Breaking Down the South Region
The #1 Seed: North Carolina. The regular season champions from the toughest conference in the country gets the top seed. The Tar Heels have a good amount of experience back from their run to the national title game last year. North Carolina is big on the front line and grab a lot of offensive rebounds. Justin Jackson has hit a bit of a wall here recently. The Heels need him to play like he has played the majority of this season to make another run at the final 4.
The Sleeper: #12 Middle Tennessee State. The last time you saw the Blue Raiders, you were likely watching them beat the #2 seed Michigan State Spartans last March. Middle Tennessee is back and they might be better this year after going 30-4 and winning the Conference USA Tournament. While the Blue Raiders won't sneak up on anyone this year, I have them beating both #5 Minnesota and #13 Winthrop (Bonus upset for you: Wintrhop is beating Butler!) to reach the Sweet 16.
1st Round Match-up I Can't Wait to See: #7 Dayton vs #10 Wichita State. Oh, the "midmajor" life. Archie Miller has turned down multiple opportunities in the past to coach bigger schools. Dayton has a senior class led by Scoochie Smith that owns the record for most wins by a senior class in Dayton basketball history. Could this be the year Archie leaves Dayton for one of those bigger schools with this senior class leaving as well? Wichita State blew through the Missouri Valley and won the conference tournament and was "rewarded" with a 10 seed. Rumors have Wichita State possibly leaving the Valley for the American Conference. For one of these programs, this could be the last game they play before major changes come. As for this game, expect a somewhat low-scoring, close game with tons of gritty defense being played. These 2 teams are going to give everything they have; they might need football pads for this one.
Must Watch Player in Region: Lonzo Ball, UCLA. If his dad isn't blabbering about how he is better than Steph Curry, you might be able to enjoy watching Lonzo play basketball. The freshman point guard leads the country in assists/game and when the game is on the line, you can trust that he will make the right decision; whether that is scoring himself or setting up a teammate. Lonzo always makes the right decision.
Best Potential Game Before the Elite 8: #2 Kentucky vs #3 UCLA. I bet that you have heard of these schools before! This is a rematch of one of the most entertaining games of the regular season when UCLA went into Rupp Arena and knocked off the Cats. UCLA is more than just Lonzo Ball; with 6 players averaging double figures. Kentucky has somewhat quietly won 12 of their last 13 games and the SEC regular season and tournament championships. Bam Abedayo has turned it on down the stretch to take some pressure off of fellow freshman Malik Monk and DeAaron Fox. 2 questions that will likely decide this game if it happens: Can Kentucky make enough jump shots against the zone UCLA will throw at them? Will UCLA even care about defense?
Possible Shocker: #9 Seton Hall over #1 UNC in 2nd round. If The Hall can force North Carolina into shooting jump shots instead of dumping it inside, Angel Delgado will not be intimidated by UNC's offensive rebound numbers: Delgado leads the country in rebounding, grabbing 13 per game. Kadeen Carrington is a dynamic scoring point guard and Desi Rodriguez is a good wing that averages 16 points per game. There is potential here....
Who Is Winning the South Region? I am going to ride the UCLA train. There is no doubt that UCLA can score; they lead the country in points per game. Their defense has been awful for most of the year but a zone implemented towards the end of the season has made them at least, uhhhmm, better than awful. With an offense as good as the Bruins, whoever beats them is likely going to have to score 85+. Bonus info: if UCLA and UNC meet in the Elite 8 with a final 4 berth on the line, it will be one of the most exciting games the tournament has seen in quite some time. In the words of Terrell Owens: Get your popcorn ready!