2023 NCAA Tournament: 3 Players to Watch in the South Region
I will be doing another entry of three players to watch in the NCAA Tournament. This time I will be looking at the South region of the tournament. The South region is home to the overall number one seed of the NCAA Tournament Alabama Crimson Tide. This is not the strongest division but some strong teams could make a run at a Final Four appearance.
I will try to diversify the players I pick by not just picking lottery picks on the top teams. I will take a player off a championship-contending team, a sleeper team, and a Cinderella team. Here, are three players to watch in the 2023 NCAA Tournament in the South region.
Player to Watch: (1) Alabama Forward Brandon Miller
Okay, I had to go with an Alabama player as they do have the second-best odds to win the tournament so there is a chance people might be watching this team in April. I have been a big fan of the Nate Oates-coached Bama teams for a few years now so the Crimson Tide was one of my teams before the season started. However, I never saw the number one seed in March Madness in their future. Brandon Miller is a gigantic reason for Alabama’s success this year as he is a phenomenal centerpiece for this fast-paced team.
Miller is a 6’9 200 pound freshman forward that might be the best player in college basketball. He is averaging 19.6 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.1 assists. Also, he is shooting an astonishing 45.1% on field goals, 42.8% on three-pointers, and 85.6% on free throws. Miller is efficient everywhere on the floor and he has such a big scoring bag as a freshman. This offense puts up a lot of threes but Miller succeeds because he has a great shooting stroke. Also, when they need to get in the paint he can get boards and draw fouls when attacking the paint.
He will need to improve on the defensive side but Alabama as a unit is one of the best defenses in all of college basketball. They can protect the rim as well as pressure ball handlers and shooters on the three-point line. Brandon Miller is a projected lottery pick in next season’s NBA draft so this might be the only time people get to watch him in the tournament. Also, if Alabama truly wants a chance at tearing down the nets they will need Miller to play like the best player in college basketball.
Player to Watch: (6) Creighton Center Ryan Kalkbrenner
I think Creighton is a talented team that has the chance to make a deep run in the 2023 NCAA Tournament. They have challenging matchups against NC State and possibly Baylor because both these teams have elite guard play. However, what Creighton has is elite big man play due to the 7’1 260 pound junior center Kalkbrenner. Creighton has a great starting five but without Kalkbrenner, which was seen during the season, they are vulnerable.
Kalkbrenner averages 15.4 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 2.2 blocks. He is incredibly efficient in the paint as he shoots an eye-popping 71.4% on field goals. Also, he is a good free throw shooter at 77.4% but he does need to improve his three-point shooting. Kalkbrenner besides being a force on offense is a problem for opponents on defense. He is a great shot blocker that makes every shot in the paint tougher for the other team.
Kalkbrenner is a perfect fit for this team as they need a big man that they can play in any scenario as their bench depth is a real issue. Creighton is a solid team as they are really good on both ends of the floor. They have a chance to make it to the Sweet Sixteen before they run into Arizona or Alabama. Creighton can do some damage in this tournament but if they want to go on any run they will need top-tier play from their big man Kalkbrenner.
Player to Watch: (10) Utah State Guard Steven Ashworth
This is not quite the Cinderella team I had in mind as Utah State was good this yea4 in a tough Mountain West Conference. However, they are a ten seed so they are not heavily favored to make a deep run in the 2023 NCAA Tournament. Nevertheless, Steven Ashworth is having an incredible year that is probably going under the radar for most people. He is leading a top offense in Utah State that shoots a fair amount of threes due to the number of efficient shooters on their roster.
Ashworth averages 16.3 points, 4.5 assists, and 3.2 rebounds. Also, he is shooting a fantastic 46.2% from the field, 44.3% from behind the arc, and 87.8% from the free throw line. He is a true marksman as his free throw and three-pointer numbers are incredibly high for a college player. He finds his openings in the flow o& the offense and he is not afraid to shoot. Ashworth is only 6’1 170 pounds so he does not live in the paint by any means but that’s fine because his vision as a passer helps him find his big men in the paint.
He is an all-around good player that can maybe lead Utah State to a deep run. The analytics like Utah State but unfortunately after Missouri in round one they would have to play the juggernaut that is Arizona. However, if the Aggies were to get hot they can make a run with their high-powered offense led by Steven Ashworth.
2023 NCAA Tournament South Region Honorable Mentions
(2) Arizona Wildcats forward Azuolas Tubelis
(3) Baylor Bears guard Adam Flagler
(13) Furman Paladins forward Jalen Slawson