NCAA Tournament South Region Odds, Picks: How to Bet Creighton, West Virginia & More
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images. Pictured: Greg McDermott (Creighton)
Home of the No. 1 overall seed Alabama, the South Region has some of the best Round of 64 matchups in the NCAA tournament. This is a section where I’m targeting upsets early and often, and who I have coming out victorious may come as a surprise.
Despite a weak fourth-seeded Virginia, the South includes four teams inside the KenPom top 15.
Can Brandon Miller and the Tide defend their top ranking and cruise to the Final Four?
NCAA Tournament South Region Odds
|San Diego State||+1400|
|UC Santa Barbara||+10000|
The South Region Favorite
Alabama Crimson Tide (+180)
Alabama stumbled near the end of the season — if you can even call it that — with the off-court news surrounding star freshman Miller. The Tide flirted with danger in their last four games of the regular season but won three, including two in overtime.
The lone loss came in a meaningless finale at Texas A&M.
But it seems like Alabama’s mojo is back. Nate Oats’ squad rolled in the SEC Tournament en route to a championship.
And when I say rolled, I mean it. They blew the doors off Mississippi State by 23, pulled away against Missouri in the second half to win by 11 and added a 19-point win against A&M in the title game.
This is arguably the most fun offense to watch in the country. The Tide run at the fourth-fasted tempo in the country and shoot 3s on nearly 50% of possessions. They rank inside the top 20 in both offensive and defensive efficiency, are deep and are a force on the offensive glass.
Miller is the star of the offense and leads the team in both points (19.6) and rebounding (8.3). He shoots 40% from the perimeter, too.
But it’s the pieces around him that make Alabama so dangerous.
Freshman big Noah Clowney is only getting better with time, and Charles Bediako remains one of the top offensive rebounders in the conference. They both are defensive forces, as well, and are a big reason behind Alabama’s No. 1 2-point defense.
This run-and-gun offense is not only exciting, but the Tide’s defense is even more dominant. The Tide rank No. 1 in eFG% and third in 3-point defense. They rarely allow 3s — just 30.6% of field goals — and force opponents to often create on their own (15th in A/FGM).
Simply put, Alabama is no slouch.
One thing to note: the Tide’s ultimate downfall would be the 3-point variance monster striking. Their offense relies on 3-pointers, and if they don’t fall, the Tide can struggle.
Miller can often will Alabama in those instances against lesser teams — he had 41 points vs. South Carolina when Alabama was 1-of-14 from 3 aside from him — but the tournament is a different beast.
Ultimate South Region Winner
Creighton Bluejays (+850)
There’s a lot to love about Creighton, and I’ve been in on the Bluejays from the start of the year. The draw isn’t exactly an easy one, but it’s definitely attainable given their strengths as a team.
For starters, this is one of the most well-rounded defenses in the country. Since the start of 2023, the Bluejays are the 12th-best team, per Bart Torvik. They have the 14th-ranked defense, with the unit’s strength most notably coming on the interior.
Ryan Kalkbrenner is the anchor of the defense. The 7-foot-1 big finished third in Big East play in block rate and is the rim protector.
But it’s actually Baylor Scheierman’s production that stands out most. He leads the team in rebounding (8.4 per game) and steals (1.1).
This is a defense that ranks inside the top 15 in defensive rebounding and more importantly, has the second-lowest FTA/FGA in the country. Creighton forces opponents to create offense for themselves rather than gifting such, and it also has the 21st-best 2-point%.
While they are near the 200 mark in 3-point%, opponents only shoot 29.8% of field goal attempts from the perimeter. That’s the ninth-lowest margin, and it stems from the Creighton on-ball pressure.
The Bluejays don’t force many turnovers, but they funnel opponents inside and force difficult shots over Kalkbrenner.
With defensive strengths comes offensive stardom from Kalkbrenner, as well. He is a matchup nightmare for opponents and averages 15.4 points per game.
Creighton attacks through the pick-and-roll and post more often than not, using Kalkbrenner as an attention-grabber to open opportunities both on cuts and catch-and-shoot 3s.
It also allows for players like Ryan Nembhard or Trey Alexander to get open looks in the mid-range.
This is an extremely balanced offense, with five players averaging double figures. They take care of the basketball, shoot efficiently from the charity stripe and have all the pieces needed for a deep tournament run.
