Sweet 16 Breakdown: South Region

The first weekend of March Madness is in the books. What a weekend it was especially in the South Region. Upsets happened. Blown leads took place. Dominant performances occurred. The first overtime game happened in the South. More importantly, the defending champs were ousted in a hurry.

We have now reached the Sweet 16 also known as the regional final four. Going back to the previous article, March Madness Region Breakdown: South Region, the favorites in the South are still in. The hottest team entering the tournament is still hot despite their low seeding. Finally, a Big Ten team no longer struggling after dispatching the champs.

Here are the Sweet 16 matchups of the South Region in Louisville, Kentucky:

While you’re here, take a look at the East, West, and Midwest regions:

(3) Purdue Boilermakers vs. (2) Tennessee Volunteers

Freight Train Boilermakers

One of most impressive teams in the Sweet 16 are the 3-seed, Purdue Boilermakers. A team struggling down the stretch including in the Big Ten Tournament, you were afraid of the possible 14 over 3 upset that Old Dominion presented. However, Carsen Edwards had another plans.

Leading the Boilermakers to a 61-48 victory, Edwards scored 26 points to go along with 4 assists and 7 rebounds. It was evident that Purdue heard the rumblings of the upset and responded. Leading 32-19 at the half, it was clear that the Boilermakers was ready to shine. Old Dominion shot 27% from the field and 24% from deep.

Now, Purdue didn’t shot the lights out either, shooting 37.7% from the field and 30% from beyond the arc, but the Boilermakers got to the free-throw line three times as much as Old Dominion, 18 to 6 free-throw attempts. That was just the beginning.

In the Round of 32, the Boilermakers went up against the defending champs in the 6-seed, Villanova Wildcats. The Big East regular season and tournament champs got obliterated from opening tap.

Purdue defeated Nova 87-61 in the best performance of the tournament thus far. 43 points in the first half and 44 points in the 2nd half, what a display by the Boilermakers. Edwards dropped 42 points, hitting 9 3-pointers and Nova could not recover.

Edwards’s performance filtered through the rest of the team as the Boilermakers shot 53.7% from the field and 53.3% from downtown. 37 total rebounds by Purdue with 11 of them being offensive rebounds. Purdue controlled both sides of the floor. There will be a new champion this year.

Rocky Top

The 2-seed and one of the favorites to come out of the South Region are still breathing. The Tennessee Volunteers have not played a complete game in either of the first games but are still here.

In the Round of 64, the Vols played 15-seed, Colgate Raiders, the Patriot champions. It looked like the Vols were going to put this game away early, leading 42-30 at halftime. The Raiders, however, fought back to be a single possession down, but the Vols tightened up at the end to leave with a 77-70 victory.

Jordan Burns, a sophomore of Colgate, did everything he could to upset the Vols with 32 points, but it wasn’t enough. Tennessee had four players score in double-figures led by Admiral Schofield with 19 pts and Jordan Bowden with 14 pts off the bench.

In the Round of 32, the Volunteers were going to runaway yet again. This time against the 10-seed, Iowa Hawkeyes from the Big Ten. Had a 25-point lead in the 1st half and led 49-28 at halftime, the Vols were cruising until the 2nd half again. The Hawkeyes came out in the 2nd half swinging and eventually tied the game up.

A 25-point lead blown and now it’s a dog fight to the finish. The 2nd half ended in a 71-71 tie and Iowa outscored Tennessee 43-22 to do it. The first and only overtime game of the tournament. In the OT, the SEC Player of the Year, Grant Williams took over. Scoring 6 of his 19 points in OT. Half of the Vols overtime points came from Williams that propelled the Vols to the Sweet 16 with a 83-77 win.

The Matchup

It is the balanced high scoring attack of the Volunteers against the leading scorer of the tournament in Edwards. He has 68 through the first two games. Tennessee has had four players score in double-figures in both of their tournament games. Schofield has scored 19 pts in both games and Bowden has provided great minutes off the bench for the Vols.

Expect a high scoring game as the Boilermakers average 74 PPG through the first two games while the Vols are averaging 80. Edwards will need help from Matt Haarms and Ryan Cline, who both scored in double-figures against Villanova, because the Volunteers’ have six players who can score in double-figures if needed.

This game tips-off on Thursday, March 28 at 7:29PM.

(12) Oregon Ducks vs. (1) Virginia Cavaliers

Quack Attack

The hottest entering the tournament, is still the hottest team remaining in the tournament. The PAC-12 champs and 12-seed, Oregon Ducks are the scariest team remaining. Winning four games in four days to win the PAC-12 Tournament, the momentum has carried over into the NCAA Tournament.

