With the field for the 2023 men’s NCAA tournament now official, we’re breaking down each team in the bracket in the lead-up to the tournament. Here’s what you need to know about the South region.
No. 1 Alabama (+800 to win national title)
29-5, SEC champions
Alabama enters tournament play not only seeking the program's first Final Four, but on the short list of favorites to win the national title. Its best finish was a trip to the Elite Eight in 2004. Beyond that, it has never advanced past the Sweet 16.
Now the Crimson Tide are a No. 1 seed with a chance to add a basketball title to a trophy case stacked with football championships. If they break through, they'll do so in controversial fashion. Police say that SEC Player of the Year and projected NBA lottery pick Brandon Miller delivered a gun to the scene of a fatal shooting in January involving ex-teammate Darius Miles. Miles now faces a capital murder charge.
Miller faces no charges, and continues to lead an Alabama team that's peaking and primed to compete in March. Alabama has won seven of its past eight games, including three straight double-digit wins in a tough SEC tournament field en route to the conference title.
No. 2 Arizona (+1200 to win national title)
28-6, Pac-12 champions
Arizona finished four games behind UCLA in the Pac-12 regular season, but earned a No. 2 seed in NCAA play thanks to beating the Bruins in a 61-59 thriller in the conference tournament championship game. This is a team that gets up and down the floor while ranking fourth in the nation with 83.1 points per game and fourth in KenPom's adjusted offensive efficiency.
The Wildcats rank 20th in the nation in 3-point percentage and have multiple guys who can connect from deep. They also feature a pair of All-Pac-12 performers on the interior in forward Azuolas Tubelis and center Oumar Ballo. Good luck keeping pace with the Wildcats.
No. 3 Baylor (+1800 to win national title)
The Bears are seeking their first trip to the tournament's second weekend since securing the program's only national championship in 2021. They do so with a freshman leading the charge.
All-Big 12 guard and projected NBA lottery pick Keyonte George leads Baylor with 15.8 points per game. A streaky shooter, George connects at a 38.7% rate from the field. If he gets hot, watch out. George scored 20 or more points 12 time this season. He can create his own jump shot and is dangerous in transition. He leads a team that ranks second in adjusted offensive efficiency, but falls short of its 2021 championship pedigree with a 104th-ranked defensive efficiency.
No. 4 Virginia (+4000 to win national title)
This may not be a vintage Tony Bennett team, but it's definitely a Tony Bennett team. The Cavaliers led the ACC in points allowed per game (60.3) while grinding things to a halt with the conference's 13th-ranked scoring offense (67.8 points per game) that works deep into the shot clock. A swarming defense that ranks 25th in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency is always a threat to throw the opposition off its game.
Sadly for the Cavaliers, they'll enter tournament play without graduate transfer forward Ben Vander Plas, who averaged 7.4 points and 4.6 rebounds as a part-time starter. He broke a bone his right hand early in the ACC tournament. Despite his absence, the Cavaliers advanced to the ACC championship, where they lost to Duke.
No. 5 San Diego State (+8000 to win national title)
27-6, MWC champion
San Diego State provides the South region with another defensive power. The Aztecs secured the MWC championship thanks in large part to a unit that ranks ninth in the nation in adjusted defensive efficiency and led the conference with 63.6 points allowed per game. They enter tournament play having won nine of their past 10 games. A potential second-round matchup with Virginia would be a slugfest.
No. 6 Creighton (+4000 to win national title)
Creighton enters tournament play with a balanced profile and a Naismith finalist in junior center Ryan Kalkbrenner. Is this a sleeper team poised for a deep run? The Bluejays rank 28th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 15th in adjusted defensive efficiency. Kalkbrenner is a force on both sides of the floor who averaged 15.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.2 blocks en route to his second Big East Defensive Player of the Year award. They have a pair of shooters connecting on better than 36% from 3-point distance on more than four attempts per game in Baylor Scheierman and Ryan Nembhard. This is a profile that could create problems in the South.
No. 7 Missouri (+20000 to win national title)
Missouri is back in the NCAA tournament under first-year head coach Dennis Gates after a one-year absence. Where Creighton is a picture of balance, Missouri is quite the opposite. The Tigers ranked second in the SEC with 79.5 points per game and 10th in the nation in adjusted offensive efficiency. Meanwhile, they rank 178th in adjusted defensive efficiency while allowing 74.8 points per contest, a mark that's good for 299th in the country. All-SEC forward Kobe Brown leads the Tigers in scoring and rebounding and will be leaned upon if Missouri makes an unexpected run.
