It’s not the sexiest bracket, and out of all of the regions, it might have the fewest national championship contenders.
But it becomes clear by just looking at the bracket that the South is going to be a whole lot of fun.
South Regional schedule
P Second round
Thursday, at Auburn Hills, Mich.
» No. 4 Michgan vs. No. 12 South Dakota State, 5:15 p.m., Ch. 2
» No. 5 VCU vs. No. 12 Akron, 30 min. following, Ch. 2
Friday, at Philadelphia
» No. 2 Georgetown vs. No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast, 4:50 p.m., TBS
» No. 7 San Diego State vs. No. 10 Oklahoma, 30 min. following, TBS
Friday, at Kansas City, Mo.
» No. 8 North Carolina vs. No. 9 Villanova, 5:20 p.m., TNT
» No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Western Kentucky, 30 min. following, TNT
Friday, at Austin, Texas
» No. 3 Florida vs. No. 14 Northwestern State, 5:27 p.m., truTV
» No. 6 UCLA vs. No. 11 Minnesota, 30 min. following, truTV
Bear witness: This bracket is built well from top to bottom, with consistent contender Kansas, tournament vet Florida, mid-major power VCU and wild card Minnesota filling some of the roles that every March Madness lover wants to see.
Players? The South has some of the best. Consider it an NBA Draft preview, with UCLA’s Shabazz Muhammad, Kansas’ Ben McLemore, Georgetown’s Otto Porter and Michigan’s Trey Burke.
But don’t count out some of the mid-major darlings. Some will circle Nate Wolters as the second coming of Jimmer Fredette with his ability to hit all kinds of shots. And Shaka Smart and his VCU Rams have a habit of crashing the second weekend and beyond.
The top seed in the region is as tough as they come. Kansas does a lot of things well: Defensively, it’s one of the best behind big man Jeff Withey. But it also average more than 75 points per game with an elite player in McLemore. The Jayhawks are certainly hoping to get back to the championship after falling last year.
But they are not the only one vying for a national title. Look for Georgetown, which tied for the Big East regular-season title, to put some of its recent NCAA tourney woes behind it. With Porter, the Hoyas have a top-notch player surrounded by a cast of capable defenders. They seem as well-built for March as any program.
Don’t sleep on Michigan, led by Burke. The Wolverines were once the top-ranked team in the country. The same could be said of Florida and UCLA — two former top-5 teams that could be considered underrated.
For upsets, look no further. Minnesota may finally reach its potential in March, and either Villanova or North Carolina could have a run in the mix.
No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 16 Western Kentucky
Records • Kansas 29-5; Western Kentucky 20-15
Conferences • Kansas, Big 12; Western Kentucky, Sun Belt
Outlook • Aside from a midseason slide, Kansas looks solid again. Likely NBA lottery pick Ben McLemore is complemented by shot-blocker and inside guy Jeff Withey. The Hilltoppers’ hopes rest on T.J. Price and George Fant, two players who led the team to an amazing Sun Belt Tournament run this year.
No. 2 Georgetown vs. No. 15 Fla. Gulf Coast
Records • Georgetown 25-6; Florida Gulf Coast 24-10
Conferences • Georgetown, Big 12; Florida Gulf Coast, Atlantic Sun
Outlook • The highlight of the Eagles’ résumé is a victory over Miami. Sherwood Brown and Bernard Thompson will be in the hunt for another big win. But the Hoyas, despite a spotty tournament history recently, boast one of this year’s best defenses. With that and national POY candidate Otto Porter, the team is tough.
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