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2015 NCAA Tournament: Previewing the South region

Who the hell are the Duke Blue Devils and the rest of the teams in our region?

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Gonzaga Bulldogs got a pretty solid region and chance to make a deep run into the tournament. Granted, there are plenty of pitfalls that could open up, but any region that doesn't have Kentucky as its No. 1 seed is a good region.

Gonzaga is in the South Region, which might as well be called the We Already Played Half These Teams Region. Gonzaga rattled off wins over SMU, UCLA and St. John's already this season, and there is the potential for a meeting with SMU in the Sweet 16 (sorry UCLA - you don't deserve anything).

But what about those 13 other teams in the region? Let's take a quick look and see who they are and who to watch out for.

No. 1 Duke Blue Devils

The Duke Blue Devils are one of the best offensive teams in the nation that is powered by one of the best inside/out combinations in all of college basketball. Senior guard Quinn Cook plays fantastically off the ball and allowed freshman point guard Tyus Jones to come along and flourish at his own rate. The Blue Devils are all about freshman center Jahlil Okafor, however. Okafor has been everything he was advertised to be and is often in the first breath when it comes to Player of the Year candidates.

Player to watch: Jahlil Okafor

Okafor is a once in a while talent that is rolling through the college game. He was the best player in the ACC by a long shot and is an immediate NBA caliber kid forced to play in the collegiate world. His effective field goal percentage of 66.9 was second best in the NCAA and he is a ferocious offensive rebounder. The only gripe on Okafor's offensive game -- his 50 percent free throw shooting.

No. 2 Gonzaga Bulldogs

Hey that is us!

No. 3 Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State made a recent name for themselves as one of the smartest teams to use transfers to turn a program around. Coach Fred Hoiberg has done it three years in a row, and this incarnation of the Cyclones are ALSO one of the best offensive teams in the nation. According to Ken Pomeroy, the seventh-best to be exact. Iowa State likes to push the tempo and always makes the extra pass to break down the offense. That leads to a team shooting percentage of 48 percent -- good for No. 19 in the nation.

Player to watch: Georges Niang

Iowa State almost has five guys averaging double-digit points, but no person is more important than Niang. Niang is a matchup nightmare for opposing teams, kind of like Kyle Wiltjer but just a few inches shorter. He has a great, well-rounded offensive game and can stretch defenses with his ability to hit the outside jumper. Niang is prone to turnovers and fouls, but is one of the best offensive players in the Big 12.

No. 4 Georgetown Hoyas

The Hoyas are back in it after a year break. Led by D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Joshua Smith, Georgetown enters the NCAA Tournament on a semi-hot streak, having won six of their last eight Big East games. This is a much more balanced Georgetown squad than recent years. The Hoyas still have their trademark hard-nosed defense, but the offense doesn't resemble a dumpster fire nearly as much as previous years. Georgetown has a solid offense that does a lot of things decently, but doesn't really shine in any one area.

Player to watch: D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera

Smith-Rivera can go absolutely buckwild from long range, as evidenced by his 29 points in a loss against at St. John's. He went 7-of-14 in that game and is one of the more efficient scorers in the Big East. He is the number one option for the Hoyas and the player who will have the ball in his hands with the game on the line.

No. 5 Utah Utes

Arizona gets all the love in the Pac-12, but seriously, Utah's defense is something to behold. The Utes hold opponents to 38.3 percent shooting, the ninth best mark in the nation. A lot of that comes from clogging the passing lanes. Opponents average less than nine assists a game against Utah. Utah takes your offensive game plan and wipes their ass with it as a pregame ritual.

Player to watch: Delon Wright

Duh. Wright was often in Player of the Year conversations and is definitely one of the top guards in the country. He is Utah's leading scorer and an absolute maniac on the defensive end. Wright is the heart and soul of this team and Utah will go as far as he can take them.

No. 6 SMU Tigers

The first of Gonzaga opponents got better as the year went on. SMU boasts a very balanced team between Nic Moore and Yanick Moreira. Out of all the teams in the region, SMU has a great front court and a nightmare matchup in Markus Kennedy. They can also score as well with four different players averaging double-digits. SMU grinds out games on the inside and rarely steps away for a three-point attempt.

Player to watch: Markus Kennedy

Kennedy was absent from the game against Gonzaga, but he has turned it up a notch in his last four games, averaging just over 16 points and eight rebounds per game. He is a beast on the defensive glass and one of the better rebounders in the AAC.

