Scouting the South region: Alabama, Baylor, Creighton boast best stories

With a fresh face at the top, former champions in the middle, and feisty underdogs at the bottom, the South region of the 2023 March Madness bracket offers an exciting set of games. After a grueling college basketball season, what is there left to learn about this corner of the tournament?

Teams To Watch


No. 1 Seed


Best Matchup

Upset Special

Stat’s Incredible



No. 6 Cinderella

No. 8 Maryland vs No. 9 West Virginia

No.13 Furman

No. 4 Virginia


Southeastern Conference

Big East Conference

Big Ten vs Big 12

Southern Conference

Atlantic Coast Conference


29-5 / 16-2

21-12 / 14-6

21-12/ 19-14

27-7 overall, 15-3

25-7 overall, 15-5


Crimson Tide






Nate Oats

Greg McDermott

Kevin Willard/Bob Huggins

Bob Richey

Tony Bennett


Tuscaloosa, AL

Omaha, NE

College Park, MD/Morgantown, WV

Greenville, SC

Charlottesville, VA

NCAA Tournament record



43-28 / 32-30



Best finish

Elite Eight 2004

Regional Semis, 1941, 62, 64, 74, 2012-14, 21

National Champion 2002/ Runner-up 1959

Regional Semis, 1974

National Champions 2019

Opening line

N/A (First Four TBD)

-5 over North Carolina State

West Virginia -2.5 over Maryland

Furman +5.5 over Virginia

Virginia -5.5 over Furman

Title odds



Both 10000




3 wins of 40+ or more points

15th best Adjusted Defensive Efficiency

MD allows the 3rd fewest steals/WV made most FT in conference

Winners of 14 of the last 15

4th slowest adjusted tempo in the country


No. 1 Seed

The Alabama Crimson Tide may just be the best team in the country. They’ve lost just five games all season and have made a habit of blowing unfortunate opponents out of the water. The Associated Press Week 19 poll ranked them No. 1 in the nation, so their top seed in the South is no surprise.

Alabama’s first-round matchup hasn’t been decided yet–a first four matchup will determine a lowly team’s fate. Still, the Crimson Tide are a comfortable projection fairly deep into the tournament. I like FanDuel’s -108 odds to reach the Elite Eight, where a $108 bet could win $100. If you’re confident in a crimson spring, be sure to check out FanDuel’s promotion for Bet Basics readers: UP TO $1,000 BACK IN BONUS BETS


If you’re willing to call No. 6 Creighton a Cinderella candidate, then the Bluejays are my favorite of the bunch. In my own bracket, I have them taking down that mighty aforementioned Alabama team in the Elite Eight.

I think they are better than the committee has given them credit for, in large part to their defensive prowess, which ranks 15th in the nation per KenPom. The Bluejays are battle tested, crash the defensive glass well, and are armed with a handful of efficient scorers. They have been to the tournament in each of the last three seasons, unlike their first-round draw NC State that is dancing for the first time since 2018.

Creighton’s moneyline of -220 should inspire confidence in their odds to reach the second round, where they’ll likely face Baylor. Given Creighton’s defensive tendencies, I expect the under (148.5, -110), to hit on Friday, too.

Best Matchup

Every year, some of the hardest games to pick are between the 8 and 9 seeds. This year is no different, especially in the South. No. 8 Maryland and No. 9 West Virginia are separated by a mere 2.5-point spread, with the advantage given to the Mountaineers. 

Frankly, sometimes March Madness forces us to forego nuance in the name of gut feelings. That’s how I landed on the Terrapins to win. Perhaps that ambiguity is just another reason why this game should be incredible.

Upset Special

You won’t find it in my bracket, but Furman tearing down Virginia is one of the more popular upset selections of the season. Their volume shooting approach may resemble a poorly assembled Pro-Am team from NBA 2K, but getting hot could certainly make the Cavaliers sweat.

One thing to watch for is the tempo Virginia employs. If it’s as slow as most experts anticipate, there’s less of an advantage for teams trying to shoot the lights out.

Currently, the Paladins are being given 5.5 points. A true upset may not be in the cards, but the -110 odds on Furman to cover from behind is a much friendlier line.

Stat’s Incredible

Hey, remember that tempo thing we just talked about? It’s UVA’s calling card and, again, likely the key to this matchup.

They aren’t just slow. They are bathroom-lines-after-too-many-drinks slow. As in, 61.6 possessions per 40 minutes slow, good for 360th in college basketball.

