For teams in the South Regional, the road to Atlanta and the Final Four goes through Cowboy Stadium in Arlington, Texas, but they have to make it there first.
The No. 1 seed Kansas Jayhawks have a history of making it into the Final Four, having made 14 appearances in their illustrious history. Under Coach Bill Self, the Big 12 champs will try to navigate their way there again.
But the road to Atlanta won’t be easy, as the South Region is host to 2-5 seeds that could all easily claim a spot in the Final Four. The South Region also boasts six teams who were ranked in the top 10 at some point this season.
The second seeded Georgetown Hoyas were the regular season Big East champions. Led by national player of the year-candidate Otto Porter, the Hoyas have proved to be extremely tough on defense. The Hoyas limit opponents to just 56.1 points per game and a paltry 37.7 percent shooting from the field.
The third seed is another regular season champion in the Florida Gators. Like the Hoyas, the Gators suffocate their opponents on defense, allowing only 53.2 points per game. Unlike the Hoyas, though, the Gators can score too, averaging 71.6 points per game. If their senior trio of Erik Murphy, Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario can light it up from beyond the arc, the Gators are nearly impossible to beat.
Coming in a bit lower than expected, as a four seed, are the Michigan Wolverines. A top-10 team going into their conference tournament, a loss to Wisconsin knocked them down a tier. Still, the Wolverines, led by their own national player of the year-candidate in point guard Trey Burke, present a challenge. Their first-round matchup with South Dakota State will be a battle of point guards with the Jackrabbits’ Nate Wolters dueling Burke.
The top two seeds, Kansas and Georgetown, won’t be happy to see the VCU Rams sitting as the five seed in their region. In 2011, the Rams defeated both teams on their way to a shocking run to the Final Four. This season, the Rams switched conferences, from the CAA to the Atlantic 10, but have been as tough as ever. With their fast-paced offense and aggressive defense, the Rams could see themselves in another Final Four.
Outside of the contenders, there are a number of great first round and potential later round games, as well as a few popular upset picks.
The most popular upset pick of the tournament has to be the 11th-seeded Minnesota Gophers over the sixth-seeded UCLA Bruins. Both teams were ranked highly at one point this season, but have fallen off. This game could be decided on the glass, where the Gophers are one of the best teams in the country in rebounding, while the Bruins struggle.
Another intriguing first-round matchup is the 7-10 game between the mid-major San Diego State Aztecs of the Mountain West and the Oklahoma Sooners of the Big 12. Unlike most games between a mid-major school and one from a power conference, the Aztecs are actually the higher seeded team. The Aztecs’ Jamaal Franklin is the only player in the nation to lead his team in points, assists, rebounds and steals.
Finally, the bracket sets up a potential second round match-up of blue bloods between the Kansas Jayhawks and the North Carolina Tar Heels. If the Tar Heels can get past Villanova, Roy Williams will be facing his old team again in Kansas.
The South Region will be tough, housing five teams with a legitimate shot at making the Final Four, as well as some good upset candidates that could throw a wrench in things. While it’s hard to bet against the pedigree of the Kansas Jayhawks, don’t be surprised to see another team representing the South in Atlanta.