Sick of hard-hitting analysis of the 2019 NCAA Tournament? Up to your eyeballs in expert picks chock-full of astute takes on players to watch and budding upsets?
Fear not, friends: your pals at Anonymous Eagle are here to inject some half-baked, homespun “insight” into the proceedings, with our annual region-by-region tour, as we go Anonymously Through the Brackets.
For each region, we’ll give you our patented Anonymous Eagle Half-Arsed Analysis with: a gutless pick to win the region; a sleeper regional champ; a CRUSH YOUR MAN upset special; a player/team we’d pay to watch; a player most likely to carry his team singlehandedly to the Sweet 16; and the best player in the region that you’ve never heard of before.
Let’s wrap up our swing through Bracketville with a look at the South Region......
GUTLESS WONDER Pick To Win The Region
Okay, okay, let’s get all the jokes out of our system now. Yes, I am going with Virginia as my Gutless Wonder pick here. Yes, yes, we all know that they became the first ever #1 seed to ever lose to a #16 seed last year. That was last year. This is a whole new year, and there’s enough guys from last year back for this year to motivate the team to wipe away last year’s (admittedly hilarious) destruction in the first round. Here’s why you don’t have to worry about the Hoos this year: They’re much better on offense. Last year’s squad ranked just #21 in the country in KenPom’s offensive efficiency metric heading into the tournament. Yes, that’s very good. This year’s team? #2 in the country right now. They’re pairing that with the #5 defense. If you’re the kind of person who believes deeply that having a top 10 offense and top 10 defense is a way to pick who wins this whole shebang, then Virginia, Duke, North Carolina, and Michigan State are your picks, and that means we go with UVa here.
CHEX BOLD PARTY MIX Bold Pick To Win The Region
With that said, Virginia has only been past the round of 32 twice in Tony Bennett’s tenure as Virginia head coach, so the odds are against the Cavaliers making it to Minnesota for the Final Four. You know who’s really good at getting to the Final Four in this region? Jay Wright and Villanova. Yes, they’re the #6 seed, and yes, they lost five of their last eight games in the regular season. However, the key cogs on this team — Phil Booth, Eric Paschall, Collin Gillespie, etc. — know the process and effort needed to win a title last year, and Booth and Paschall were both on the roster for the 2016 title, too, even though Paschall was sitting out as a transfer from Fordham.
If Wright has them pointed in the right direction (see what I did there) after winning the Big East tournament, then this Wildcats squad can be incredibly dangerous, no matter what their seed is to start things off.
CRUSH YOUR MAN Upset Special
Mick Cronin is the king of getting to the second round of the NCAA tournament. He’s guided his #7 seeded Cincinnati teams to the round of 32 in five of the last eight seasons. He also (perhaps jokingly) said that he needed to hold tryouts before the AAC tournament to decide who was actually going to go to the tournament after losing by 14 to Houston in the regular season finale. Their win over those same Cougars in the AAC title game was just UC’s third win over a KenPom top 50 team all season, compiling a 3-5 record thanks to that tournament title.
Guess where #10 seed Iowa is currently ranked? If you guessed #36, you are correct.
Cronin is due for another hilarious meltdown about how someone or something is completely screwing him over. Take the Hawkeyes over the Bearcats, and just sit back and enjoy the show.
Player I’d Pay To Watch
Y’know, there’s kind of a lack of solid candidates here, partly because I’ve paid to see a lot of the candidates. Ethan Happ, Dean Wade, all the Nova guys, Carsen Edwards.... all of them have been through Milwaukee to play Marquette, so it seems unfair to pick one that I already have seen in person.
Also, none of those guys are as good as Tennessee‘s Admiral Schofield.
HA! You thought I was going to say Grant Williams, didn’t you?
I submit to you the following video.
Grant Williams ain’t doing that. Grant Williams might be one of the 10 best players in the country (#8 right now in the KenPom Player of the Year rankings), but he’s just a very high quality basketball player that does lots of things very well. Schofield does that and also shoots threes much much better (and more often) than Williams. The threes just let him dunk more!
Plus, his name is ADMIRAL. You are automatically a much bigger drawing card when you have a cool name. “Guys! You gotta see Grant Williams!” Nah. “Guys! You gotta see Admiral Schofield!” Now I’m paying attention.
The Chiropractor Special aka: Who Can Put The Team On His Back?
This is going to involve a huge amount of caveats involved with it, but watch out for Purdue’s Carsen Edwards here. He’s one of the 10 guys on the KenPom.com Player of the Year watch list, thanks to the fact that he’s pretty good at setting other guys up, pretty good at steals, pretty good at not fouling and really really good at getting to the free throw line. The Boilermakers are sharing the Big Ten title because of what Carsen Edwards did for them this year.
There’s, uh, also his shooting problem. Last year, Edwards was a 41% three-point shooter. This year? 34%. That breaks down to just 30% against Big Ten teams and just 29% in their 16 games against top 50 opponents. I don’t know if you realize this, but as long as Purdue can get past Old Dominion in the first round, they’re probably going to have to play nothing but top 50 teams. He’s been on a massive cold streak lately, shooting just 21% in their last three games, which includes their one-and-done appearance in the Big Ten Tournament.
Edwards can carry Purdue far in this tournament, but he’s going to need to steer out of this skid behind the arc to do it.
Best Guy You’ve Never Heard Of
There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of unheralded stars in this region. I’m going to go with Breein Tyree from Ole Miss. I could have gone with Tyler Cook from Iowa or Ahmad Caver from Old Dominion, but I found a connection with Tyree. Y’know how KenPom.com gives you the five best same class comparisons to various players? For example, Markus Howard is having a comparable junior year to Jimmer Fredette’s junior year, etc. Y’know who’s one of Tyree’s junior year statistical comps? Marquette’s very own Darius Johnson-Odom. Tyree leads Ole Miss in scoring this season, helping head coach Kermit Davis guide the Rebels to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2015 and their best seed since Rod Barnes got them to the Sweet 16 as a #3 seed in 2001.
It’s hard to beat a guy who’s creating what amounts to a historic season for his team in terms of “best guy you’ve never heard of,” honestly.