Selection Sunday is in the books. The field of 68 is set. Now, the fun of the NCAA Tournament 2017 can begin! So get your brackets out, because it is time to fill them out!
The number three overall seed has been awarded to the North Carolina Tar Heels of the ACC. As a result, UNC will be the number one seed in the South Region. But there is much more to a region than just its one seed. So let’s take a look at who else will be fighting to make it to the Final Four out of this South Region.
The regions matchups can be seen below.
16) Texas Southern
9) Seton Hall
12) Middle Tennessee
11) Kansas State/Wake Forest
14) Kent State
10) Wichita State
15) Western Kentucky
So with those eight matchups set, it is time to get into the good stuff. Without getting too deep into any numbers, here are some of my initial impressions when I saw this section of the bracket released.
This sets up very well for UNC
Of all of the one seeds, I think UNC has the easiest overall path. Now I know what you are thinking: UCLA and Kentucky are in this region! Yes they are, but Carolina would only need to play one of them. On the top part of the bracket, there are no real standouts.
As I will get into down the road, UCLA and Kentucky are going to go through one hell of a battle to earn the right to face UNC in the Elite Eight. On the top, UNC simply should not have as much of a challenge in getting there. That means they will be the fresher of the teams in the Elite Eight. So you can pen in UNC for the Final Four in most of my brackets.
Middle Tennesse is the biggest risk to the Tar Heels on the top part of the region
So you now know I am not too high on the top half of this region. Neither Seton Hall or Arkansas do anything to scare me. They are both average teams who fit right into the 8-9 game. Minnesota is probably the top team in the Big 10, which simply put is not that great of a conference overall.
But then you have Middle Tennessee. In the typical 5-12 upset, Middle Tennessee is primed for a win in game one. They are a team that likely would have been in the field even if they did not win their conference tournament. They are simply that good. They are in a pocket of four teams where they could certainly come out on top.
In such a scenario, they would be facing the Tar Heels in the Sweet Sixteen. And quite frankly, they would put up the best game against the one seed in this section of the bracket.
UCLA vs Kentucky is a dream matchup, but the bottom half can go in any direction
Everyone is already loving the idea of UCLA taking on Kentucky. It would see two powerhouses going head-to-head in the Sweet Sixteen. There is no denying it would be a tremendous game. But do not get ahead of yourself.
For starters, whenever people assume something like that, one of the two teams lose in the opening round. So do not count out the opening round upset. But after that, each team will have a hard game two. Cincinnati is a tough draw as the six seed. And Wichita State got completely screwed over with a 10 seed draw.
Now, neither of those teams are a lock in their openers either. So bottom line here is, this set of four games can go in just about any direction. This is hands down my favorite subsection of the bracket in all four regions.
Do not sleep on Cincy
Between UCLA and Kentucky, I do not have as much faith in UCLA. They are a team that is all offense, and they have shown they are capable of some poor games. Add in Lonzo Ball hurt his thumb in their last game, and this is a team that is far from a lock to get to the Sweet Sixteen.
The chief benefactor of that would likely be Cincy. Cincinnati is a team that proved they were second best in their conference, as SMU was clearly the better of the two. But that does not make them a bad club. They have some talent, and they have a very experienced coach.
So if you are looking for a team outside of Kentucky and UCLA to emerge from the bottom half of this region, Cincy is certainly a solid pick.
So there you have it folks. Those were my thoughts upon seeing the bracket for the first time. Some of these thoughts may change a little after looking deeper into the numbers. But they always say go with your gut. And this is what my gut says!
What do you think? Tell us in the comments!