Bracket Breakdown: Everything you need to know to fill out the South Region



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The South ended up playing out as the region that everyone will love to hate on. I’m not sure there is a program that is as universally despised by all non-fans as Duke, and the passion with which the general public hates Duke matches that with which they hate on Gonzaga. The Zags have brought it on themselves, but having so much regular season success lead to so few postseason accolades. The question that has to be asked, however, is whether or not there is anyone in this region that can actually pull off an upset of one of these two teams.

The answer? Keep reading.

MORERead through all of our bracket analysis here

Three story lines to watch

  • 1. Is this the year Gonzaga finally lives up to the hype?: Every season, we talk for four months about how good Gonzaga is, and every season, at least in recent years, the Zags have let us down in March. This year’s group will undoubtedly bring back memories of the 2013 tournament, when the Zags, as the No. 1 overall seed, lost in the Round of 32. The one thing that concerns me is how one-dimensional each of their three big men are, but I don’t see anyone in this bracket truly being able to exploit that.
  • 2. Can Georgetown break the Curse of the Double Digit Seed?: Georgetown’s last five NCAA tournament losses have come to: No. 14 Ohio, No. 10 Davidson, No. 11 VCU, No. 11 N.C. State and No. 15 Florida-Gulf Coast. This year, they get No. 13 Eastern Washington in the opening round, a team with the nation’s leading scorer on the roster and a win at Indiana under their belts. Does the trend continue?
  • 3. Freshmen vs. upper-classmen: Duke enters the tournament with as much hype as anyone. That’s what happens when you have talents like Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow on your roster. All three of those guys are freshmen, and if you look at the other top four or five teams in the region, they’re all built around upper-classmen. What wins out?

The Elite 8 matchup is…?: No. 1 Duke vs. No. 2 Gonzaga

Jahlil Okafor (AP Photo)

You’ll find a lot of chalk in the Elite 8 and Final Four projections this season, but that is a result of the fact that the top seven or eight teams this season are a cut above the rest of the country. That’s no different in the South. Duke will have a couple of tough matchups along the way, but they’re so dangerous when they get hot that it’s hard to see teams that can struggle to score beating them. And while Gonzaga’s got some red flags, this is a team with size, shooting, versatility and strong point guard play that got a favorable draw.

Final Four sleeper: No. 5 Utah

The Utes have all the makings of a team that can make a run. They play tough defense, they have size inside, they have shooters than can catch fire and they have a bonafide star running the show in Delon Wright. Larry Krystkowiak’s club has struggled down the stretch of the season, but this is a team built for making a postseason run.

MORE: Did the committee pick the right No. 1 seeds? | What about the bubble teams?

Upsets that CAN happen

  • No. 13 Eastern Washington over No. 4 Georgetown: As we mentioned earlier, Georgetown has made a habit of getting picked off early in the tournament by a lower seed, and Eastern Washington is certainly capable of continuing that. They play fast enough that they can nullify the advantage gained by the presence of Josh Smith.
  • No. 12 Stephen F. Austin over No. 5 Utah: I know, it’s weird saying Utah can make a Final Four and that they can get upset in their first game. But Stephen F. Austin is a really good team that plays a hectic half court style of defense that forces a lot of turnovers. Ask VCU, they lost to the Lumberjacks in the opening round last season.

Upsets that WON’T happen

  • Iowa State losing before the Sweet 16: I really like this Iowa State team, if you can’t tell. The Cyclones are so difficult to prepare for on short rest, and while I have the utmost respect for Larry Brown’s coaching acumen, I’m not convinced that SMU is anything more than a by-product of dominating a league that really wasn’t all that good. And UCLA? They can score, but are they disciplined enough defensively to slow down Iowa State?

Feeling like gambling?

  • No. 8 San Diego State over No. 1 Duke: The Aztecs do everything defensively that you need to do to beat Duke: They are terrific with their big-to-big doubles and they defend the three-point line. But can they score enough? They’ll need the Blue Devils to struggle shooting from the perimeter and they’ll need to dominate the offensive glass after getting past St. John’s, but the matchup couldn’t be better for the Aztecs as a No. 8 seed.

