South Regional: Something’s Bruin in this stacked part of bracket

Best round-of-64 matchup

Wichita State is one of the most under-seeded teams in the bracket. Only Gonzaga, the No. 1 seed in the West Regional, has a greater average scoring margin. The Shockers also have the fifth-greatest rebounding margin.

Dayton won the Atlantic 10 regular season and has a strong recent track record in the tournament. The Flyers have made the last three tournament fields and compiled a 5-3 record. Outside of their league, they beat tournament teams Vanderbilt, Winthrop and East Tennessee State while falling to Northwestern and Saint Mary’s.

As potent as Wichita State has been, it’s 0-3 against teams in the bracket.

LAS VEGAS, NV - MARCH 10: Ike Anigbogu #13 of the UCLA Bruins reacts after dunking against the Arizona Wildcats during a semifinal game of the Pac-12 Basketball Tournament at T-Mobile Arena on March 10, 2017 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Arizona won 86-75. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images) ORG XMIT: 687725931

Potential upset

No 12 seed is going to be a bigger darling that Middle Tennessee. The Blue Raiders have six players who helped them beat No. 2 seed Michigan State last season, not including this season’s leading scorer, JaCorey Williams. Middle Tennessee is one of five 30-win teams and is 5-0 on neutral courts. Minnesota has played the nation’s 17th-toughest schedule, but in Middle Tennessee, it’s facing a team that allows 63.1 points per game, the 20th-best mark Division I and the same total as No. 1 overall seed Villanova.

The sleeper

Butler is an unusual tournament team in that it enters the event on a two-game losing streak. Disregard that.

The winner

The Bruins were criticized for their nonconference schedule, and only four at-large teams in the tournament have a weaker strength of schedule.

But the Bruins score 1.202 points per possession and have an effective field-goal percentage — a shooting accuracy measure that adjusts for the value of three-point field goals — of 60.4. They also have a team assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.90. All of those marks are the best in the nation.

UCLA has a tough draw but has the best player in the region in guard Lonzo Ball, and his surrounding talent can match that of North Carolina or Kentucky. UCLA won at Kentucky on Dec. 3.

THE TEAMS

1. North Carolina

Nickname: Tar Heels.

Location: Chapel Hill.

Record: 27-7, 14-4.

Bid: ACC at-large.

Coach: Roy Williams.

UNC appears to have the tools to reach the title game for the second consecutive season, but it is fair to question whether this team can string together enough consecutive strong performances.

16. Texas Southern

Nickname: Tigers.

Location: Houston.

Record: 23-11, 16-2.

Bid: SWAC champ.

Coach: Mike Davis.

Under Davis, the former Indiana and UAB coach, Texas Southern has been the class of the Southwest Conference, winning four regular-season titles in addition to their three tournament titles since 2012.

8. Arkansas

Nickname: Razorbacks.

Location: Fayetteville.

Record: 25-9, 12-6.

Bid: SEC at-large.

Coach: Mike Anderson.

Though Arkansas has played at a slower pace and forced fewer turnovers (188th nationally at 12.97 per game) than you’d expect for an Anderson-coached team, this group has made up for it with efficient offense and solid three-point shooting (37 percent as a team).

9. Seton Hall

Nickname: Pirates.

Location: South Orange, N.J.

Record: 21-11, 10-8.

Bid: Big East at-large.

Coach: Kevin Willard.

The Pirates made a late push to get themselves off the bubble, riding their talented frontcourt and some key contributors off the bench.

5. Minnesota

Nickname: Golden Gophers.

Location: Minneapolis.

Record: 24-9, 11-7.

Bid: Big Ten at-large.

Coach: Richard Pitino.

But for a five-game losing streak in January, Minnesota has had a sensational season, one that earned Pitino Big Ten coach of the year honors one season after going 8-23 overall.

12. Middle Tenn.

Nickname: Blue Raiders.

Location: Murfreesboro.

Record: 30-4, 17-1.

Bid: C-USA champ.

Coach: Kermit Davis.This season was one of affirmation that the Blue Raiders are one of the top mid-major programs in the country after shocking Michigan State in last year’s tournament.

4. Butler

Nickname: Bulldogs.

Location: Indianapolis.

Record: 23-8, 12-6.

Bid: Big East at-large.

Coach: Chris Holtmann.

In many respects, this is a typical Butler team — well-coached, fundamentally sound on defense and never believing it’s beaten. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs can be prone to lengthy offensive outages.

13. Winthrop

Nickname: Eagles.

Location: Rock Hill, S.C.

Record: 26-6, 15-3.

Bid: Big South champ.

Coach: Pat Kelsey.

The Eagles have won 17 of 19 since Jan. 1. Keon Johnson, Big South player of the year, leads an explosive offense that averages almost 80 points. Winthrop has made 304 three-pointers.

2. Kentucky

Nickname: Wildcats.

Location: Lexington.

Record: 29-5, 16-2.

Bid: SEC champ.

Coach: John Calipari.

Calipari once again has enough talent to win the championship, but it’s been hard to trust this team because of its overall immaturity and stretches of indifferent defense.

15. N. Kentucky

Nickname: Norse.

Location: Newport.

Record: 24-10, 12-6.

Bid: Horizon champ.

Coach: John Brannen.

The Norse are in their first tournament in their first year of eligibility. Although lacking size, they rank in the top 50 in rebounding margin, a key part of their Horizon League tournament title victory.

7. Dayton

Nickname: Flyers.

Location: Dayton, Ohio.

Record: 24-7, 15-3.

Bid: Atlantic 10 at-large.

Coach: Archie Miller.

The Flyers ran through the Atlantic 10, losing only three road games during conference play. They stumbled, however, in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament, falling to Davidson.

10. Wichita State

Nickname: Shockers.

Location: Wichita, Kan.

Record: 30-4, 17-1.

Bid: Missouri Valley champ.

Coach: Gregg Marshall.

This year’s Shockers are beating opponents by more than 19 points a game, higher than the 2013-14 team that went 34-0 in the regular season. WSU ranks fifth nationally in rebounding margin.

3. UCLA

Nickname: Bruins.

Location: Los Angeles.

Record: 29-4, 15-3.

Bid: Pac-12 at-large.

Coach: Steve Alford.

The splashy arrival of Lonzo Ball helped  get this proud program back into the national spotlight. The talent infusion that also included T.J. Leaf helped the returning players do their jobs even better.

14. Kent State

Nickname: Golden Flashes.

Location: Kent, Ohio.

Record: 22-13, 10-8.

Bid: Mid-American champ.

Coach: Rob Senderoff.

Back in the tournament for the first time in nine years, Kent State rebounds very well — second in the nation in offensive boards. The Golden Flashes lean heavily on senior forward Jimmy Hall.

6. Cincinnati

Nickname: Bearcats.

Location: Cincinnati.

Record: 29-5, 16-2.
Bid: American at-large.

Coach: Mick Cronin.

This year’s team is like the other versions with the usual physical style and tough defense. The difference is an offense with Troy Caupain as the leading passer and three strong scorers in the frontcourt.

11. Wake Forest

Nickname: Demon Deacons.

Location: Winston-Salem, N.C.

Record: 19-13, 9-9.

Bid: ACC at-large.

Coach: Danny Manning.

11. Kansas State

Nickname: Wildcats.

Location: Manhattan.

Record: 20-13, 8-10.

Bid: Big 12 at-large.

Coach: Bruce Weber.


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