The NCAA Men’s College Basketball Tournament kicks off this week! Three of the most storied teams in college hoops history are the top 3 seeds in the 2017 March Madness South Region: 1 North Carolina, 2 Kentucky, and 3 UCLA.
2017 March Madness South Region Preview
Is one of those legendary teams going to take the South Region? Is there an underdog worth watching? Also, who is my pick to win the South Region?
Top Contenders: 1 North Carolina, 2 Kentucky, 3 UCLA
Can you think of a better Top 3? North Carolina has won 5 NCAA Tournament Championships. Kentucky has won 8. UCLA has on 11. Any one of the three teams listed above can take the South Region.
Out of the three, North Carolina has the easiest path to the Elite Eight. The Tar Heels face either Arkansas or Seton Hall in Round 2 before a match up with Butler, Minnesota, Middle Tennessee State, or Winthrop in the Sweet 16. Roy Williams’ team has no reason not to make it to the Elite Eight. That is, unless Williams’ team falls to Middle Tennessee State, one of the most underrated squads in college basketball.
Kentucky and UCLA appear to be on a collision course to battle for the Elite Eight. Top Bruin freshman Lonzo Ball would battle top Wildcat freshman Malik Monk. UCLA scored over 100 points 3 times this season. Kentucky goes into the tournament having won 11 in a row. Both teams look solid.
What’s Wrong With: 4 Butler
Butler lost their last game of the regular season, 64 to 70 to Seton Hall, and their first game of the Big East Tournament, 57 to 62 to Xavier. I’m not sure why Butler got a 4 seed when there were so many other teams, Notre Dame as an example, that got 5 seeds or higher.
Key Game: 10 Wichita State vs 2 Kentucky – Round 2
Whomever wins Kentucky versus Wichita State in Round 2 should give UCLA all that they can handle in the Sweet 16. This game only happens if Wichita State gets by 7 Dayton in Round 1. I think that’s a given, right? Okay, maybe not.
But, if it does, look for this game over the weekend to determine who might knock out both UCLA and North Carolina. This could be the best match up of the entire NCAA Tournament.
Top Underdog: 10 Wichita State
Wichita State has won 25 of their last 27 games. They’ve also won 12 in a row. Let’s not kid ourselves. This Wichita State team is as good as any that coach Gregg Marshall has brought to the NCAA Tournament. The Shockers should be no worse than a 6 seed, and that’s pushing it. There’s an argument that Wichita State is no worse than a 4 seed.
Those who don’t believe that Wichita State cannot only beat Kentucky, UCLA, and North Carolina, but can win the entire tournament, don’t know a great basketball team when they see it. The Shockers average 82.1 points a game while allowing 62.4 points per game. They almost average a 20-point differential between points scored and points allowed per. That’s amazing.
Top “No Way” Underdog: 12 Middle Tennessee State
5 Minnesota will miss a couple of key players. There’s a good chance that Middle Tennessee State provides the historical 12 over 5 upset win this week. After that, the Blue Raiders could battle Butler, a team that has shown a bad habit of playing worse than they are.
North Carolina could be a problem, but Middle Tennessee State averages 75 points a game. They should be able to run and gun with the Tar Heels. Also, Duke showed in the ACC Tournament that the way to beat North Carolina is to get Joel Berry II into foul trouble.
Winner: 2 Kentucky
I love the Shockers. But, I love John Calipari’s ability to get his team to the Sweet 16 more. If the battle versus Wichita State took place in the Sweet 16, I might go for Wichita State. Round 2 is too early for me to back the Shockers versus the Big Blue Wildcats.
I like Kentucky over North Carolina, or anybody in the South Region, because Calipari coaches his team so that they play better during the NCAA Tournament. This is a key reason Kentucky has had so much Final Four success since Calipari took over. He manages his freshman laden team so that they peak at the NCAA Tournament.
I think Kentucky makes it all the way to the Final Four.