Only Saint Mary’s and Northern Kentucky offer offenses nearly as unhurried as the Cavaliers. Houston, Tennessee, and Purdue are the only other top 4 seeds in the bottom quartile of that leaderboard. Don’t expect any scoring records from this one.

Players To Watch



Best Player

Stock Buy?

Shake His Money Maker

Perseverance Pays



Brandon Miller

Ryan Kalkbrenner

Keyonte George

Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua

Ben Sternberg

















RS Senior



























Has hit 40.1% of his 3s

Led CBB with a 71.4 FG%

Only made 38.7% of his field goal attempts

Increased FT% from 68.2% to 84.6% in college

Buzzer-beater in Mizzou debut


Best Player

It is pretty undeniable that Brandon Miller is the best player in this corner of the bracket. The Alabama star has led the Crimson Tide to their esteemed seed and ranking. 

Miller has been efficient from deep and a force in the rebounding department, too. Expect him to take over for Alabama, regardless of others’ futile attempts to slow him down.

Unfortunately, there’s more to this story. Although he has not been charged with a crime, his weapon was used to kill 23-year-old Jamea Jonae Harris, at the hands of a now former teammate. The story has surrounded Miller and his school in controversy, though the team has decidedly prioritized basketball, signaled by Miller’s continued presence on the floor.

The only advice I can offer here is to not let Harris be forgotten during a tournament in which her story will be used as “adversity” for a top-ranked Alabama team.


Maybe it’s cruel to list the 150-pound Ben Sternberg as a player to watch in this tournament. The Missouri guard/team manager won’t be on the floor unless things get really, really out of hand. Where you may find him, though, is on the internet, where he posts college basketball content from the perspective of a Division I player.

Sternberg’s energy is infectious, and the type of vibe that comes out to play once March rolls around. His impact won’t be tangible, but it may play a role in a Tigers victory should they cover the +1.5 spread.

Shake His Money Maker

If Miller is the best prospect in this tournament, Keyonte George may be the second. Hailing from Baylor, George knows how to make an impact just about everywhere on the court.

He’s got the skills to score. He’s got the size to rebound. He’s got the determination to defend.

But can he win? Despite his strong defensive skills, Baylor ranked just outside the top 100 in Adjusted Defensive Efficiency. Currently 11.5-point favorites over UC Santa Barbara, there isn’t much concern for this week. However, a win could put the Bears in position to be spoiled by a lower seed.

Finding a way to increase his team’s defensive fortitude while remaining efficient on offense could make or break George’s lottery designation, putting millions of dollars at stake.

Perseverance Pays

You know how the NFL draft coverage always finds the saddest things to show about a player? Those media giants will find any crumb of adversity to throw on our screens as a young man celebrates the happiest moment of his young career. The tournament, in many ways, is no different. 

George’s teammate Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua won’t get the same recognition. But he may get the same amount of mid-game cutaways and custom-made graphics.

Tchamwa Tchatchoua seemingly destroyed his knee in a single step last year. Ligaments were torn, a nerve was severed, and a basketball player was left with serious doubt about whether or not he would play basketball again. Somehow, he proved many doctors and doubters wrong and returned to the floor even earlier than some optimistic projections.

His determination paid off, and it’s a gift that keeps on giving. He’ll be dancing with the Bears this week on the same knee that endangered his career a season ago.

Stock Buy?

One of the reasons why I’m so confident in Creighton being a legitimate contender this March is an offense that has remained underrated in the shadow of the Bluejays defense. KenPom has them ranked 28th on that side of the floor, but not many are talking about it.

One reason for their success has been big man Ryan Kalkbrenner. The center has put up 15.4 with 6.1 boards per game, so he’s no slouch. What impressed me the most, though, was his country-leading field goal percentage. A mark of 71.4% is largely a product of his shot selection, but even today, a lot of centers find themselves taking easy shots at the rim. Only one of them is leading the nation in efficiency.

If the over (148.5) hits, we’ll know who to thank.

Anthony Licciardi
Sports Journalist
Anthony Licciardi is a long-suffering fan of the New York Mets, Jets, and Knicks. He aims to build a smarter generation of sports fans and writes to distract himself from the daily happenings of his favorite teams. In his spare time, he’s knee deep in Google Sheets looking for some statistical edge on coming betting action. With former bylines at Pro Football Network, Cowboys Wire, and Around The Block Network, Anthony has experience wri
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