The number 1 seed in the South Region is also the number 1 seed overall: the Kansas Jayhawks. The champions of both the Big XII regular season and tournament are 30-4 and haven’t lost since January 25th. They pass the eye test, the old school math test (1st in RPI), and the new school math test (1st in Ken Pom). KU is the favorite not just to make it to Houston but also to cut down the nets in NRG Stadium.
The Miami Hurricanes might be too good to be a dark horse. Still, they’re a bit off the radar, having spent almost all year outside the top 10 and having finished 3rd in their league. Their coach, Jim Larrañaga, has experience in the tournament (remember George Mason?) and although their roster lacks NCAA experience, they made a run to the NIT Final a year ago. Also, the draw helps them. Assuming they beat Buffalo, their next game will come against an 11-seed playing its 3rd game in 5 days or an Arizona team playing 3 time zones and 2,500 miles away from home. If the Canes can get to Louisville, given Villanova and Kansas’s struggles in tournament’s past, they’ll have a very good chance to get to Houston.
Best Round of 64 Matchup:
Allow for some cheating: it’ll be either Arizona vs. Wichita State or Arizona vs. Vanderbilt. The play-in game for the spot in this game will be a doozy: both the Shockers and the Commodores were preseason top 25 teams, were lucky to get in, and now are being given significant praise in their possible matchup with the Wildcats. Wichita boasts 2 senior guards who started on a Final Four team in 2013 in Fred Van Vleet and Ron Baker; Vandy has 2 possible lottery picks in Damian Jones and Wade Baldwin IV. Arizona is no slouch in its own right. In any event, the game Thursday night in Providence should be tons of fun.
Perry Ellis from Kansas has been the recipient of 1,000,000 “Perry Ellis is old” jokes, but they roll right off of him because he’s really good. The 6’8″ power forward is not Kansas’s most talented player, but he is super reliable. He averages 17 points and 6 rebounds. He plays a massive role because he is the only KU big man who can do more than just dunk and block shots: he’s a beast in the post and has a nice jumper. Without him, the Jayhawks would be way too reliant on jumpers from Frank Mason, Devonte’ Graham, and Wayne Selden Jr. to be the national favorite.
Best NBA Prospect
Jaylen Brown from California has been one of the few prospects this season to actually live up to his preseason hype. The 6’7″ wing averages 15 points a game and got much better player as the year went on. He’s up to 3rd on numerous mock drafts, partially as the answer to the vacuum that opens up after Ben Simmons (ESPN paid me $15 to mention him) and Brandon Ingram are off the board but also because Brown is super talented.
Potential Rivalry Matchup:
Temple will have to beat Iowa in the first round to make this happen, but if the Owls advance they’ll face Villanova in the second round. All of Philly will be in Brooklyn for this one if that happens. The Wildcats beat Temple a month ago in their annual ‘Big 5’ matchup. However, given Nova’s recent struggles in the tournament, having a rival serve as the roadblock to the Sweet 16 would only add to the pressure that must be mounting over Jay Wright.
Sweet 16 Picks:
Kansas, California, Miami, Temple
Final Four Pick: