South Region breakdown

First-round schedule
Thursday, March 18
At Dunkin' Donuts Center, Providence, R.I.

Villanova (24-7) vs. Robert Morris (23-11)
Richmond (26-8) vs. Saint Mary's, Calif. (26-5)

At New Orleans Arena, New Orleans
Baylor (25-7) vs. Sam Houston State (25-7)
Notre Dame (23-11) vs. Old Dominion (26-8)

Friday, March 19
At Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, Jacksonville, Fla.

Duke (29-5) vs. Arkansas-Pine Bluff-Winthrop winner
California (23-10) vs. Louisville (20-12)

At Spokane Arena, Spokane, Wash.
Purdue (27-5) vs. Siena (27-6)
Texas A&M (23-9) vs. Utah State (27-7)

My pick to win it: Duke. Not very confident, but the Blue Devils got a favorable draw. If the Blue Devils continue their lights-out perimeter shooting and get contributions from their bench, they will reach their first Final Four since 2004.

Dark horse: Notre Dame has won six of its last seven games; four coming against NCAA Tournament-bound opponents. With senior big man Luke Harangody back and coming off the bench, the Irish could make a run.

Obvious rout: We’ll take the clear-cut choice: Duke over the winner of the play-in game.

Upset special: No. 13 Siena over No. 4 Purdue. The Boilermakers are playing without their best player in Robbie Hummel. They scored just 11 first-half points while getting routed by Minnesota, 69-42, in the Big Ten semifinals.

Looking forward to it: How about a rematch between Duke and Villanova for a trip in the Final Four? The Wildcats beat up on the Blue Devils last year, 77-54, to advance to the Elite Eight. Coach K would love to get his revenge on Jay Wright and Co.

Questionable seeding: No. 2 ’Nova. Although the ’Cats play in the country’s deepest and most talented conference, they still lost five of their last seven games and fell to Marquette in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament. Senior guard Scottie Reynolds, ’Nova’s catalyst, has struggled shooting of late. The senior guard is 9-for-26 from the floor in his last two games — both ’Cats losses.

Players you’ll love to watch: Aside from Reynolds, who is an absolute gamer, Duke’s Kyle Singler is flat-out stud with unlimited range. Also love Harangody, who is a unique breed of strength, size and skill inside, as well as Richmond’s David Gonzalvez.

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