MORE: All-AmericansPlayer of the Year | Coach of the Year | Freshman of the Year

The studs you know about

  • Jahlil Okafor, Duke: Okafor is, quite simply, the best low-post scorer I can ever remember seeing play in college (I’m 29). He has his shortcomings, but he’s the best at what he does well.
  • Delon Wright, Utah: He’s flown under the radar this season despite having an all-american year.
  • Kevin Pangos, Gonzaga: Pangos began his career carrying a scoring load for Gonzaga. He’s matured into a phenomenal all-around point guard.
  • Georges Niang, Iowa State: You won’t find a more skilled forward anywhere, and you won’t find a coach that’s better at putting him in a position to be successful.

The studs the nation will find out about

  • Tyler Harvey, Eastern Washington: He’s the nation’s leading scorer playing in a system that loves to get up and down the floor. If Eastern Washington wins a game, you’ll be inundated with stories of how he committed to play to EWU’s coach when he was at a Division III program.
  • D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Georgetown: Maybe it’s because he plays in the Big East, but DSR gets nowhere near enough attention for how good of a basketball player he is.
  • Nic Moore, SMU: In a season where he was recruited over by Larry Brown — remember Emmanuel Mudiay? — Moore managed to put together a season deserving of the American Player of the Year award.
  • Tyler Kalinoski and Jack Gibbs, Davidson: They may not play much defense, but Bob McKillop has at his disposal two awesome guards that can do everything on the offensive end of the floor.

Best opening round matchups

  • No. 6 SMU vs. No. 11 UCLA: Good luck trying to pick the winner here. UCLA is more talented, but SMU has the Larry Brown factor.
  • No. 7 Iowa vs. No. 10 Davidson: Iowa is more talented than a No. 7 seed and inconsistent enough to be on the bubble as recently as three weeks ago. And Davidson? They went from beating VCU by 27 to losing to them by 20 in the span of a week.

Matchups to root for

  • No. 1 Duke vs. No. 5 Utah: The Utes are good enough defensively to slow down Duke’s high-powered offense. NBA scouts would love this as well. Jacob Poeltl getting a shot at Okafor and Wright squaring off with Tyus Jones.
  • No. 1 Duke vs. No. 2 Gonzaga: Duke’s loaded freshmen class going up against the veterans that make up Gonzaga’s roster. Coach K vs. Mark Few. Duke’s return to the Final Four or Gonzaga’s first ever trip to the final weekend of the season.

CBT Predictions: Duke makes it back to the Final Four with wins over Utah and Gonzaga along the way.

No. 16 Xavier beats No. 17 Providence 85-83 in OT thriller

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CINCINNATI — Jack Nunge had 23 points and 14 rebounds as No. 16 Xavier held off No. 17 Providence 85-83 in an overtime thriller Wednesday night.

Colby Jones and Souley Boum each scored 20 for the Musketeers, who won a first-place showdown in the Big East without injured forward Zach Freemantle.

Noah Locke had 22 points and Ed Croswell added 21 for Providence (17-6, 9-3), which had beaten Xavier three straight times.

A layup by Boum put the Musketeers (18-5, 10-2) ahead 82-79 with 51 seconds remaining in overtime. A turnover by the Musketeers led to a layup by Devin Carter that cut Xavier’s lead to one with 24 seconds left.

Boum hit one of two free throws, and Jared Bynum’s 3-point attempt from the left corner rimmed out at the buzzer as the Musketeers held on.

Xavier played its first game without Freemantle, the team’s leading rebounder and second-leading scorer. He is expected to miss four weeks with a left foot injury, the same foot that required surgery in 2021.

Jerome Hunter, who has excelled off the bench for the Musketeers, made his first start of the season and scored nine points with eight rebounds. Xavier had used the same starting lineup in each of its previous 11 Big East games.

