South Region Overview

It could be argued that Texas is the lowest of the No. 1 seeded teams and maybe that's why the tournament committee shipped it to Birmingham, Ala., to begin its Road to the Final Four. Birmingham might be the pod closest to Austin, Tex., but it's much more comfortable for others

Texas should have little trouble disposing of the play-in winner of the UNC-Asheville/Texas Southern game before it faces either Purdue or LSU. Yes, the LSU that handed Arizona its first loss of the season. Birmingham is a much shorter drive from Baton Rouge, and if LSU locks horns with Texas on Saturday you have to give the homecourt advantage to the SEC representative.

The Longhorns have the best point guard in college basketball in TJ Ford. Big man Brian Boddicker can shoot from the perimeter and causes matchup difficulties for opponents. With 6-9 James Thomas cleaning the glass, the Longhorns are tough for anyone. But the fact is Texas is one perimeter shooter from being a complete team and unless Brandon Mouton comes to play every game the Longhorns will exit the Big Dance before advancing to the Big Easy.

The Tigers have been remarkably good at home and about as bad on road this season, but playing in the Deep South pod of Birmingham should be about as friendly as it could get. LSU should get by Purdue, but that's not a given. Gene Keady coached teams are always difficult to play and the Tigers will need to show some patience to beat the Boilermakers. The key to a Tiger victory will be the play of Ronald Dupree, an athletic wing forward who can give the plodding Boilermakers a lot of problems with his quickness.

UConn plays BYU in Spokane in a game in which the selection committee goofed. The committee can only hope the prayers for a Husky victory are stronger than that of the Mormon Church. If BYU gets by UConn and its second-round opponent, the committee will be forced to switch brackets to avoid playing on Sunday. If the Cougars do advance there would be a lot of reprinted and scratched out brackets. The Church prohibits its athletic teams to play on Sundays.

Good news for the committee…. The Huskies will advance to play the winner of the Stanford/San Diego game. The Cardinal has given San Diego some locker room graffiti when Julius Barnes said, "When you think of San Diego, you don't think of a good basketball team, you think of the beach, weather, women and all those other things."

It won't matter. Stanford will play UConn on Saturday, in what will be the best game to that point in the tournament, and the winner will have an excellent chance to make it to the Final Four.

The other side of the South Region is just as intriguing. No. 2 seed Florida has lost its last three games, yet the tournament committee still made it a two seed. The Gators have used the early season injury to Brett Nelson to season freshman point guard Anthony Roberson and give him work alongside another fabulous frosh, wing forward Matt Walsh. The two have played so well together that even though Nelson is fully recovered he's been forced to play as a reserve.

The Gators will have little difficulty disposing of Sam Houston State in the first round game and will play the winner of the Colorado/Michigan State game on Sunday.

Colorado, like LSU, has been nothing short of phenomenal at home and only average on the road. Michigan State is not nearly as good as it's been in previous tournaments, but the Spartans have Tom Izzo at the helm and that's the difference maker. Playing Florida Sunday in Tampa will not be as easy and the Spartans will watch the rest of this event from home.

In Nashville, Maryland should take care of UNC-Wilmington with little difficulty. How the Seahawks received a No. 11 seed should be cause for an investigation. They simply are not that good. In fact, Troy State, a No. 14 seed in same bracket, would have an easier time with Maryland but will face the No. 3 Xavier Musketeers instead. Troy State has looked very good, but Xavier might just be the class of this bracket, at least until it meets Stanford, UConn or Texas in San Antonio.

David West is best big man in the country. Add 6-5 shooting guard Romaine Sato and Xavier has one of the most lethal inside-outside combinations in college basketball.

Everyone believes the West is the most difficult region, but the fact is if I'm Texas coach Rick Barnes, I'm concerned. And he should be, because his Longhorns will have a very difficult trip to Birmingham and probably won't make it out of San Antonio.

2003 NCAA Bracket

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