Despite the objections of pretty much every national blogger and reporter, North Carolina earned the #1 seed in the South regional instead of Duke. But the committee didn't do North Carolina any favors, putting Kentucky, UCLA and Wichita State all in the bottom of their bracket. Let's take a look at all the teams that make up the South Region:
Editor’s Note: Big wins are typically going to be wins against Top-25 KenPom teams, whereas bad losses include losses to teams that either didn’t make the tournament or are outside the Top 50 in Kenpom. There is some subjectivity in the bad losses department.
1 - North Carolina Tarheels (27-7, ACC Regular Season Champions, Kenpom Ranking: 3)
Big wins: Oklahoma State, Wisconsin, Florida State, Notre Dame, Virginia, Louisville, Duke
Bad losses: Georgia Tech
The Breakdown: This is a strong team that made good on it's opportunities for good wins, going 7-4 against the KenPom Top 25. With a loss at Georgia Tech in the ACC opener being the only questionable loss, it's easy to see why they got the third #1 seed. This region is very top-heavy, and I'm not expecting the Tar Heels to have a legitimate challenge until the Elite Eight.
2 - Kentucky Wildcats (29-5, SEC Regular Season and Tournament Champions, KR: 4)
Big wins: North Carolina, Florida
Bad losses: Tennessee
The Breakdown: Despite not having much of a challenge from their conference, they still managed to get a good collection of solid wins, as most of the SEC was in the mediocre to good range and they only lost twice. They squandered out of conference chances against UCLA, Louisville and Kansas, but there is enough there to think they can make a deep run. The committee did them no favors, however, as their 10 seed is a Top 10 in KenPom Wichita State team and then they get a rematch against a hot UCLA team.
3 - UCLA Bruins (29-5, 3rd in Pac 12, KR: 18)
Big wins: Kentucky, Michigan, Arizona, Oregon
Bad losses: USC
The Breakdown: They won the two marquee matchups they had in the non-conference, but other than Arizona and Oregon (and maybe USC), there wasn't much in conference to help boost their resume. Luckily they split with the other quality teams in the conference, running out of gas in a semifinal matchup against the Wildcats in the Pac 12 tournament
4 - Butler Bulldogs (23-8, 2nd in Big East, KR: 26)
Big wins: Arizona, Cincinnati, Villanova (x2)
Bad losses: Indiana State, St John's, Georgetown
The Breakdown: I honestly expected more out of the Bulldogs this season, and it's surprising that they could sweep Villanova but still lose the conference by 3 games. Their seed is much higher than I was expecting, and they are definitely a candidate for an early upset.
5 - Minnesota Golden Gophers (24-9, 4th in Big Ten, KR: 33)
Big wins: Purdue, Michigan
Bad losses: Penn State, Ohio State
The Breakdown: This seeding came from way out in left field. There is just nothing in this resume that screams Top 20 team, which is what the seeding implies. They struggled to beat even mediocre teams, with a 2OT game at home against Iowa being a perfect example. I'm pretty sure anyone who even mildly follows basketball will be picking them to be upset in the first round. Of course, this means that they are going to make it to the second weekend.
6 - Cincinnati Bearcats (29-5, 2nd in American, KR: 22)
Big wins: SMU, Iowa State
Bad losses: UCF
The Breakdown: I keep hearing how this is a good team that was underseeded, but I'm just not seeing it. They have a couple good wins and only one bad loss, but the rest of the schedule is pretty fluffy. The American didn't really provide much resistance outside of SMU, and Cincinnati lost 2 of 3 to the Mustangs. They are an experienced team, which should help, but I would still put them on upset watch against whoever emerges out of tonight's First Four game between Kansas State and Wake Forest.
7 - Dayton Flyers (24-7, Atlantic 10 Regular Season Champions, KR: 36)
Big wins: Vanderbilt, Rhode Island (x2)
Bad losses: Nebraska, Massachusetts, George Washington
The Breakdown: Vanderbilt is really only there to highlight just how void of quality wins this team's resume is. And part of that is that the A-10 appears to be down this year from previous years. There is some good experience on this team, and coach Archie Miller has probably built up some benefit of the doubt with his prior deep runs, but the first round matchup is absolutely brutal. In terms of seeding, it looks like Wichita State and Dayton could have easily been flipped without too much fuss.
