Rothstein: The South Region Has Been Turned Upside Down

Five of the top six seeds in the South failed to survive opening weekend

Tiki and Tierney
March 19, 2018 - 6:27 pm

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Four days and 12 games into the NCAA Tournament, the South Region is an absolute mess. No. 1 Virginia, No. 2 Cincinnati, No. 3 Tennessee, No. 4 Arizona, and No. 6 Miami all lost this past weekend, with three of those teams – Virginia, Arizona, and Miami – failing to win a single game.

“The South Region has just been completely turned upside down,” CBS Sports college basketball insider Jon Rothstein said on Tiki and Tierney. “I think Friday night obviously you see a situation that we’ve never seen before in sports, and that’s a 16 beating a 1. But then yesterday, the Cincinnati game was, I think, the best comeback we’ve ever seen in a big spot by Nevada.”

Nevada trailed Cincinnati by 22 points in the second half before mounting the second-largest comeback in NCAA Tournament history. Junior forward Cody Martin finished with a game-high 25 points, a team-high seven assists, and six rebounds for the Wolf Pack, who led for just 9.1 seconds the entire game.

But don’t get it twisted. Nevada beating Cincinnati and UMBC beating Virginia are two completely different things.

“Nevada has high-major players,” Rothstein said. “Nevada is a Triple-A version of what Fred Hoiberg did at Iowa Stae with transfers. That’s the way I look at Nevada. They’re not quite at the level Fred Hoiberg was at with Royce White and people like that, but it’s a Triple-A version. The model is very similar.”

And it’s working. No. 7 Nevada (29-7) is back in the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2004. The Wolf Pack will face No. 11 Loyola (30-5) on Thursday at 7:07 p.m. ET.

Cincinnati, by the way, wasn’t the only team from the Queen City to suffer heartbreak Sunday. No. 1 Xavier fell to No. 9 Florida State, 75-70, squandering a 12-point second-half lead in the process. 

“Michigan State losing to Syracuse in Detroit got swept under the rug because of what happened in Nashville,” Rothstein said, referring to Cincinnati and Xavier blowing big leads on the same floor. “(It’s a lost) opportunity for both Cincinnati and Xavier that I think will resonate for a lifetime in the 513.”

Indeed, the opening weekend was further evidence that match-ups – not seeds – matter in the NCAA Tournament. Still, is it good that Virginia, Xavier, North Carolina, and Michigan State, among other name brands, are already out of the tournament?

“It’s good for the people who like the anarchy that is college basketball,” Rothstein said. “To draw in people from the periphery, no, I think you need Kentucky to advance. I think you need Duke and Villanova to advance. I think you need that type of brand-name program in the Final Four (if you’re trying to draw in casual fans)."