The NCAA Tournament gets underway later this week, with the First Four taking place on Thursday, and the First Round starting on Friday, which is when Carolina will take on Wisconsin. Even though the entire tournament is being played in Indiana, there are regions like normal, and Carolina was podded in the South Region. With the way the committee seeded the field, there isn’t that normal “bracket of death”, but make no mistake the South Region won’t be easy for the Tar Heels or any other team for that matter to advance. Here is a breakdown of every team in the South Region:
It was a historic season in Waco, as Baylor won their first conference title since 1950, and undefeated at home for the first since 1947. Scott Drew’s squad is led by arguably the best backcourt in college basketball. Their historic season earned them their first ever 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They have 8 Quad 1 wins, so they are more than ready for the challenges of having to advance through the bracket.
#2 Ohio State:
The Buckeyes enter March Madness coming off an impressive showing in the Big 10 Tournament, losing to Illinois in the finals. Like Baylor, they are battle tested as the Big 10 was the toughest conference in the country top to bottom. Chris Holtman has done a fantastic job in Columbus so far, anything less than making the Sweet 16 would be deemed a disappointment for this team.
The Razorbacks are the 3 seed, but they may be the dark horse to emerge from the South Region, and make their first Final Four since 1995. Arkansas is led by Moses Moody as he leads an offense that averages over 84 points per game. Their first round matchup with Colgate won’t be easy, but Eric Mussleman’s squad will be ready to go.
After a slow start to the season, Purdue rounded into form, winning 5 straight Big 10 games to close out their regular season. Like usual, the Boilermakers are led by a dominant post player in Trevion Williams, who scored over 20 points, eight times this season.
A devastating injury to senior point guard Connor Gillespie is big reason why the Wildcats lost their last two games, and are limping into the NCAA Tournament. As a whole though, the Big East regular season champs are more than capable of making things interesting, if their making shots from the perimeter, and James Robinson-Earl plays to his potential on the inside. They have a tough first round matchup with Winthrop, but Jay Wright is one of the best coaches in the business, and will have his team ready to play.
#6 Texas Tech:
After making an appearance in the top 10 of the AP poll, the Red Raiders have had an up and down season since. The addition of Mac McClung was believed to help get Teas Tech back to the national title game, after making it there in 2019. While that is certainly a possibility, the Red Raiders will need to play better offense, and get back to defending at a high level if they hope to make it past Utah State in their opener.
Despite a 14-9 record, including losses to SEC bottom feeder Kentucky (you read that right) and South Carolina, Florida still earned a 7 seed, and will face the 10 seed Virginia Tech. After a season filled with multiple COVID-19 issues, the Gators will now try to prove their worthy of their seeding/
#8 North Carolina: The Tar Heels will enter March Madness believing they are playing their best basketball of the season, having won 3 of their last 4 games. Roy Williams’ squad has the best frontcourt in college basketball, spearheaded by a quartet of big men that are more than capable of taking over a game. With that in mind, they’re going to need the young guards of Caleb Love and R.J. Davis, to step up and make timely plays if they hope to get back to Sweet 16.
The Badgers won their final 8 games back in 2019-20, and entered 2020-21 with high hopes of a special season in Madison. Instead they finished with a pedestrian 17-12, as they weren’t able to stack wins in the loaded Big 10. Greg Gard has a veteran group poised to make a run, but they’ll need to turn back the clocks to March of 2020, if they hope to do so.
#10 Virginia Tech:
Despite finishing fourth in the ACC during the regular season, a quarterfinal loss to North Carolina in the ACC Tournament kept the Hokies at the bottom half of the bracket. Make no mistake though, Virginia Tech is a well coached team that plays for second year head Mike Young. Keve Aluma, a transfer from Wofford leads the team in scoring with 15.6 points per game, will be a fun player to watch in their game against Florida.
#11 Utah State:
The winners of the Mountain West, are hungry for more, and are a trendy pick to upset Texas Tech in the first round. The defensive minded Aggies are led by 7 foot center Neemias Queta, who is more than capable of anchoring a first round upset of Texas Tech, and beyond.
The media has labeled this team as the best chance to bust the bracket, and play the role of “Cinderella”, and rightfully so. They went 23-1 in the regular season, dominating their conference tournament, winning all 3 games by 20 or more points. Despite only playing one other team that made the field of 68 (UNC-Greensboro), Pat Kelsey and his squad are poised to make a run.
#13 North Texas:
The Mean Green are led by senior guard Javion Hamlet who terrorized Conference USA, averaging over 18 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds per game. He is poised to lead North Texas to an upset of Purdue, and in the process, earn the program their first NCAA Tournament win.
Make all the jokes about toothpaste that you want, but on the court Colgate is far from a joke. After winning the Patriot League Tournament, Colgate appears ready to give Arkansas all they can handle. Seth Davis from CBS has picked them to pull off the upset.
#15 Oral Roberts:
After blowing a 25 point lead in the Summit League final, Oral Roberts is dancing, and like Winthrop has the opportunity to make noise. Led by Max Abmas, the nation’s leading scorer at over 29 points per game, he has the ability to shoot Oral Roberts to an upset of Ohio State.
Hartford will attempt to become just the second 16 seed ever to win a game in the NCAA Tournament after UMBC did so in 2018. After finishing fourth in the America East, the Hawks won their conference tournament, and will enter the NCAA Tournament with a lot of confidence, with nothing to lose.