Best round-of-64 matchup: Kentucky-Davidson. Though Davidson was out of the at-large conversation after starting the season 5-7, Bob McKillop’s team turned it around late and enters the NCAA Tournament with 11 wins in its last 13 games, including the A-10 tournament championship. Kentucky also comes in off a conference tournament title and has a roster full of elite recruits. Still, John Calipari’s freshmen-reliant team has been inconsistent, and McKillop is good enough to give them some wrinkles. Everyone in Davidson’s rotation can shoot threes, which could give it a chance.
Potential upset: Georgia State over Cincinnati. Remember 2015, when coach Ron Hunter stunned Baylor? It could happen again, minus Hunter falling off a stool (which he no longer needs, as his torn Achilles has long since healed). The Panthers rely on an elite guard in D’Marcus Simonds, a high-scoring slasher. Cincinnati won the AAC regular season and tournament title behind the nation’s No. 2 defense, per the Ken Pomeroy efficiency ratings, but they’re a slow-paced team on offense that can hit lulls on occasion.
The sleeper: With the best player in the country, a regular season and conference tournament title and a coach who has made four Elite Eights, Arizona has all the ingredients for a deep run. But as the No. 4 seed with a brutal draw — potentially Kentucky, then Virginia — most will overlook the Wildcats. Given all the distractions Arizona already has had to put aside to get here, don’t be surprised if it rides freshman Deandre Ayton all the way to San Antonio.
The winner: While fans of opposing teams like to take shots at Virginia for its plodding, visually unappealing style of play and some notable failures in the NCAA tournament, this just seems like the Cavaliers’ year to finally break through. Though it was unranked in the preseason, Tony Bennett’s team left nothing to nitpick on the way to a 31-2 record. If not now, when?
Dan Wolken, USA Today