1. Kansas (Big 12 Champion, 29-5)
2. Georgetown (Big East at-large, 25-6)
3. Florida(SEC at-large, 26-7)
4. Michigan (Big Ten at-large, 26-7)
5. Virginia Commonwealth (Atlantic 10 at-large, 26-8)
6. UCLA (Pac-12 at-large, 25-9)
7. San Diego State (Mountain West at-large, 22-10)
8. North Carolina (ACC at-large, 24-10)
9. Villanova (Big East at-large, 20-13)
10. Oklahoma (Big 12 at-large, 20-11)
11. Minnesota (Big Ten at-large, 20-12)
12. Akron (Mid-American Champion, 26-6)
13. South Dakota State (Summit League Champion, 25-9)
14. Northwestern State (Southland Champion, 23-8)
15. Florida Gulf Coast (Atlantic Sun Champion, 24-10)
16. Western Kentucky (Sun Belt Champion, 20-15)
What top 4 seed is most vulnerable in reaching the Sweet 16?
Michigan (4) will experience two tough battles in order to reach the Sweet 16. South Dakota State (13) features the fourth leading scorer in the NCAA in Nate Wolters (22.8 ppg), and though he will get his points, the focus on him creates open shots for teammates. VCU (5) is one of the teams in the tournament who can match the Wolverines’ athleticism. This should be a very up-tempo contest, with the outcome coming-down to the preparedness of the Rams and the ability of Michigan to establish dominance in the paint with their height advantage.
Top players in South Regional
Top-end talent is a premium in the South Regional, with at total of four John R. Wooden Award nominees and four players that could be possible Lottery selections in the 2013 NBA Draft.
Ben McLemore, SG Kansas (16.7 ppg)
Jeff Withey, C Kansas (13.6 ppg/8.6 rpg)
Otto Porter, SF Georgetown (16.4 ppg/7.5 rpg)
Patric Young, C Florida, (10.5 ppg/6.2 rpg)
Erik Murphy, PF Florida (12.4 ppg/5.2 rpg)
Trey Burke, PG Michigan(19.2 ppg/6.7 apg)
Tim Hardaway, Jr., SG Michigan (14.8 ppg/4.7 rpg)
Treveon Graham, SG VCU (15.7 ppg/6.0 rpg)
Shabazz Muhommed, SF UCLA (17.9 ppg/5.2 rpg)
Jamaal Franklin, SG San Diego State (17.0 ppg/9.4 rpg)
James Michael McAdoo, PF North Carolina (14.6 ppg/7.6 rpg)
JayVaughn Pinkston, SF Villanova (12.9 ppg/4.8 rpg)
Romero Osby, PF Oklahoma (15.7 ppg/6.9 rpg)
Trevor Mbakwe, PF Minnesota (10.0 ppg/8.7 rpg)
Zeke Marshall, C Akron, (13.0 ppg/6.9 rpg/3.6 bpg)
Nate Wolters, SF South Dakota State (22.8 ppg/5.7 apg)
DeQuan Hicks, SF Northwestern State (14.2 ppg/5.9 rpg)
Sherwood Brown, SG Florida Gulf Coast (15.2 ppg/6.3 rpg)
TJ Price, SG Western Kentucky, (15.3 ppg/4.4 rpg)
Four of the top five seeds (Kansas, Georgetown, Florida, and VCU) should all win their games with nary a problem, though Michigan will face a tough contest in trying to hold-down Nate Wolters and the South Dakota State Jackrabbits. Still, the Wolverines should prevail, utilizing their advantage in athleticism and depth…UCLA (6) has NBA Lottery-bound Shabazz Muhammad, but lost PG and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, Jordan Adams to a broken foot in the conference tournament. Minnesota (11) underachieved in conference play and are very sporadic, but expect the interior play of Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams to be the difference in a Golden Gophers win…San Diego State (7) likely prevails over Oklahoma (10). The Aztecs are one of the better defensive teams in the country and the Sooners have not played consistently in the second half. G Jamaal Franklin is one of the more underrated players in the country…North Carolina (8) and Villanova (9) saved their best play for the end of the season and offers an intriguing pick-em matchup. The emergence of freshman PG Marcus Paige as a facilitator and the simultaneous shift to a smaller lineup has energized the Tar Heels. Villanova plays great team defense, but will have to control tempo and not turn the ball over. Expect North Carolina to get into transition and pull-away with a victory.
Kansas (1) has the athleticism and length to match North Carolina (8), and has C Jeff Withey, who could be a matchup nightmare for the undersized Tar Heels. In a made-for-TV contest, pitting these two iconic programs and North Carolina coach Roy Williams against his former school, expect the Jayhawks to win decisively…Georgetown (2) and San Diego State (7) will be an intriguing matchup of clamp-down defenses, and thus, should be a low-scoring affair. The difference could be the play of Hoyas’ F Otto Porter, who has shown the ability to take-over games, and likely leads Georgetown to victory…Florida (3) has the potential to have one of the more electrifying offenses in the tournament, combining three-point shooting with transition offense, and are stellar on defense. Minnesota (11) will have no answer, despite the Gators not playing their best basketball at the moment…The best matchup in the second round will be between Michigan (4) and VCU (5). The Wolverines were ranked #1 in the country at one point and feature the dynamic Trey Burke and the best collection of freshman in the country. Shaka Smart teams never beat themselves and the Rams are impressive defensively. Chalk this one up to experience, as VCU has an upper-class laden lineup that should prevail in a nail-biter.
Regional Semi-Finals Predictions
Kansas has been on a roll, following a three-game losing streak in mid-February, concluding with a Big 12 Tournament Championship. Elijah Johnson (10.2 ppg/4.8 apg) is not your typical PG, but will face the daunting task of handling the VCU pressure defense and getting the Jayhawks into their half-court set. The Rams appear to be the tournament darlings once again and will have earned their place in this game. Expect Kansas to win an up-tempo/hard-fought game…Two strong defenses meet-up in the other Sweet 16 game (Georgetown and Florida). The Hoyas’ offense, based on quick passing and occasional back-cuts is tough to defend, whereas the Gators prefer a quicker-paced game and rely heavily on three-point shooting. Florida appears more balanced and coach Billy Donovan has been in this position before, and that should carry them to victory.
Regional Final Prediction
Kansas and Florida both have solid teams, in terms of quality inside/outside-type players, experience, and coaching. Two of the better centers in NCAA basketball (Jeff Withey and Patric Young) will lock horns in a heated battle, while both teams sport quickness in the backcourt. Defensively, each team does things differently, but the end results are the same. This game is going to come-down to the team that can get the most uncontested looks and be able to make the shots. Expect that team to be the Gators, who should get big games from guards Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario, allowing them to represent the South Region in the Final Four.
Deric McKamey is a Scout and Correspondent for NetScouts Basketball.