The South is without a doubt the toughest region in the tournament, and oddly, the overall #1 seed has to play in it. Usually the top overall seed is placed is the less stressful bracket, along with playing in a region that is close to their university.
Not this time.
For Kansas to be the top seed, they receive the worst bracket a top seed can get, but Bill Self and his Jayhawks are ready for the challenge. The Jayhawks haven’t loss a game since January 30th and just won their 12th consecutive Big 12 title. The Jayhawks are a deep squad with both youth and experience. Senior Perry Ellis leads the team in scoring, junior wing Wayne Selden is the athletic guard that can change momentum with a great play, and sophomore Devonte’ Graham is shooting 44% from the three point line. Many of the college basketball “experts” are calling the Jayhawks one of the most complete teams in the tournament, but we’ve seen this story before. Bill Self has been the #1 six times during his tenure at Kansas dating back to 2003 but only one National Championship. The Jayhawks have become one of the hardest teams to gauge in March and with this bracket, this could be another tough year.
Miami somehow received a #3 seed after losing in the ACC semi-finals - higher than the SEC champs Kentucky. The Hurricanes has more experience than anyone in the country with a unit that combines for over 200 starts in college basketball. They have victories over Virginia, Duke, Utah, Butler, and Notre Dame. Consistent is the best word to describe the Canes. Sheldon McCllean will do his best to lead the Hurricanes to deep run in this tough region. Head coach Jim Larranega isn’t a stranger to deep runs, taking the George Mason to the Final Four in 2006, defeating Michigan State, North Carolina, UConn on the way.
The Terps make this region tough but it depends on which Terps team is going to show up. In the last month the Terps have been very inconsistent and overall haven’t lived up to the pre-season expectations. If the Teprs can somehow turn it on, then they will be dangerous and a tough challenge for anyone. Melo Trimble is playing in his second NCAA Tournament, Melo has been on a slump but the Terps can not afford to have their best offensive player struggling during this time of the year. The last time we seen him in this situation he was walking off the court with a concussion in the Sweet 16 round. Rasheed Suliamon brings the experience that the Teprs missed last season, but is it enough? The Terps talent level puts them as a favorite to walk out of this region but turnover and rebounding issues makes it hard for you to trust them to make it out of opening weekend.
The young and exuberant Cal Bears are walking into the tournament with a lot of momentum and support. The Bears are a young but very talented group, led by Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Jaylen Brown. Cal has wins against Arizona, Utah, and Oregon and since February 6th, they are 8-2. Cal has not reached the round of 16 since 1997 but this is probably the most exciting team in Cal’s history. The other freshman star, Ivan Rabb, gives the Bears an inside presence that you need in the Tournament. Rabb averages 12 points and 8 boards with 11 double-doubles this season. Even though they are young, senior leadership is still there, with senior guard Tyrone Wallace and junior Jordan Matthews, but even for them a deep run is new terrain. It will be interesting to see how the Bears work out of this region.
Villanova was a Big East championship away from being a #1 seed. The Wildcats haven’t loss more than 4 games in the regular season since 2013 but they haven’t reached the round of 16 since 2009. Similar to Kansas, Nova is another hard team to gauge come tourney time. Those games that you think they will win, they end up losing like in the Big East Championship.
- Vanderbilt and Witchita State will be a tough matchup for most teams. The committee did a great job with providing good matchups for the play-in games, this will be another one.
UCONN: UConn snuck into the tournament this year thanks to a deep run in the American Athletic Conference tournament. Jalen Adams half-court prayer against Cincinnati seemed to ignite the Huskies and we know what can happen when the Huskies are inspired.
Players to Watch
F Perry Ellis, Kansas, 17 points, 6 boards, 52%FG
The true senior is looking to cap off his stellar college career with a national championship. Ellis game is smooth and has not limits. Enjoy this senior while you can.
G Melo Trimble, Maryland, 14 points, 5 dimes, 3 boards
A very similar player to Steph Curry as far as style of play. Very quick, with great handles and bounces on his toes, not to mention a deadly shot. Trimble has been on a slump for the past month, so maybe the big lights will get him out.
G/F Jaylen Brown, CAL, 15 points, 5 boards
Brown favorite player is Kobe Bryant but Brown game is a lot more physical. Brown is strong and attacks the basket with aggression. This is one of the future lottery picks.
G Josh Hart, Villanova, 15 points, 7 boards, 51%FG
Hart is one of the top scorer in the Big East and has an all-around game. He can pretty much score from anywhere on the court and doesn’t struggle to find a shot.
G Wayne Selden, Kansas, 13 points 3 boards, 2 dimes
His uncle alone makes him a must see player.
Upset to Watch
#13 Hawaii over #4 Cal - The guys from the Big Island could catch the Bears slipping, both teams inexperienced NCAA tournament play. The Rainbow Warriors have wins against Auburn and only loss to Oklahoma by three points.
- #1 Kansas vs. #9 UConn, round of 32 - Two programs with deep history.
- #2 Villanova vs. #10 Temple, round of 32 - The two schools from Philly could meet up in Brooklyn. Villanova is 12-0 against Philadelphia schools since 2013.
- #1 Kansas vs. Maryland/Cal, Sweet 16 - Whoever the Jayhawks face between the two, it will be an interesting matchup.
- #1 Kansas vs. #2 Villanova, Eliete 8 - I will be shocked if both teams make it to the regionals finals.