The Ducks were among the dark horse teams and they have proven why. Both offensively and defensively, the Ducks seems to be the most complete team in the tournament.

Being tied at 25 at halftime in their first game, the Ducks outscored the Wisconsin Badgers, 47-29 in the 2nd half in a 72-54 upset victory. Wisconsin shot 33.3% from the field and 20% from 3-land.

Part of that is because Oregon had five blocked shots with four of them coming from sophomore big man, Kenny Wooten. Junior guard, Payton Pritchard, led the way with 19 points, 5 rebounds, and 8 assists.

In the Round of 32, the Ducks faced 13-seed and Big West champs, UC Irvine Anteaters. The Anteaters were coming off an upset victory over 4-seed, Kansas State Wildcards. This matchup shored up that a double-digit seed team would reach the Sweet 16 for a 12th consecutive season.

The Ducks came out firing on all cylinders. They built a 14-point in the 1st half and led by 12 at halftime. The Anteaters stormed back to eventually take the lead, but the Ducks fired back and took over for sure. Despite blowing that 14-point lead, the Ducks outscored the Anteaters 38-31 in the 2nd half, winning 73-54.

The block fest was on display for the Ducks again. Eight blocked shots took place and Wooten had seven of them to go along with 11 points. Pritchard led the way again with 18 points and 7 assists.

The Cavaliers’ Revenge

The Virginia Cavaliers have gotten the monkey of their back from last year’s unforgettable upset loss to UMBC.

In the Round of 64, the Cavs took care of 16-seed and Big South champs, Gardner-Webb Bulldogs. Being down 36-30 at halftime, the Cavs put to bed of a second consecutive 16 over 1 upset. Outscoring the Bulldogs 41-20 in the 2nd half in a 71-56 victory. The Cavaliers could comfortably breathe a sign of relive. Deandre Hunter led the way with 23 points and 6 rebounds. Mamadi Diakite came of the bench and provide 17 points and 9 rebounds.

In the Round of 32, the Cavs met up with 9-seed, Oklahoma Sooners from the Big 12. Oklahoma tried to be competitive, but it was no doubt that the Cavs would win this one. Winning 63-51, the Cavs showed why they were ranked number defensively in points allowed.

The Sooners shot 36.4% from the field and 36.4% from 3-point range. You can’t win in the tournament shooting that poorly from the field. The Cavs were efficient in shooting despite shooting 29.2% from 3, but shot 48.2% from the field overall. Diakite led the way with 17 points and 9 rebounds in the starting role.

The Matchup

Prepare to see a defensive showcase in this game. Both teams came into the tournament ranked in the top 20 in points allow defensively. Now through two games, both teams give up around 54 points in the tournament. Oregon is giving up 54 points per game while Virginia is giving up 53.5.

Oregon’s Wooten has 11 blocks this tournament, but it will be a matchup to see against Diakite for Virginia. Event though, Kyle Guy has been quiet so far, the matchup against Pritchard will be an interesting one.

This game will tip-off at the conclusion of the Purdue/Tennessee game.

Predictions

Tennessee and Virginia are still the favorites in the Sweet 16 South Region. Even though Purdue has gotten hot, it’s hard to see one player in Edwards out doing the balanced attack of the Volunteers.

Oregon is the hottest team remaining in the tournament, but Virginia is now a confident bunch without their leader Guy being a factor. That will not last long and expect Guy to show up in Louisville along with Hunter and Diakite and out-duel the Ducks in a battle of defenses.

Elite Eight Prediction: 2. Tennessee Volunteers vs. 1. Virginia Cavaliers on Saturday.

Overall…

The South Region proved to be unpredictable. UC Irvine and Oregon pulled off favorable upsets. Iowa surprised the country taking out the American champs in the Cincinnati Bearcats. Edwards broke his and Purdue’s slump to reach the Sweet 16. Virginia and Tennessee just won and survived.

Even though Virginia and Tennessee are the favorites, don’t sleep on Purdue and Oregon. Both regional semifinal games will be something to watch intently.

Can Edwards continue his ridiculous performance for Purdue? Will Oregon remain the hottest team in the tournament? Will chalk remain the course of the tournament of overall with Oregon being the only double-digit seed left in the tournament?

Thursday night begins the Sweet 16. The South Region will be televised on TBS from Louisville, Kentucky. Enjoy the second the week of the NCAA Tournament.

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