Their path certainly isn’t the easiest, but their interior presence is a mismatch against both North Carolina State and Baylor. The Wolfpack haven’t beaten a tournament team away from home all season and D.J. Burns Jr. will struggle with Kalkbrenner.
Baylor feasts on the offensive glass — which Creighton completely takes away — and has an extremely soft defense around the rim. That will be an issue against Kalkbrenner and more physical attackers like Nembhard and Arthur Kaluma.
From there, it’s likely Creighton sees Arizona and eventually Alabama. We’ve seen the Wildcats go silent at times in their jarring losses to Washington State, Stanford and Arizona State.
Kerr Kriisa’s injury is also a concern for me — he did not look the same in the Pac-12 Tournament.
Last but not least, I’ve touched on the Crimson Tide’s affinity for 3 ball. Well, Creighton often takes that away and forces opponents inside. If they can disrupt Alabama just slightly, the Bluejays have the offensive firepower to remain within striking distance and eventually upset the No. 1 seed.
A six seed in the Final Four? This is the team that has all the pieces to do it. The Bluejays’ only issue would be a lack of depth, but they don’t foul as mentioned before.
Potential South Region Bracket Buster
West Virginia Mountaineers (+1800)
A team that I think could surprise many with a Sweet 16 run and upset Alabama — or at least give the Tide a run for their money — is West Virginia.
Since the start of February, the Mountaineers are 17th in Bart Torvik’s rankings. Their offense has been trending up — 12th in that span — and much of that has to do with Kedrian Johnson and Tre Mitchell carving out larger roles.
Erik Stevenson has been phenomenal as the lead of this Mountaineers offense and is shooting 38.1% from the perimeter. He took 36.8% of shots in Big 12 play while on the floor — highest in the conference — and draws nearly five fouls per 40 minutes.
West Virginia can keep pace with the best teams in the country. Its defense leaves a lot to be had if it’s not forcing turnovers, but this is a physical team that will battle on the glass and create consistent second-chance opportunities.
Bob Huggins’ squad has the size to compete with Alabama on the glass. The Mountaineers force turnovers at a high rate, and that’s a flaw of the Crimson Tide’s fast-paced offense (241st in TO%).
I’ve said before that one off night from 3 could lead to Alabama’s demise. West Virginia is a team more than capable of pulling off that upset.
For what it’s worth, Bart Torvik also has the Mountaineers as the 18th-most likely team to beat an average Division I squad.
This is a team that could lose in the Round of 64 or be a surprise to many. Don’t doubt Huggins’ experience as a head coach. WVU has the potential to be a pure bracket buster.
Best South Region First-Round Matchup
Utah State (-1.5) vs. Missouri
From a pure entertainment perspective, Utah State and Missouri will be the best matchup of the first round, featuring two of top-15 offenses from an efficiency perspective, per KenPom.
These are two run-and-gun offenses that fire from 3 on over 42% of field goal attempts.
They also are two defenses that rank outside the top 200 in 3-point%, which makes for a high-scoring atmosphere.
When taking a look at Utah State, the Aggies shoot 38.5% from 3. Four players consistently convert at a 36.9% clip or higher, led by Steven Ashworth (43.9%). Missouri is down at 75th, but it’s no slouch from the perimeter, either.
D’Moi Hodge hits at a 40% rate and both Nick Honor (39.7%) and Kobe Brown (44.7%) provide a steady hand, as well. Brown is more of an inside presence, though his ability to stretch the floor often makes for mismatches in the SEC.
Brown should have his way with the Utah State frontcourt.
This is an interesting matchup for a multitude of reasons. Aside from the 3-point prowess of both teams, Utah State and Missouri rank inside the top 30 in experience.
Could Missouri’s zone looks throw Utah State off its game? Possibly. But the Aggies do rank 10th in A/FGM and the offense is extremely fast-paced. We could see plenty of possessions in transition without the Tigers’ defense being set.
And the same could be said for Missouri, which loves to feed Brown and attack the rim in transition.
The number of possessions is going to be sky high in this 7-10 matchup and the winner draws another fun matchup — most likely — against Arizona in the Round of 32.
So, just sit back and enjoy the 3-point barrage.
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