There is little debate that the South is the toughest region of the four. It also features the most blatant example of mid-major on mid-major murder, although there are others. The Committee could be qualified as a serial mid-major killer at this point, though.
If you’re going just by the rankings over at KenPom (and you shouldn’t just go by that) the South has three top-10 teams: #3 (North Carolina), #4 (Kentucky), and #9 (Wichita State). Oh, and the 3 Seed is the most entertaining team in the country and a legitimate title contender.
Sure, the 4 (Butler) and 5 (Minnesota) seeds aren’t all that strong, but the 6 (Cincinnati) is, and the 7 (Dayton) would look a hell of a lot more dangerous if they weren’t absurdly paired with Wichita State. Seton Hall (9), Middle Tennessee (12), Wake Forest (11…possibly), and Winthrop (13) all provide some quality depth in this region, too. Like I said, it’s overstuffed.
Let’s address a few quick notes about this bracket.
Everyone’s interested in the best upset picks. I don’t really have them. Nate might. Oh, hey! Look! MTSU over Minnesota. That looks like a very safe pick for an early upset (quick update thanks to friend of the blog Adam Roberts – MTSU is actually favored after opening as a one-point underdog), but the real question is whether you’ll have the stones to take them over the winner of Butler/Winthrop to go to the Sweet 16. Notice I didn’t say “Butler” there. I can see arguments to taking any of those four teams in the Sweet 16. That little pod is wide open.
You wouldn’t have to try very hard to get me to take Wake Forest over Cincinnati given Cincinnati’s Virginia-esque issues scoring the ball at times. But Wake has to beat Kansas State first (currently down 4). Plus I really want to see how Cincinnati deals with UCLA so I am not rooting for that particular upset.
As far as major upsets (Seton Hall/Arkansas over UNC or Wichita State/Dayton over Kentucky), I’m really not seeing it. It’ll take something truly strange for UNC, Kentucky, or UCLA to fail to reach the Final Four.
No, Wichita State over Dayton isn’t an upset. Betting lines matter more than seeding because, apparently, Vegas pays more attention than the Committee. To be honest, though, I’m not sure that Dayton over Wichita State qualifies as much of an “upset” either. I guess it depends on how you define “upset.” Speaking of that game….
Ugh. I’m going to try to get through this without swearing. Dear Committee:
Pretty sure every Dayton fan traveled the emotional road from happy to see UD as a 7 to murderously angry about Wichita State being their matchup in record time on Sunday. This game is as obnoxious as it is unsurprising. The Committee has been doing this “good mid-major first-round matchup” thing for at least a decade now. That doesn’t make it ok and it doesn’t make any Wichita State or UD fan feel any better. While we’re at it, if you’re one of those people lamenting the fact that Kentucky got burned by this second round matchup, do everyone a favor and light yourself on fire.
Dayton got a little overseeded and Wichita State got WILDLY underseeded. That being said, let’s slow down advancing Wichita State automatically here. If you listened to analysts at all this week you would think that Wichita State/Dayton was a 1/16 matchup. It’s not, and the game isn’t that lopsided. I like analytics more than most, but the fact remains that Wichita State hasn’t been tested in a while and nobody – likely including them – really knows what’s going to happen on Friday night. Flyers fans really just need to hope that they can figure out how to get off to a good start away from Dayton. They haven’t been good at that. This is almost certainly the best of all the first round matchups. Still sucks that one of these teams won’t be around on Saturday.
There are three: UNC, Kentucky, and UCLA. If you really believe Wichita State is one of the best teams in the nation (and again, people have been talking like this all week) they’re going to have to beat UD and Kentucky in the same weekend just to earn the right to play (probably) Cincinnati or UCLA in the Sweet 16. If you want to bet on that, you’d better believe they’re one of the best teams in the country. I don’t happen to believe that because there’s no evidence to support it.
All three of UNC, Kentucky, and UCLA have serious offenses but they have also played some odd stretches. They all rely on production from young guys to a large degree so there’s some potential here for a meltdown. One meltdown I could see. Maybe two isn’t insane. But all three of them melting down? Not likely. I’d be lying if I told you I knew who was going to come out of this thing, but with a blog post to my head I’ll pick Kentucky. I think they’re the most well-rounded of the three.