Things started well for the Musketeers. who went on a 12-1 run to build a 25-11 lead.

With Boum on the bench with two fouls, the Musketeers didn’t have a field goal in the final 4:18 of the first half and the Friars pulled to 39-35 at halftime.

Providence outscored Xavier 8-2 to start the second half and took its first lead, 43-41, with 17:41 left.

There was a frantic finish to the second half, with Adam Kunkel’s 3-pointer putting Xavier ahead 76-73 with 55 seconds left. But then Bynum banked in a tying 3 and Boum missed two long shots to send the game to overtime.


Providence: The Friars, who won their first Big East regular-season title last year, entered the night tied atop the conference standings with Xavier and No. 14 Marquette, which hosted Villanova later. Providence was picked fifth in the preseason.

Xavier: Hunter, who averages 14 minutes, left with three minutes remaining in OT with an apparent cramp in his right leg. With Freemantle out, Hunter played 36 minutes.


Providence: Hosts last-place Georgetown on Wednesday.

Xavier: Will host St. John’s on Saturday.

Florida upends No. 2 Tennessee 67-54 behind Colin Castleton

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Colin Castleton had 20 points and nine rebounds, Kyle Lofton added 14 points and Florida used a 13-0 run late in the second half to upend No. 2 Tennessee 67-54 on Wednesday night.

The Volunteers, playing with their highest ranking in four years, lost for the first time in five games. They had won nine of 10.

Tennessee (18-4, 7-2 Southeastern Conference) looked like it had taken control midway through the second half. They outscored Florida by 10 points in the early going to take a six-point lead.

But the Gators (13-9, 6-3) stormed back behind Castleton, who scored 11 of 14 points as Florida rallied. The senior had a dunk, two free throws, a three-point play, a layup and a short jumper – essentially putting the team on his back down the stretch.

Myreon Jones and Will Richard chipped in nine points apiece for the Gators.

Zakai Ziegler led the Vols with 15 points on 6-of-19 shooting. Olivier Nkamhoua added 11 points and nine rebounds for the vistors, who also got 11 points and eight boards from Vescovi Santiago.

Florida led 27-21 at halftime, just the fifth time the Volunteers has trailed at the break this season. Tennessee rallied to win three of the previous four.

The Gators were red hot to start, making six of their first eight shots – including all three from 3-point range – while building a 17-4 advantage. But they quickly cooled against the nation’s best defense, missing nine of their next 11 as Tennessee made cut it to 22-21.

The Vols had it going coming out of the locker room, with Ziegler getting into the paint and making things happen. But it was short-lived – thanks mostly to Castleton.


Tennessee surely will drop a few spots in next week’s AP Top 25 college basketball poll.


Tennessee: The Volunteers gave up 10 points in the opening four minutes of the games, a rare sluggish start for the nation’s best defense. Tennessee had held four of its first eight SEC opponents scoreless at the first media timeout, roughly the first four minutes of games. It was a sign of things to come.

Florida: The Gators have been resilient much of the season, and this was arguably the most impressive comeback of the season for coach Todd Golden’s team. The Gators squandered a 13-point lead early and a six-point advantage in the second half. But they rallied when it mattered.


Football coach Billy Napier watched the game from a few rows behind Florida’s bench alongside his two sons and receiver Ricky Pearsall. Former Florida tennis star Ben Shelton, the NCAA singles champion in 2022, also was in attendance. So was former Gators and NFL quarterback Doug Johnson.


Tennessee hosts No. 25 Auburn and former coach Bruce Pearl on Saturday.

Florida plays at Kentucky on Saturday. The Gators have lost seven of eight in the series.

No. 8 Kansas avenges earlier loss to No. 7 Kansas State, 90-78

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LAWRENCE, Kan. — Jalen Wilson had 20 points, Kevin McCullar Jr. added 16 points and 13 rebounds, and No. 8 Kansas avenged a loss to Kansas State just a couple of weeks ago with a 90-78 victory over the seventh-ranked Wildcats.