No. 8 Maryland (+8000 to win national title)
Maryland is a balanced team that ranked 35th in adjusted offensive efficiency and 33rd on defense. But it enters NCAA play on a cold streak, having lost three of four and five of its past 10. The Terrapins finished in a four-way tie for fifth place in the Big Ten and lost in the tournament quarterfinals to Indiana. If they're going to pick things up, they'll look to All-Big Ten guard Jahmir Young, who led the team in scoring and steals after transferring from Charlotte. The Terps are 5-11 this season away from home.
No. 9 West Virginia (+12500 to win national title)
Bob Huggins' squad earned an NCAA bid despite an eighth-place 7-11 finish in a brutal Big 12. South Carolina transfer Eric Stevenson is the team's lone All-Big 12 honoree after leading the Mountaineers with 15.5 points per game. As usual, West Virginia plays a physical brand of basketball, but this year's squad relies on an offense that ranks 15th in adjusted offensive efficiency.
No. 10 Utah State (+20000 to win national title)
Utah State advanced to the MWC championship game, but settled for an at-large bid after losing to San Diego State. It exceeded expectations after being picked to finish eight by by media. Head coach Ryan Odom has the program on an upward trajectory in his second season. The Aggies field an excellent offense led by All-MWC guard Steven Ashworth (16.3 points, 4.5 assists per game). They rank 13th in the nation in offensive efficiency and could give a porous Missouri defense fits in the first round.
No. 11 NC State (+15000 to win national title)
NC State made the field as an at-large team despite laying claim to just a single Quadrant 1 win. But it poses a threat thanks to a pair of second-team All-ACC guards in Jarkel Joiner and Terquavion Smith, the latter of whom projects as a first-round NBA Draft pick. Both averaged better than 17 points per game and are capable of getting hot from the floor, a key attribute in NCAA play. They could pose problems for a vulnerable Baylor defense if NC State can get past a tough Creighton matchup in the first round.
No. 12 College of Charleston (+25000 to win national title)
31-3, CAA champion
Charleston boasts the most wins in the region and features All-CAA first-team guard Dalton Bolon. It doesn't post a glaring weakness on either side of the floor while ranking in the top 75 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency. This is not a great 3-point shooting (33.4%) team, and it faces a stiff first-round test against a stifling San Diego State defense.
No. 13 Furman (+50000 to win national title)
27-7, Southern Conference champion
Furman promises to put Virginia's defense to the test. The Paladins rank 33rd in adjusted offensive efficiency and feature a pair of versatile All-SoCon scorers in guard Mike Bothwell and forward Jalen Slawson, both fifth-year seniors. Bothwell leads the team with 18 points per game while Slawson (15.7 ppg) shoots 39.4% from 3-point distance. Both shoot better than 50% from the field. This could be a tough draw for Virginia.
No. 14 UC Santa Barbara (+100000 to win national title)
27-7, Big West champion
The Gauchos will face by far their stiffest test of the season against Baylor after playing a grand total of zero games against Quadrant 1 teams during the regular season. They field a capable offense that ranked 71st in adjusted offensive efficiency while featuring All-Big West guard Ajay Mitchell (16.4 points, 5.4 assists per game). But they'll have their hands full against Baylor's elite offense with a defense that ranks outside the top 150.
No. 15 Princeton (+100000 to win national title)
21-8, Ivy League champion
Princeton won the Ivy League, but don't count on it to become this year's Saint Peter's. All-Ivy forward Tosan Evbuomwan leads the way with 15 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. Just don't expect him to lead an upset for a Princeton team thanks ranks outside the top 100 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
No. 16 Texas A&M CC (+100000 to win national title)
23-10, Southland champion
No. 16 SE Missouri State (+100000 to win national title)
19-16, OVC champion
Texas A&M Corpus Christi lit it up against Southland competition for 80.4 points per game. It will take on a Southeast Missouri State team that ranks 243rd in adjusted defensive efficiency. Whoever wins the play-in game won't pose any sort of threat to Alabama.