Kansas (26-8): The Midwest Region offers Kansas another shot at top-ranked Kentucky after getting blown out by the Wildcats in November. But can the Jayhawks get to Cleveland?
The Jayhawks actually have a tough draw in the Round of 64 against No. 15 New Mexico State, a team with size up front, against a KU front court playing without Cliff Alexander and with Perry Ellis coming off an injury. The Round of 32 could also pit Kansas against in-state rival Wichita State, a team underseeded at No. 7. The Shockers would love nothing more than to take down the Jayhawks during another tournament run.
Villanova (32-2): The Wildcats returned the bulk of a 29-win team that underachieved last March. Villanova remains balanced offensively, led by Big East Co-Player of the Year Ryan Arcidiacono, Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston. The Wildcats perimeter attack is equipped with multiple 3-point shooters, but what if Villanova has an off night from beyond the arc? In Villanova’s region are four top-notch defensive teams: Virginia, Oklahoma, Louisville and Northern Iowa.
Virginia (29-3): The Cavaliers seemed destined for the top-line until a loss to North Carolina in the ACC Tournament semifinal bounced them to a No. 2 seed in the East Region. Virginia’s Justin Anderson was having a remarkable season before he broke his finger. While recovering, he also needed to undergo an appendectomy. He returned for the ACC Tournament, but clearly wasn’t at the level he was at prior to the injury and surgery. Virginia’s Final Four hopes depend on his health.
Gonzaga (32-2): Like Villanova, Gonzaga has the stigma of coming up short in March. The Zags are looking to change that narrative this spring with experience in the back court and size on the interior. Have the Zags been tested enough for a difficult road through the South? Gonzaga gets either a good, but inconsistent Iowa or a Davidson team with several knockdown shooters in the Round of 32. In the Sweet 16, the Bulldogs could see Iowa State, followed by an Elite 8 matchup with either top-seeded Duke or Utah.
Duke (29-4): Depending on the outcomes, Duke could be in line for some tough matchups out of the South Region. In the Sweet 16, the Blue Devils could see Utah. The Utes are good enough defensively to give the Blue Devils offense some trouble. They also have Delon Wright, a lead guard capable of putting together a performance which reminds us why he’s an All-American.
Notre Dame (29-5): The ACC Tournament champions got rewarded for their performance in Greensboro by being slotted in Kentucky’s region as the No. 3 seed. Notre Dame has Jerian Grant, a first-team All-American. He’s could be the best closer in the entire field. But can the Irish get hot enough from deep to upset Kentucky in the Midwest then continue that through the next two rounds?
Wisconsin (31-3)/Arizona (31-3): These two teams are on opposite ends of the West region. The good news: the basketball gods are setting up a rematch of last year’s Elite 8 thriller. The bad news: one team of these teams’ title hopes end in Los Angeles.
Whoever survives the West region, in the likeliest of likelihoods, will meet top-ranked and undefeated Kentucky in the Final Four. This is quiet the gauntlet to go through in order to reach the national title game.