By Kyle Beery
The NCAA Tournament field has been announced and it’s time for bracket overload. You’ll spend the next three days reading up all you can to try and gain an edge in your bracket pool, and more than likely you’ll be regretting all that time wasted by Friday night.
But you’ll do it anyway because the greatest week of the year is upon us and that goes along with the territory. So I’ll be breaking down each regional of the bracket, looking at the best teams, best matchups, potential upsets, and more.
Here’s the breakdown for the South Regional.
- The Tar Heels won the ACC regular season title, but fell to rival Duke in the tournament semifinals. UNC is one of the best offensive teams in the country, ranking inside kenpom.com’s top five for adjusted offensive efficiency (122.1 points per 100 offensive possessions). With three guys over 6-foot-8, the Heels lead the nation in offensive rebound percentage, which is the number of offensive rebounds divided by the total number of rebound opportunities.
- In a lot of ways, this isn’t the typical Kentucky team we’ve grown accustomed to seeing over the last five or six years. The Wildcats aren’t as young as they’ve been in the past. They aren’t as dominant as they’ve been in the past. They don’t have one superstar who’s far and away better than anyone on the floor. But they are still young, they are dominant at times, and Malik Monk has shown flashes of sheer greatness. This team can definitely go on a run, if everyone on offense is clicking. This is a team that likes to push the tempo, but if an opponent can get them out of their rhythm, we could be looking at an upset.
- The Bruins have been college basketball’s most glamorous show this season. There has been a resurgence in Los Angeles, fueled by last freshman sensation Lonzo Ball (14.6 PPG, 7.7 APG). The Bruins had a 10-game win streak snapped last week in the Pac-12 semifinals at the hands of Arizona, but have had some great wins this season, including at Kentucky and at Arizona. A potential rematch of UCLA and UK in the Sweet 16 is the matchup everyone is looking forward to.
- Many people have overlooked the Bulldogs in the last couple weeks because they lost to Seton Hall in the regular season and couldn’t get a third win on the season over Xavier in the Big East quarterfinals. Yet this team has earned its highest NCAA Tournament seed in program history. The Dawgs beat the No. 1 overall seed Villanova twice this season, knocked off a No. 2 seed in Arizona (albeit on a neutral court, sans Allonzo Trier in November) and racked up 16 wins against the RPI top 100. Maybe that’s just where Butler wants to be. Under the radar, hardly thought about as a contender, and quietly poised for a run. Just ask Gordon Hayward and the 2010 Butler team. Or Shelvin Mack and the 2011 team. This might be the answer you get.
- The Shockers could prove worthy of their namesake this year. They could shock the Kentucky Wildcats in the second round. Conner Frankamp and Landry Shamet both shoot around 45 percent from three-point range. If those guys get hot, look out world. Wichita State doesn’t have any over-impressive wins on its resume, but they played both Louisville and Michigan State pretty closely in the Battle 4 Atlantis.
Potential first-round upsets
- 10. Wichita State over 7. Dayton
- The Shockers got a pretty tough break from the Selection Committee, seemingly underseeded and facing a solid Dayton team. The Flyers are a balanced team always looking to make the extra pass. They assist on more than 60 percent of their buckets. This could be one of the best first-round games in the entire bracket.
- 12. Middle Tennessee over 5. Minnesota
- This year’s champions of Conference USA were the darlings of last year’s NCAA Tournament, even if it was just for a couple days. As a 15-seed, the Blue Raiders knocked off No. 2 Michigan State. Giddy Potts and JaCorey Williams are both back and could lead their team to another upset. Minnesota is a much-improved team from last year’s abysmal season (record). They lead the nation in blocks per game (7.0), but still struggle offensively, with a 48.6 effective field goal percentage that ranks 249th in the nation.
- 13. Winthrop over 4. Butler
- Well, Butler is a sleeper, and it’s also a candidate to be upset in the first round. Although it’s pretty unlikely, Winthrop brings upset-potential in the form of 5-foot-6 senior Keon Johnson. The little guy shoots 40 percent from three-point range and could give Butler’s defense some trouble. Beyond him, though the Eagles don’t match up too well with the Bulldogs.
- 1. UNC over 4. Butler
- 3. UCLA over 10. Wichita State
- 1. UNC over 3. UCLA