This region features not one but two over-seeded bluebloods. North Carolina should not have been a No. 1 seed, and Kentucky shouldn’t have been a No. 2, let alone the fifth-highest team in the field.
Kentucky dominated a mediocre conference (that still inexplicably got five bids) and probably deserved a No. 3 seed. UCLA should have been the No. 2 seed here, but if they meet in Memphis in the round of 16, it won’t really matter.
Carolina opens with Texas Southern, coached by Mike Davis, who has now coached three schools to eight NCAA tournaments and somehow keeps getting fired. The Tar Heels could have a tough out in the second round if Seton Hall can survive Arkansas because the Pirates have size and play defense. Still, UNC should be back in the Sweet 16.
Who will await the Tar Heels there? Here’s a prediction: not Minnesota. The Gophers are a fine team but the 18th-best team in the country as the committee claims? Seriously?
Then again, the committee did their heroes no favors by giving them a first-round game with under-seeded Middle Tennessee State. After beating Michigan State in the first round last year, the Buccaneers won 30 games this season. Butler-Winthrop also will be a good game but bet the Bulldogs to get through and beat Minnesota — unless they play Middle Tennessee. Then, all bets are off.
If Carolina isn’t in the region final, Ol’ Roy may not pick up a golf club this summer to punish himself.
The bottom half of this region has the most under-seeded team in the field: No. 10 Wichita State. Again, you wonder whether the committee ever watches basketball or just listens to the dorky bracketologists. The Shockers lost two players to the NBA and started slowly this season, losing to good teams early. Then they blew through the Missouri Valley, their only loss to Illinois State (which should have been in the field over USC, Kansas State AND Wake Forest) before crushing the Redbirds the next two times they played.
Kentucky just happened to draw Northern Kentucky — in the tournament for the first time — and then could play Wichita State in a rematch of a classic second-round game three years ago.
UCLA should be waiting for Kentucky (or Wichita State) in the round of 16 even though Cincinnati is a very solid team that should beat Wake Forest.
UCLA beat Kentucky in Rupp Arena early in the season — apparently head-to-head matchups don’t matter in seeding (see: Duke-North Carolina) — and the rematch, if it happens, should be great. The winner should get the Tar Heels, and if it is Kentucky it will be a rematch of arguably the most entertaining game of the regular season.