Men's Basketball 2017 NCAA Tournament South Regional Overview

South Regional Overview
The South Region on the surface appears to be very top heavy as North Carolina, Kentucky, and UCLA all have the potential to win the national championship. As far as the rest of the South region bracket is concerned there is some potential for turbulence as Butler, Minnesota, Cincinnati, Dayton, Wichita State, and Middle Tennessee all have the potential to win multiple games and cause problems for the Tar Heels, Wildcats, and Bruins starting from the round of 32 and onward. This region is going to come down to which team can actually pay enough attention to detail defensively at critical moments in order to get to Phoenix.
Who Can Win?
North Carolina is the favorite in this region as they won the Atlantic Coast Conference during the regular season, which was the best conference in the nation this year. Thus, the Tar Heels are very battle tested and they also will be on a mission after the heartbreaking loss to Villanova last year in the National Championship game. Kentucky, led by Malik Monk, is always going to be dangerous. The Wildcats can run just about anyone out of the gym offensively when they are clicking on all cylinders. The Wildcats also beat North Carolina earlier this season in an epic 103-100 shootout. UCLA, led by Lonzo Ball and T.J. Leaf, are a high flying offensive attack, but their issue has been their inability to really, truly play lock down defense consistently. If the Bruins can keep teams in the 70’s defensively then they could very easily make it to the Final Four.
Who Can Surprise?
Seton Hall could be a fly in the ointment in the South Region if they can win a virtual tossup opening game against the Arkansas Razorbacks. If the Pirates can get past Arkansas they will have a tremendous opportunity to cause North Carolina problems in the round of 32. Seton Hall took Villanova to the wire in the Big East Conference Tournament semifinal where the Pirates controlled the tempo and battled the Wildcats to a 55-53 very close loss.
Who’s Hot?
Kentucky is on fire as they have not lost a game since an 88-66 loss on the road at Florida back on February 4th. The Wildcats have won 11 consecutive games and have found a way to win games where they have not played perfectly. They also have been able to take things up to an extra gear when necessary to pull away from teams. In the SEC Tournament Championship game against Arkansas, Kentucky put the foot on the gas pedal and scored the final 13 points of the first half to put the game out of the reach after 20 minutes.
Who’s Cold?
Butler comes into the NCAA Tournament on a two game losing streak so the Bulldogs will definitely be looking to get back on track in their opener against Winthrop. It will be important for Butler to take care of business at the offensive end of the court as they are a top 20 team in offensive efficiency. They also need to lock down their opponents from behind the three point line. When the Bulldogs have struggled in games teams have been able to light them up from behind the three-point line.
Upset Alert!
Minnesota should be on upset alert as Middle Tennessee will not be intimidated by the Golden Gophers. The Blue Raiders knocked off Michigan State last year as a number 15 seed. Also, there is the factor of tournament inexperience with Minnesota as they have not been in the NCAA Tournament since 2013. There is also the tradition of a 12 seed knocking off a 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament and Middle Tennessee has the mix of experience and talent that can cause the Golden Gophers problems. MTSU are led by the trio of JaCorey Williams, Giddy Potts, and Reggie Upshaw who are all averaging over 14 points per game.
What Possible Matchup is Interesting?
UCLA vs. Cincinnati in the second round has the potential to be very interesting as the Bearcats have done a better job this season of scoring the basketball and they are going to need every bit of offense possible to keep up with the Bruins. In addition, the defensive ability of Cincinnati could prove to be a very strong test for UCLA and their ability to stay patient if they can’t get out in transition and create easy baskets for themselves.
Which Player Will Dominate?
Justin Jackson has the ability to be very dominant on the biggest stages for North Carolina. Jackson scored 34 points against Kentucky back in December and the Tar heels needed every one of his 34 points to keep up with the red hot Malik Monk of Kentucky in what was the best game of the regular season. Lonzo Ball should also dominate as well in the South Region as Ball has drawn comparison to players like Magic Johnson. He is arguably the best passer in the sport as he routinely sets his teammates up for quality shots and can take a game over in a heartbeat.
Which System is Tough to Prepare For?
Middle Tennessee has a 1-3-1 defensive scheme that is difficult for opposing teams to deal with when head coach Kermit Davis chooses to implement it. The Blue Raiders do an excellent job of limiting opposing team’s ability to shoot the basketball. Middle Tennessee has limited teams to just a 41.7 percent shooting the basketball and 63.3 points per game. In the win over Vanderbilt back on December 8th, the Blue Raiders held the Commodores to just 48 points in a very convincing 71-48 win to build up their NCAA Tournament resume.