The South region stands high with Virginia as the #1 seed. Will they make another first round exit this year? Probably not, but how hilarious would that be! Here are a few matchups I think people should look into as Day 1 approaches.
The Wisconsin vs Oregon matchup has the potential for an upset. Many people are going with Oregon here and it makes sense. The game will be held on the West Coast giving them that home type advantage, while the Badgers have a long way to go. Besides that, Oregon has a tough defense that Wisconsin needs to go through and if they fall behind early in the game, the chance for a comeback is slim. Overall, I am still taking Wisconsin for the win here mostly because they are coming in with more experience this season playing difficult teams. Oregon played 1 top 25 team this season while Wisconsin faced 8 and consistently played higher end teams and went 14-6 in a tough Big Ten conference. I think those matchups prepared them well as they have been seen as the underdogs all season, while having an impressive frontcourt presence within the NCAA.
The next matchup that needs serious attention is the Kansas State vs UC Irvine game. Kansas State is coming off of an exciting year in the Big 12 with impressive wins over Kansas and Texas Tech. However, there is an important factor coming into this game and that is Dean Wade. Currently, he is going through an injury that is still making him questionable for the first round of the tournament. Without Wade, KSU is a very different team and already averages around a lower range of 65 points per game with him in the lineup. They are facing a high scoring team in UC Irvine that has consistently put up 73+ points a game throughout the season. So unless KSU tightens up their defense and limits the Anteaters from scoring as much as they are capable of, they can let this one get away. Since there is still no news on if Wade is playing in the first game, I think it is safe to assume he won’t be 100% even if he does. Due to this, I am choosing UC Irvine to pull off an upset in this game as someone on the KSU team will need to explode offensively to pull this off.
Finally, where I see the potential of an upset is between Villanova and St. Mary’s. After an impressive win against Gonzaga for the WCC conference championship, St. Mary’s is coming into this game with their heads held high knowing they can beat the best. Their outstanding defense prevailed in that game and will match up well against an inconsistent Villanova team. The Gaels are also strong on the offensive side of the ball, led by Jordan Ford and Malik Fitts who shoot better than 40% from the 3 point arc. This is a dangerous team coming out of the West that shouldn’t be taken lightly as Gonzaga can give Villanova that advice. Due to all of this, I am taking the Gaels in this first round matchup sending the defending champions home early this year. I also am a little superstitious and love stats… No. 11 seeds have won eight of 12 meetings with No. 6 seeds in the past three years during the tournament. SO I am sold on this one.
The rest of the bracket I have pretty clear victories in the 1st round including Virginia, Ole Miss, Purdue, Cincinnati and Tennessee all moving on. I will be back in the second round for the South region and am eager to see how things shape up in the next two days.