We’ve reached the third section in our 2016 NCAA Tournament Preview, which focuses on the South Region.
The South Region appears to be loaded, and it starts at the top with the Kansas Jayhawks, the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament. Here are some of the other biggest names and potential storylines to follow.
Best Opening Game: No. 4 California vs. No. 13 Hawaii
This was one candidate for my upset alert pick. California is the team loaded with potential NBA talent that has underachieved at times this season. Hawaii is the veteran group that’s flown under the radar because of where it’s located and the conference it plays in.
The Rainbow Warriors play great defense and this is also a program that’s been banned by the NCAA from the 2017 postseason, meaning there will be extra motivation for this year’s team to make the most of its opportunity. If California thinks it can just roll out the ball and get an easy victory, the Golden Bears have another thing coming.
Upset Alert: No. 6 Arizona vs. No. 11 Wichita State
Whether Wichita State would even make the tournament was one of the biggest questions on Selection Sunday. Once the Shockers were included in the field of 68, they immediately became one of the most dangerous lower-seeded teams. They proved it on Tuesday night with a 20-point victory over Vanderbilt in one of the First Four games in Dayton.
Now, Gregg Marshall and his senior backcourt of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker have a chance to make more noise in the tournament with a very winnable matchup against Arizona. Based on which metrics you use, some wouldn’t even consider a Wichita State win over Arizona to be an upset.
Best Player: Jarrod Uthoff, Iowa
The South Region seems to be full of lots of really good players, but none who jump off the page as superstars. Although Iowa has struggled over the past month, Jarrod Uthoff has still been one of the best players in the country this season, averaging 18.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. He’s earned All-American honors and the Hawkeyes will need him to play at that level to have any chance at postseason success.
Final Four Prediction: Kansas
The Jayhawks enter the NCAA Tournament on a roll and this is a group that’s been battle-tested through an extremely difficult Big 12 regular season schedule. It’s not one of Bill Self’s best teams in terms of NBA talent, but this is a deep, veteran group that appears to have pieces that fit well together. It’s tough to find weaknesses in this team, and I think Kansas has the leadership it needs to handle the expectations and pressure of being the top seeded team in the tournament.