8 - Arkansas Razorbacks (25-9, T-3rd in SEC, KR: 38)
Best wins: Vanderbilt, South Carolina
Bad losses: Missouri, Mississippi State
The Breakdown: The whole bottom part of the bubble reeks of desperation. There just weren't enough quality teams to fill out the lower at larges, and so there were a lot of strange evaluations made. Finishing 3rd in a "Power 5" conference is about the only thing I can think of to justify putting Arkansas up this high.
9 - Seton Hall Pirates (21-11, T-3rd in Big East, KR: 53)
Best wins: Marquette (x2), Butler, Creighton
Bad losses: St John's, Stanford
The Breakdown: While there appears to be a little of the "3rd in a Traditional Power" conference syndrome here too, they are least have multiple wins in the Top 30 range and no horrible losses.
10 - Wichita State Shockers (30-4, MVC Regular Season Co-Champions, Tournament Champions, KR: 8)
Best wins: Illinois State (x2)
Bad losses: None
The Breakdown: It's been discussed to death at this point, but Wichita State definitely deserved higher than a 10 seed. However, looking at the overall resume, it's hard to see where the big wins are that would justify a large jump in seed. They literally lost to every Top 50 KenPom team they played. They also only one true road game in the non-conference, which is another boost that mid-major conference teams try to boost their resume with. As I said earlier, I'd be fine with flipping them with Dayton, but the outrage is a little overblown in my estimation. Of course, none of this is saying that they couldn't upset their way to the Final Four.
11a - Kansas State Wildcats (20-13, 6th in Big 12 KR: 29)
Big wins: West Virginia, Baylor (x2), Oklahoma State
Bad losses: Tennessee, Oklahoma
The Breakdown: Kansas State didn't really punch their ticket until taking down Baylor in the Quarterfinals of the Big 12 tournament. Given their struggles for large stretches of the conference season and their under .500 finish, I think their inclusion is more a sign of respect for the conference as a whole. That being said, they had plenty of opportunities to get some quality wins, and they fact that they beat both Oklahoma State and Baylor on the road likely worked in their favor.
11b - Wake Forest Demon Deacons (24-9, 10th in ACC, KR: 30)
Big wins: Louisville
Bad losses: Syracuse
The Breakdown: Danny Manning's team is the poster child for getting in on the strength of your conference. By avoiding any horrible losses, they were able to get into the tournament on just one big win and a .500 record in the conference.
12 - Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (30-4, CUSA Regular Season and Tournament Champions, KR: 47)
Best wins: Vanderbilt, UNC Wilmington
Bad losses: UTEP, Tennessee State
The Breakdown: They only lost once in the conference, and only 4 of their 17 conference victories were by single digits. This is a fairly strong low-major team that is matched up against a very weak 5 seed.
13 - Winthrop Eagles (26-6, Big South Regular Season Co-Champions, Tournament Champions, KR: 112)
Best win: Illinois
Worst losses: Radford, High Point
The Breakdown: Most people probably remember Winthrop as the team that knocked off Notre Dame in the 2007 tournament, but this team is nowhere near as good as that one. Butler is the weakest of the 4 seeds, so they have a decent shot at an upset, but I don't know that I would gamble with this one.
14 - Kent State Golden Flashes (22-13, MAC Tournament Champions, KR: 141)
Best wins: Texas, Akron (x2)
Worst losses: Oregon State, Bowling Green
The Breakdown: Kent State was 6th in the MAC this year, and pulled off a few upsets to get their bid. Those expecting an upset over UCLA will be sorely disappointed. The Golden Flashes best showing in the tournament was back 2002 when they made it to the Elite Eight as a 10 seed.
15 - Northern Kentucky Norse (24-10, Horizon Tournament Champions, KR: 147)
Best wins: Valparaiso
Worst losses: Austin Peay, Youngstown State
The Breakdown: The big story here is that Northern Kentucky made the NCAA Tournament in the first year that they were eligible after transitioning to Division I. Their reward is a monstrous matchup against Kentucky.
16 - Texas Southern Tigers (23-11, SWAC Regular Season and Tournament Champions, KR: 207)
Best wins: La Salle, Rice
Worst losses: Mississippi Valley State, Jackson State
The Breakdown: The Tigers are making their 7th appearance in the NCAA tournament. They are seeking their first win.
Stayed tuned for our further breakdowns of the tournament, including our predictions for each region coming out in the next few days.