NCAA Tournament South Region preview.
Get to know No. 1
North Carolina (27-7, RPI 5, SOS 11)
The Tar Heels are the controversial top seed this year. They lost to Duke two out of three times, including in the ACC tournament semifinals. But North Carolina has 11 top-50 victories as it aims to return to the national title game, where it lost to Villanova.
No. 12 Middle Tennessee
They’ll wear the slipper again this year after upsetting No. 2 seed Michigan State in the first round last season. This year’s Blue Raiders might be better with the return of Reggie Upshaw and Giddy Potts, who combined for 40 points in that upset. They have two top-50 wins.
Best first-round matchup
No. 7 Dayton vs. No. 10 Wichita State
Both have the potential to pull off some upsets. The Flyers beat Rhode Island twice and Vanderbilt and narrowly lost to Northwestern and Saint Mary’s. The Shockers haven’t lost since Jan. 14 and have more talent than a typical 10th seed.
No. 5 seed Minnesota has undergone one of the greatest turnarounds in college basketball after winning only eight games last season. … No. 4 Butler should be feared. The Bulldogs had the talent to knock off Villanova twice this season. … Wake Forest is in the play-in game for a No. 11 seed against Kansas State. The Demon Deacons own the nation’s No. 8 offense in KenPom.com’s efficiency ratings.
Players to watch
Lonzo Ball, UCLA
The Balls are the Kardashians of college basketball — expect lots of airtime. But the flashy 6-foot-6 freshman point guard is a deserving star, averaging 14.7 points and a nation-best 7.7 assists. He’s projected as a top-three NBA draft pick.
Malik Monk, Kentucky
The freshman guard is compared to Kemba Walker for his ability to score in dynamic fashion and in bunches. He averages 20.5 points and scored 17 on Sunday against his home-state school, Arkansas, to help lead the Wildcats to the SEC tournament title. They’re a dangerous No. 2 seed.
Angel Delgado, Seton Hall
The junior forward might be one of the most underappreciated players in the nation because he doesn’t play on a high-profile team. He leads the nation with 13.1 rebounds per game and is tied with Purdue’sCaleb Swanigan with 26 double-doubles.
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