Dajuan Harris Jr. scored 18 for the Jayhawks (18-4, 6-3 Big 12), who built a 12-point halftime lead before coasting to their 17th straight home win over the Wildcats in the 10th matchup of top-10 teams in series history.

Kansas has rebounded nicely from a rare three-game skid that included the overtime loss to Kansas State, and made sure to avoid taking back-to-back losses in its storied home for the first time since the 1988-89 season.

Markquis Nowell scored 23 points and Keyontae Johnson had 22 to lead the Wildcats (18-4, 6-3), who were trying for their first regular-season sweep of their biggest rival in four decades. Nae’Qwan Tomlin added 11 points and David N’Guessan had 10.

In their first meeting on Jan. 17, the Wildcats raced to a big early lead and controlled the game until late in the second half, when the Jayhawks forced overtime — only for Kansas State to win on Johnson’s alley-oop dunk.

It was the Jayhawks who controlled the rematch.

They used a 16-7 run in the first half that included a technical foul on Kansas State coach Jerome Tang to build a 32-19 lead. And when Johnson answered with eight straight points for the Wildcats, and the lead was eventually trimmed to four, the reigning national champs pulled away again down the stretch.

It was 37-32 when Wilson hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Zach Clemence added one of his own. And by the time Wilson made two foul shots with about 10 seconds left, Kansas had built a 49-37 lead that it took to the break.

The Wildcats briefly got within six in the second half before the Jayhawks stretched their lead to as many as 16.


Johnson had to sit with two fouls just 2 1/2 minutes into the game. Only problem? The crew of John Higgins, Kip Kissinger and Marques Pettigrew gave one to the wrong player. By the time they corrected their mistake, the Wildcats’ leading scorer had unnecessarily ridden the bench for several minutes.


For the first time in more than 15 years, more Kansas students redeemed tickets than there was space available inside Allen Fieldhouse. The overflow had to watch the game on screens in the adjacent Horejsi Family Athletics Center, where the Jayhawks play volleyball games. Those students also got refunds and concessions vouchers.


Kansas State’s three losses in league play have been to ranked teams on the road: TCU, Iowa State and Kansas. And with a more forgiving second half to the Big 12 schedule, the Wildcats remain firmly in the conference title hunt.

Kansas got its mojo back with its win over Kentucky last weekend. This victory over another bunch of Wildcats was crucial because the road doesn’t get any easier for the Jayhawks, who are in the midst of three straight games against teams ranked 13th or better.


Kansas State returns home for another top-10 showdown Saturday against No. 10 Texas.

Kansas hits the road for the third time in four games against No. 13 Iowa State on Saturday.

BC beats No. 20 Clemson 62-54; Tigers fall into ACC tie

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BOSTON — Makai Ashton-Langford had two key driving baskets in the closing two minutes and finished with 15 points to help Boston College beat No. 20 Clemson 62-54 on Tuesday night.

Jaeden Zackery added 13 points for the Eagles (11-12, 5-7 Atlantic Coast Conference). BC held Clemson to one field goal — and that came with 18 seconds left — in the final 13:16.

Hunter Tyson led Clemson (18-5, 10-2) with 22 points and Chase Hunter had 12. The Tigers fell into a first-place tie atop the ACC with No. 6 Virginia.

The Eagles used a 5-0 spurt — with T.J. Bickerstaff hitting a free throw and getting a driving layup — to pull ahead 50-45 with just over five minutes to play.

Clemson sliced it to 50-47 before Aston-Langford made his two big baskets. He followed that by making two free throws with 32 seconds left.

Trailing by 10 midway into the second half, the Tigers went on a 10-0 spree, tying it at 45 when RJ Godfrey hit both ends of a 1-and-1.

The Eagles had opened a double-digit lead twice in the opening six minutes of the second half, the later 45-35 on Prince Aligbe’s foul-line jumper with 14:12 to play.


