Top seed: Florida Gators
Overrated: Colorado. An eight-seed seems lofty for a team that went 5-5 in its last 10 games and is 9-9 since Jan. 12. That screams double-digit seed.
Double-digit seed that could be Sweet: Stephen F. Austin. Winners of 28 consecutive games, SFA forces turnovers by the truckload, scores with almost anyone and ranks in the top-40 nationally in assists (16.6), points allowed (62.6) and steals (7.6) per game. The Lumberjacks ironically are undersized, so avoiding a match-up against an interior-dominated team is beneficially.
Best player: Kansas superstar freshman Andrew Wiggins is the easy pick here. The teenager will be a lofty NBA draft pick this summer, but how far the Jayhawks roll will depend on whether classmate Joel Embiid returns to action despite his balky back.
Bracket buster: Syracuse. Yes, the Orange are that big of an enigma. In truth, the Orange is the No. 3 seed in the East, and seeing they are packaged in a regional with top-overall seed Florida, former No. 1-ranked Kansas and an Ohio State team that started 15-0, this draw could have been four No. 1 seeds in January. But only Syracuse started 25-0 and is 2-5 since.
Regional final prediction: Florida over Syracuse.
Top seed: Virgina Cavaliers
Overrated: Cincinnati. The Bearcats are one of the nation’s best defensive teams but beyond Sean Kilpatrick, there is limited offensive weapons. Plus, the tightened defensive rules could swing Cincy’s first-round game against the efficient Harvard Crimson.
Double-digit seed that could be Sweet: Harvard. Do you think these guys will play smart? Of course they will. The Crimson share the basketball like few others and have five guys averaging double figures in scoring. Two things that are underrated in postseason basketball, playing smart and offensive balance. Harvard is flush with both.
Best player: In a wild bracket filled with wild stars, let’s go with Shabazz Napier. The UConn senior guard led his team in scoring (17.4 per game), rebounding (5.9) and assists (4.9) and carries a Huskies team that is 10-1 in last 11 games against teams not named Louisville.
Bracket buster: UNC. UNC has looked as good — and as bad — as any team in the country at different times this year. They are flush with stars — it’s UNC after all — but the first-round hurdle that is Providence appears tougher than expected. The Fryars won the Big East tournament to ease major bubble concerns. But do not sleep on this bunch because they echo Rule No. 1 of tournament success, since Providence point guard Bryce Cotton is a senior who gets it done — better than 21 points and almost six assists a game. Yes, Carolina is the epitome of this category in that it could lose in game 1 or play in the final. Madness indeed.
Regional final prediction: Michigan State over UNC.
Top seed: Wichita State Shockers.
Overrated: Wichita State. Hey, you win them all, you win them all. But Wichita State’s best win is against either Tulsa, Tennessee or St. Louis. And all of those came in December.
Double-digit seed that could be Sweet: Tennessee. The Vols are playing their best at the right time, winning five in a row before losing to No. 1-ranked Florida in the SEC semifinals Saturday. Tennessee defensively has been excellent in its recent run, and since the offense switched to being inside-outside in nature, the Vols have clicked. Plus, there are not may teams with double-digit seeds that own a 35-point win over a No. 1 like UT does.
Best player: Louisville senior guard Russ Smith, who is also known as Russ-diculous, is playing his best basketball right now. he had a 40-plus-point game in the AAC tournament, and the defending champion Cardinals have a very nice flow right now.
Bracket buster: Kentucky. The team that was preseason No. 1 and talking about going 40-0 could get the chance to face the only team left that has a chance to go 40-0. If the Wildcats, who looked sharp and inspired in an SEC title-game loss to Florida on Sunday, get by Kansas State, unbeaten Wichita State will be waiting.
Regional final prediction: Louisville over Duke.
Top seed: Arizona Wildcats.
Overrated: Oklahoma. The Sooners have to play at pace — Nick Saban would hate this team — and are top-10 nationally in scoring. But, if the Sooners are not scoring, they will fall hard. Defensively, Oklahoma allows almost 76 points a game, which is worse than 305 other teams.
Double-digit seed that could be Sweet: Nebraska surged late and managed to force its way into the draw against a tough Big Ten schedule. The Cornhuskers are 8-2 in their last 10, including a win at Michigan State and against Wisconsin. Nebraska is deliberate and tenacious, something that could frustrate Baylor in round one and seem very familiar in a potential second-round game against third-seeded Creighton.
Best player: Creighton’s Doug McDermott — known cleverly as Dougie McBuckets — is one of the best scorers in the history of the game. If he gets hot — and he’s almost always hot — he could lead a Manning-type run and continue his ascent among the top 10 scorers ever in college basketball.
Bracket buster: Oklahoma State. Another team with the talent and experience to make a run and that seemed to be a top-two seed a month ago. After the Marcus Smart incident that coincided with the Cowboys’ tailspin, OSU has corrected the fall and appears to be leaning on the star-studded backcourt of Smart and Markel Brown.
Regional final prediction: Arizona over Wisconsin.
Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...