As the No.1 seed in the entire tournament, this simply has to be the North Carolina Tar Heels. The Heels rolled to a 32-2 record in the always-tough ACC, including a 9-1 record against the top 50 teams. Strangely enough, both of their losses came at home, though their road/neutral success bodes well for post-season success.
North Carolina poses some tough match-up problems for most teams, possessing a brilliant offense and a capable defense. They look to push and like all Roy Williams teams, have perhaps the best secondary break in college basketball. They are deep team that can beat you with a variety of weapons.
An underrated aspect of their game is their strength on the glass, possessing the best offensive rebound percentage in the nation thanks to their bevy of great athletes.
To beat North Carolina, you must control tempo and the defensive glass, while trying to contain the excellent post play of Tyler Hansbrough, which opens up a lot of perimeter shots for players such as Wayne Ellington and Danny Green.
Teams that could be challenge NC in the regional are:
Notre Dame: used to a fast pace and can get very hot from behind the arc
Washington State: will control tempo and rebound
Tennessee: deserving of a #1 seed and plays a similar style with similar athletes, though without the rebounding prowess
Most Underrated Team - Butler
The 10th-ranked team in the nation receiving a No.7 seed is outrageous. Butler was a mainstay in the Top 25 this season, won 29 games this season and won the Great Alaskan Shootout. This team under first-year coach Brad Stevens has not missed a step from last season's team that made it to the Sweet Sixteen. They win by taking care of the ball, play great team defense and can hit plenty of three-point shots. All three qualities that are important for the tournament.
Butler also boast one of the most experienced teams in the tournament, returning four senior starters from last season. Mike Green, Horizon League MVP, and A.J. Graves make up an extremely talented backcourt that any team would love to have. Matt Howard joins the team this season and is one of the top freshmen in the nation that you have not heard of.
This Butler team deserved a higher seed then they received and now face a very difficult South Alabama and if they make if past that game, a date with Tennessee. Not a first weekend of the tournament that the 10th-ranked team in the nation deserves.
- Bryan Camp
Best First Round Matchup - Butler vs. South Alabama in Birmingham
Going off what Mr. Camp said, The Bulldogs should feel effectively screwed after falling to a seven seed despite having just three losses and a No. 10 ranking. The Bulldogs have every right to feel good about their chance to become the ultimate "Bracket Busters", with a second-round game against Tennessee in the makings and UNC looming in the Elite Eight.
Problem is, they might not even get there. As if the selection committee hadn't given Butler a tough enough situation, they decided to plant them in Birmingham against No. 10 seed South Alabama. I'm no geographer, but I think that might give the Jaguars a slight home-court advantage, huh?
South Alabama was 26-6 and finished second in the Sun Belt standings behind Western Kentucky. Since this a Friday game, the Jaguars will have eleven days off in between their last game against Middle Tennessee State and the Butler game.
Do the Bulldogs have the goods to make a run? Or will a "road" game in the first round do them in?
- Aaron Brenner
Best Bet for an Upset - No. 11 St. Joseph's over No. 6 Oklahoma
Oklahoma hangs its hat on defense. This is particularly true on the perimeter where they are holding opponents to only 32 percent from downtown, second in the Big 12. Interestingly, St. Joe's best outside shooters are both big guys. Six-foot-eight Rob Ferguson (44 percent) and 6-foot-10 Pat Calathes (40 percennt) will be able to step outside and get good looks against the Oklahoma post players who aren't used to playing the perimeter. Bigs with range always create matchup difficulties and St. Joe's should be able to neutralize OU's biggest strength with their unique outside game.
The Sooners are quite literally hobbling into the tournament with injuries to two key players. Six-foot-eleven Longar Longar was averaging over 13 ppg until he broke a bone in his right leg in early February. Since then, the senior center has been held to only 8.3 per contest. More importantly, Oklahoma's leading scorer and rebounder Blake Griffin had knee surgery on March 6th to repair a partially torn meniscus. Although he only missed one game due to the injury, the verdict is still out as to whether or not he is back to full strength.
St. Joseph's had to sweat out Selection Sunday sitting squarely on the bubble after losing in the Atlantic 10 Conference Championship game. Not only did the Hawks get in, but they drew a favorable matchup and should find themselves staying in Birmingham for the weekend.
- Eric C. Krueger
Region Winner - The Tar Heels
Winners of 11 in a row and 14 out of 15, North Carolina has every reason to storm right through this bracket to the final four. Winners of the ACC regular season and tournament championship, UNC had the No.2 RPI and fourth toughest schedule in the nation and still won 31 games.
With four players averaging double-digit point outputs, including 23.1 points per game from Tyler Hansbrough, North Carolina plays its first round games in Raleigh and plays the regional in Charlotte.
With those kind of numbers and that kind of home court advantage, North Carolina is as close to a Final Four lock as you can get in this tournament.
- Benjamin Worgull