Clemson: Off to a solid start in conference play, the Tigers were tested on the road for the second straight game after edging Florida State by a point on Saturday. It hasn’t been easy for them away from home with a 4-3 record and with three away matchups against North Carolina, North Carolina State and Virginia to go, they’ll need to get it straightened out of they’re going to won the ACC regular-season title.

Boston College: The Eagles proved when they play defense that they’re a tough out in coach Earl Grant’s second season. A little more offense could make them very dangerous for top ACC teams to play.


In the first half, Clemson’s man-to-man defense smothered the Eagles’ offense for the opening 10 minutes, holding them in single digits in scoring until just about the same time the student section finished filling up late, bringing some energy to a very quiet building.

BC’s players then responded, closing the half with a 22-4 spree that turned an 11-point deficit to a 30-23 halftime edge.


Both teams were missing key players. Guard Brevin Galloway, Clemson’s fourth leading scorer at 10.6 points per game, was sidelined with an abdominal injury. For BC, guard DeMarr Langford Jr., who logs big minutes at the point, was out with a knee injury.


Clemson: Hosts No. 23 Miami on Saturday.

Boston College: Hosts Syracuse on Saturday.

South Carolina tops women’s AP Top 25; Ohio State tumbles

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It was a rough week for Ohio State, which lost all three of its games and tumbled down the AP Top 25 as a result.

The previously unbeaten Buckeyes fell from second to 10th in The Associated Press women’s basketball poll released Monday after losing to Iowa and Indiana, two top 10 teams, as well as Purdue. Ohio State fell two games back in the Big Ten Conference standings.

South Carolina remained No. 1 for the 32nd consecutive week. The Gamecocks, who were again a unanimous choice from the 28-member national media panel, have the fourth-longest streak ever atop the poll. Only UConn (51 and 34 weeks) and Louisiana Tech (36) have had longer runs at No. 1.

Stanford moved back up to No. 2 in the poll and the Cardinal were followed by LSU, Indiana and UConn in the top five. LSU is the only other undefeated team in women’s basketball besides South Carolina, which visits UConn for a top-five showdown on Sunday.

Iowa jumped out four spots to sixth with Utah, Maryland and Notre Dame coming in ahead of Ohio State. The Hawkeyes started the season No. 4 in the poll.

The Fighting Irish split a pair of games last week against ranked opponents, routing Florida State before falling to N.C. State.

“There’s a lot of parity right now, which is great, great for the game,” Notre Dame coach Niele Ivey said. “The game is growing, which is what you want. But yeah, I mean, every night, especially the ACC, the ACC is the strongest league and, you know, we have just a tough stretch every night.”

One week after falling out of the rankings, Texas re-entered the poll at No. 24. The Longhorns routed then-No. 14 Oklahoma and Oklahoma State last week. South Florida also came in at No. 25. Colorado and Illinois fell out of the poll.


No. 25 South Florida continued its streak of being ranked for at least one week every season since the Bulls entered the poll for the first time in 2015.

“For us not being in a so-called football five conference, that’s a huge accomplishment,” South Florida coach Jose Fernandez said. His team has won 10 consecutive games and has 20 victories this season. The team’s four losses have all come against ranked opponents (Michigan, Villanova, Ohio State and N.C. State).

“This group has been fun to coach. We always play a great non(equals)conference schedule,” Fernandez said. “We won on the road at Texas, beat Alabama, beat Arkansas. We challenged ourselves in November and December.”


Cameron Brink carried Stanford to a win over Oregon with a triple-double that included 10 blocks. It was the first triple-double in NCAA Division I women’s basketball featuring double-digit blocks since Tamari Key did it for Tennessee in an overtime win against Texas on Nov. 21, 2021.

No. 20 Oklahoma’s Taylor Robertson set the all-time NCAA women’s career record for 3-pointers when she hit her 498th in a loss to Iowa State on Saturday. Robertson has 503 entering this week. The all-time NCAA record, men or women, is held by Antoine Davis of Detroit Mercy, who has 534 and counting.