Kansas hasn't gotten as much attention as the other #1 seeds this year because the Big 12 had a down year, but their resume is as good as anyone else’s. They have 13 wins against the top 50 in the RPI, which includes non-conference wins against Ohio State and Saint Louis. Other than a really weird stretch of the season where they lost three games in a row, they're 28-2 and won both the Big 12 regular season and conference tournament titles. They have arguably the most talented player in the country in redshirt sophomore Ben McLemore, who has the ability to put a team on his back and carry them to the Final Four.
The PG situation worries me a little bit. Senior Elijah Johnson is a bit of a loose cannon and freshman Naadir Tharpe is more talented, but shows his youth on occasion. Jeff Withey provides a steadying presence inside on both the offense and defensive ends. I'm just not sure any of Kansas' potential opponents are good enough to take them down, so the Jayhawks are my choice to move on from the South Region.
Georgetown and Florida are Kansas' main competition to get out of the bracket. Georgetown's offensive sets are hard to prepare for in a tournament format, so that gives them a bit of an edge. Florida is the only team in the country in the top five of both offensive and defensive efficiency, but you have to wonder about their quality given how bad the SEC was this year. Michigan has disappointed in the last month despite all their talent. They don't play defense well enough to make a Final Four run and appear vulnerable to an early exit. VCU is the dark horse to make the Final Four out of the region because of their "havoc" style of play. Shaka Smart’s one of the best coaches in the country and this team is more talented than the one he took to the Final Four recently.
First round upset that will happen: Minnesota over UCLA
The recruiting class UCLA brought in this season made me think they had a potential to replicate the same success had last year. Unfortunately Shabazz Muhammad couldn’t get on the court at the beginning of the season, two players transferred, and Ben Howland was left with a few months to put everything together. UCLA seemed to have turned the cover over the last two months having improved enough to win the Pac-12 regular season, but then it all came crashing down when Jordan Adams broke his foot in the conference tournament semifinals. UCLA will struggle to score without Adams because they don’t have the depth after the transfers. They also don’t do well with size and Minnesota’s Trevor Mbakwe certainly has that.
First round upset that won't happen: Oklahoma over San Diego State
Oklahoma put together a nice little season, but the truth of the matter is that they’re not that good. They’re best road win is against a team that didn’t make the tournament and they only have three wins against teams in the RPI top 50. San Diego has struggled in recent weeks, but they have more talent and better coaching than Oklahoma. Jamaal Franklin is the best player on either team and the Aztecs will use plenty of different looks to neutralize Oklahoma’s Romero Osby.
Best Non-Bracket Bets:
Florida Gulf Coast (+13) over Georgetown – The Hoyas are too methodical offensive to really open this one up. UFGC has played Duke, VCU, Iowa State, and Miami (who they beat) so they won’t be intimidated by Georgetown.
VCU to make the Final Four (+1200) – This VCU team matches up well with every team in the region.
VCU (-6) over Akron – Akron lost their starting PG a couple weeks ago. That’s exactly what you don’t need to have happen before facing “havoc.”
North Carolina (-4) over Villanova – UNC has turned things around since their lineup change to a 4 guard alignment. The Wildcats will struggle to keep up.
South Dakota State (+11.5) over Michigan – It’s going to be a great guard matchup between Trey Burke and Nate Wolters. Michigan’s not good enough defensively to beat a good offensive group in SDSU by more than 10¬¬¬ points.
Georgetown to make the Final Four (+400) – Georgetown is fourth in the country in defensive efficiency and have a player in Otto Porter, who can take them to the promised land.