TDT’s 2017 NCAA Tournament Preview: South Region
Who will reign supreme in the star-studded South region?
We continue our preview of the 2017 NCAA Tournament by looking at the South Region. This side of the bracket features multiple storied programs, each with legitimate chances at being crowned the new NCAA champions. We know about North Carolina, Kentucky and UCLA, but can anybody outside of the Top 3 make it to Phoenix?
Best Player: F Justin Jackson, North Carolina
Jackson stepped into more of a scoring role this season, en route to him being named the ACC Player of the Year. He has all the tools to put forth an outstanding effort in the tournament this year, but he must play better than he did in the ACC tournament. His shot appeared to be off, but when he’s locked in, Jackson is one of the most difficult players to stop in all of college basketball.
Best First-Round Matchup: No. 7 Dayton vs. No. 10 Wichita St
I don’t think there’s any question what the best matchup is in the Round of 64 for the South region. Dayton and Wichita State have represented the mid-majors well, becoming staples in the NCAA tournament. The committee certainly didn’t do the Shockers any justice by making them the 10-seed. They are a great rebounding team and can score with the best of them. Dayton is a team full of seniors looking to end their collegiate careers on a high note. Whichever team wins will have their hands full with Kentucky in the second round.
Sleeper That Can Win It All: No. 4 Butler
Each year, Butler slides under the radar as one of the good teams that nobody is talking about. They aren’t flashy and don’t have any true stars, but they are typically a disciplined, well-coached basketball team. The Bulldogs have been known to go cold at times this season, but they have some scorers on both their first and second units. With their sound efforts on the defensive end of the floor, this team can make a deep run, as long as they can keep up in the scoring department.
Potential Cinderella: No. 12 Middle Tennessee
If we’re talking about mid-major teams with the best shot to shock the world in this year’s tourney, Middle Tennessee has to be mentioned. They have a history of success after knocking off Michigan State last year. The Blue Raiders dominated the Conference USA and will look to carry over their success. Giddy Potts and Reggie Upshaw are a dynamic duo and Arkansas transfer JaCorey Williams has been a pleasant surprise. This team is dangerous because they get into the paint and know how to finish. That is a valuable quality for underdogs to take into big stage games.
Regional Final: No. 3 UCLA over No. 1 North Carolina
Is it possible to have three winners? Because each of the Top 3 teams in this region deserve to make it to the Final Four. No? Well, it was worth a try. North Carolina should advance from the top half of the bracket, despite a scare from Butler in the Sweet 16. In the bottom half, we’ll see the highly-anticipated rematch between Kentucky and UCLA. I like the Bruins to advance. So that sets up a tilt with the Tar Heels. With talent on both sides, this should be a super-exciting matchup, but I think this will be a defining moment for the career of Lonzo Ball, as he leads the Bruins to the Final Four with the help of his supporting cast.