NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 16: Villanova Wildcats guard Phil Booth (5) after he receives the Big East Tournament MVP Award after winning the Big East Conference Championship college basketball game between the Villanova Wildcats and the Seton Hall Pirates on March 16, 2019 at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The 2019 NCAA Tournament has officially kicked off with the “First Four” having tipped off on Tuesday. Final seeding will be determined for the first and second rounds which are underway Thursday and Friday. Eyes will be on the South Region for potential upsets and key players to watch. How will number one seed Virginia respond after last year’s historic first-round exit?

2019 NCAA Tournament: South Region Preview

Virginia headlines the South Region as a number one seed once again. How will they respond after being ousted a year ago by 16th seed UMBC? Looking at the rest of the bracket, the South is noticeably deeper in comparison to the other regionals. Defending champs Villanova rank as the sixth seed and some believed that Tennessee could notch the top seed as opposed to number two.

There are plenty of legitimate upsets in the making, and it’s likely a Cinderella team is destined for a run. Noteworthy double-digit teams are plentiful in the South region, and we very well could see one of them advance far into March. The first round kicks off with a must-watch matchup with a potential upset in the making.

First Round Game to Watch

(5) Wisconsin Badgers vs. (12) Oregon Ducks

There are plenty of worthy games to watch in the first round, but Wisconsin vs. Oregon has the potential to be the upset fans love. Though Wisconsin was the superior team for a majority of the season, the Badgers went 6-4 in their final ten games. Meanwhile, Oregon had no business making it to the big dance, but rode an eight-game win streak towards a Pac-12 title. The point spread between these two is just 1.5, making it potentially one of the closest games in the South region. Historically, a 12 seed will persevere and eliminate a five seed. Could the Ducks play the spoiler role in the South?

Players to Watch

De’Andre Hunter – Guard – Virginia 

Virginia was ousted in historic fashion a year ago, and it came without guard De’Andre Hunter in the fold. The Cavaliers expect a different performance this March Madness, and Hunter’s availability will add a different factor. At six-foot-seven with close to a seven-foot wingspan, Hunter is capable of guarding multiple positions and is reliable from behind the arc as well.

Carsen Edwards – Guard – Purdue

Carsen Edwards is totaling averages of 23.0 points, 3.0 assists, and 1.4 steals per game for the Purdue Boilermakers. Purdue enters the tournament having won 14 of its last 17 games, and at the forefront is their best player in Edwards. The Boilermakers will go as far as Edwards can take them.

Payton Prichard – Guard – Oregon

How exactly did the Oregon Ducks make a late season push into the big dance? It came along with the emergence of their guard Payton Prichard. During their eight-game winning streak, Prichard averaged 15.8 points, 4.9 assists, and 3.5 rebounds. Now, an upset is on Prichard’s and Oregon’s mind come first round.

Phil Booth – Guard – Villanova

It doesn’t matter if the Villanova Wildcats are a six seed, guard Phil Booth has been here before. Having won two national championships in his college career, Booth is the Wildcats’ leading scorer and guide for another Villanova championship run.

Upset Special

As mentioned before, a 12 seed historically upsets a number five seed and it could ring true once again in the South region. The Saint Mary’s Gaels should not be slept on either, and if they can survive the first-round matchup with Villanova they could be due for a Cinderella run. They slow the game down, run out the clock and use it to their advantage.

Yet if there is as sure a thing as an upset, it comes in the form of the Oregon Ducks ousting the Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin had the better overall season, but they have drawn the unfortunate card of matching up against perhaps the hottest team in college basketball. If the Ducks continue their winning trends, they’ll see themselves in the second round.

Let the madness begin

Of the four regions, the south might be the group in which top-seeded Virginia may not be consensus lock to win their regional. Tennessee was deemed worthy of the top seed by many, and could very well see themselves in the Final Four. If you’re looking for upsets, look no further than the South Region. Oregon will likely fit the bill as the underdog to Wisconsin, while the Saint Mary’s Gaels could be a sleeper if they can survive Villanova. With some of the hottest teams in play, the South Region could be up for grabs.

 

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