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NCAA Tournament: South Region preview and predictions

Who comes out of the true heavyweight region?

UCLA v Kentucky Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

When looking at the NCAA Tournament bracket, one region draws the eyes of most thanks to the recognizable brands scattered around.

The South includes the likes of North Carolina, Kentucky, UCLA, and Butler as its top four-seeds, and that’s really just the beginning of the fun.

This is a region where you could end up with quite a few teams actually coming out of Memphis and heading to Glendale for the Final Four. Let’s dive into some of the things that could happen.

First Round Upset Alerts

(12) Middle Tennessee State vs. (5) Minnesota

You always have to be on the lookout for that tasty 12/5 matchup, and this is one that a lot of people will probably pounce on. The Big Ten’s seeding was really strange in general, and the Minnesota Golden Gophers are no exception. They finished fourth in the conference, yet picked up the second-best seed among B1G teams.

On the other hand, MTSU won Conference USA and boasts an overall record of 30-4. They’re also 20-1 in their last 21 contests. And oh yeah, they beat Michigan State in the tourney last year as a 15-seed. The Blue Raiders are certainly a team that could pull out the upset here.

(11) Kansas State or Wake Forest vs. (6) Cincinnati

There’s always one team in the First Four that makes a bit of a run, and no matter if that team is K State or Wake, their chances against Cincinnati should be good.

(10) Wichita State vs. (7) Dayton

Those underrated Wichita State Shockers get another Miller family member in the first round this just happens to be Archie this time.

You kind of have to feel bad for the Dayton Flyers drawing this matchup in the first round. Both of these teams are good, but Wichita has a higher KenPom overall ranking (8) than seed (10), so the Shockers seem likely to “shock” the Flyers (this is not actually a shock if they win).

Second round

(1) North Carolina vs. (9) Seton Hall

I like Seton Hall to get past Arkansas in the first round but that’s about it. UNC is too strong, and should make it into the second weekend without too much trouble.

(4) Butler vs. (12) Middle Tennessee State

Alright, so I talked up the Blue Raiders up top, but I think Butler is too much to deal with right here. The Bulldogs have certainly shown that they can take down the toughest of opponents this year (sup Villanova), and despite their 5-5 record to close out the season, Butler feels like a team that will be in the Sweet Sixteen again, and possibly beyond.

It also helps that they’re going to get either Minnesota or MTSU.

(3) UCLA vs. (11) First Four winner

Just give us the UCLA/Kentucky rematch right now. Unless the Bruins have a shooting performance like they did against Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament, they shouldn’t have too much trouble advancing out of the first weekend as well.

(2) Kentucky vs. (10) Wichita State

Wait, did I just say give us the UCLA/Kentucky rematch right now? After watching UK struggle with putting away teams in the SEC Tournament last week, this particular matchup has to make Big Blue Nation sweat a little bit.

This has the potential to be the best second round game of the entire tournament. A one possession game between two of the most divisive coaches in the game? Yes please. However, I think Calipari edges Marshall in this one to advance to Memphis.

Sweet Sixteen

(1) UNC vs. (4) Butler

Now we get to the good part. Four of the sport’s most recognizable programs all descending on one city, with only a singular team coming out on top and heading to the Final Four.

This is where the Bulldogs’ season ends, however. The Tar Heels are just too much for Butler to overcome, and we will see Roy Williams go for his ninth Final Four appearance

(2) Kentucky vs. (3) UCLA

Reunited and it feels so good.

That UCLA win in Rupp seems like a lifetime ago, but here is when we get reminded of it and see the highlights from that game over and over and over again.

I don’t think the Bruins will be able to pull out a second win over Kentucky in one season, especially in a place like Memphis. Sure, UCLA won in Lexington this year, but going into that area of the country and beating Kentucky twice in one season? Nope.

Elite Eight

(1) UNC vs. (2) Kentucky

The ceiling is the roof.

North Carolina to the Final Four.