No. 7 Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa is an interesting team that is so front loaded, it is hard to imagine them going anywhere in the NCAA Tournament. The Hawkeyes are stacked up front between forwards Jarrod Uthoff and Aaron White as well as center Abodunrin Gabriel Olaseni patrolling the post. But things get a little rough around the edges when it comes to the back court. Point guard Mike Gesell only averages 7.1 points per game, and the Hawkeyes aren't much of a threat from beyond the arc. Coach Fran McCaffery is going to pound it inside often -- but not sure how well that will work if the team is meeting up against Gonzaga in the second round.

Player to watch: Aaron White

White owned the highest offensive rating in the Big Ten this year, buoyed by the highest true shooting percentage at 65.9. He was third in the conference in rebounds and will go down as one of the better forwards in the conference history. He stepped up in a big way his senior year, and now is his time to make a mark.

No. 8 San Diego State Aztecs

Coach Steve Fisher turned San Diego State into a perennial NCAA Tournament team by an absurd defense, and this year is no different. The Aztecs have the fourth-best defense according to Ken Pomeroy, and much of this focus comes at the expense of the offense. Because, well, San Diego State is just ugly from that end. Just take a look at the final score in the conference tournament game against Wyoming, a 45-43 loss.

Player to watch: Aqeel Quinn

Quinn is one of the few outside threats for the Aztecs, and if they start to fall behind in any game most of the shots will come from his hands. He has done some pretty severe Jekyll and Hyde routines this season, however, highlighted by a grand total of zero points in that game against Wyoming.

No. 9 St. John's Red Storm

Who knows what is going on with this St. John's team. Coach Steve Lavin rattled off some great wins during the non-conference and then opened up conference play with three consecutive losses. The Red Storm have a great backcourt in D'Angelo Harrison and Rysheed Jordan, but they took a hit up front when Lavin announced junior center Chris Obekpa is suspended for two weeks due to a violation of team rules.

Players to watch: D'Angelo Harrison

Harrison is the focal point for this offense, but he has had an interesting disappearing act towards the end of the season. He scored less than 10 points only four times this year, but three of those times have been in his last seven games. For St. John's to do anything, they need Harrison to find his shot again.

No. 10 Davidson Wildcats

Davidson are back in the field after having to sweat out the bubble following a loss to VCU in the A-10 Tournament. The Wildcats boast the No. 8 offense according to Ken Pomeroy, super charged by the guards Tyler Kalinoski and Jack Gibbs. Davidson tries to obliterate opponents from the outside because once the ball starts to go to the post, they are rather overmatched in height.

Player to watch: Tyler Kalinoski

Kalinoski was one of the best three point shooters in the A-10 and led the conference in assists. He averages close to eight three pointers a game and is more than capable of dropping 30 points if he gets hot.

No. 11 UCLA Bruins


Player to watch: LOL

No. 12 Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks

There are only a couple of teams entering the NCAA Tournament as hot as the Lumberjacks. After opening the season with three consecutive losses to the likes of Northern Iowa, Xavier and Baylor, SFA has rattled off a record of 28-1. Granted, they play in the Southland Conference (not exactly a powerhouse), but the Lumberjacks offense makes them a fancy upset pick as the ever-upset worthy No. 12 seed. The Lumberjacks own a No. 19 ranked offense according to Ken Pomeroy, shoot the ball at a 49.1 percent clip and were second in the nation in total assists.

Player to watch: Jacob Parker

The senior forward is the second-leading scorer on SFA and is a nightmare matchup. He shoots 52 percent from the floor and is the team's most legitimate three-point threat, hitting 47 percent from beyond the arc. He has also done damage against the big teams on SFA's schedule.

No. 13 Eastern Washington Eagles

Eastern Washington is another popular upset pick because of the offense, and the offense can definitely go nuts. They hold a top-50 offense, which is dragged slightly underwater by a defense ranked No. 279. The Eagles average 80.8 points per game (No. 3 in the nation) and give up 73.6 points per game (No. 328 in the nation).

Player to watch: Tyler Harvey

By now you have heard of the nation's leading scorer. By default, the nation's leading scorer makes any team in the NCAA Tournament fun to watch. Eastern Washington is no different.

No. 14 UAB Blazers

UAB made the tournament by virtue of winning the CUSA Tournament championship, because otherwise, they wouldn't be in this thing at all. The Blazers own a Ken Pomeroy ranked offense AND defense of 130. They won't go very far.

Player to watch: Robert Brown

The transfer from Virginia Tech is the only player on UAB capable of putting up any sort of sustainable offense. He leads the team with 13.1 points per game and is definitely a candidate to put close to 20 points on the board. He is also a candidate to have his shot totally disappear.

No. 15 North Dakota State Bison

Gonzaga's nemesis! Read all about them here!

No. 16 North Florida/Robert Morris

Unfortunately, statistically this team will lose. And my fingers are running out of gas.