Over in the South region we have a slew of games and potential matchups that intrigue more than just your bracket geeks. From a potential Roy Williams Bowl featuring the Kansas Jayhawks and North Carolina Tar Heels to the rash of upsets across the board, the East region is without a doubt one of the more fun regions to watch the madness unfold in.
No. 1 Seed:
Like Louisville, the Jayhawks are playing hot basketball right now and they have a march Madness pedigree that suggests they’ll do well early on. But the problems start right away in the Round of 32 for Kansas, as both North Carolina and especially Villanova pose very real threats to the Jayhawks hope of making a run in the tournament. But if they play like they should and continue to channel how they’ve been playing as of late, Kansas should be their usual unstoppable selves.
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Of our upset favorites, only Villanova has a real chance of advancing beyond the Round of 32 and that’s surpassing considering they’ll be pitted against No. 1 Kansas should they dispatch the Tar Heels in the second round. But Villanova plays hard and if Ryan Arcidiacono and Mouphtaou Yarou take over games and get hot at the same time, Villanova is a real threat to knock of Kansas should they meet. The Golden Gophers are your typical upset team, as they’ve played really bad at times this year but balance that out with absolutely dominating performances against really good teams. The Gophers boast more than a few upset wins this season and UCLA isn’t the most solid of teams at the moment and are playing on very shaky ground. Oklahoma gets San Diego State in the first round which is a classic 6-versus-10 matchup that could very easily end in an upset. But should the Gophers and Sooners win, they’ll likely be stifled by the Florida Gators and Georgetown Hoyas respectively in the next round.
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UCLA looked like a great team early on in the season, but have fallen off as of late. This sets them up as very real candidates to be upset by the Golden Gophers in the Round of 64 and makes their prospects of advancing beyond that very slim. Shabazz Mohammed is going to need to lead the Bruins if they want to make a run, but the loss of Jordan Adams may be too much to overcome in the end. As for the Tar Heels, a matchup against Kansas in the Round of 32 is a nostalgic idea for Roy Williams and his followers, but the idea that they can beat Villanova is a bit far fetched at the moment. It’s not out of the question, but of the higher ranked teams, neither UCLA or North Carolina bode very well against the rest of the field in their region.
Last Two Standing:
Kansas should end up in the Elite Eight if everything goes as it should. Again, their biggest test will be against Villanova should they meet in the Round of 32, but if they are able to hold down the Wildcats, the road to the Elite Eight is a breeze. However, the road to the Final Four is blocked by Georgetown, a team many believe simply had an off night when they were beaten by Syracuse in the Big East tournament last week. The Hoyas are being picked by a lot of people to make a run at a Final Four appearance and it’s not for no reason. Georgetown may not be the highest scoring of teams, but their defense will carry them and it may end up being able to stop the Jayhawks momentum, which seems to happen at some point every year.
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Despite not being an offensively dominate team, the Hoyas have a smothering defense that more than makes up for the lack of offensive production. If Otto Porter continues to be the one-man wrecking ball that he’s been so far this season, the Hoyas will quickly become the universal favorite to emerge from the East region into the Final Four. If the rest of the team can rally around Porter and be a productive unit, the Hoyas might very well be able to ride their momentum all the way to a National Championship appearance.
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