The college basketball season made its way through the conference tournaments, and now the true postseason is all that’s left. After two and a half months of conference play, teams across the country return to non-conference, intersectional action. These matchups will be mysteries, but with the passage of more time, there’s more data and information on which to make evaluations of every team. Which teams have the roughest roads to the Final Four? Here are selections for each of the four regions.
East Region: Florida
This is a number four seed which has to play the best number one seed in the tournament, Villanova, in the Sweet 16… but that’s only if the Gators get past Virginia in the second round. Florida has to play very tough defensive teams in this tournament, and that’s bad news since the Gators don’t have many good jump shooters and have not been able to beat teams with inferior records in recent weeks (Vanderbilt being the foremost example). Deep NCAA Tournament runs generally require at least one comfortable game after the first round. Some games will be close, but good teams find ways to separate themselves from competitors. Florida has a draw which won’t allow the Gators to win a game comfortably (if at all) after the first round. This is why their stay in the field should be limited.
West Region: West Virginia
This is the team which, much like Florida, is a number four seed and has to feel very frustrated with its second-round matchup. Notre Dame made the final of the ACC Tournament. The Fighting Irish easily could have been a number four seed. Yet, they are fifth, and West Virginia has to play them in the second round, assuming both schools escape the first round. Notre Dame is a patient team which can unnerve a high-energy squad such as West Virginia. Even if the Mountaineers win that game, they would have to play Kansas in the Sweet 16.
South Region: Kentucky
The Wildcats played UCLA and North Carolina, the top two seeds in the South, earlier in the season. Kentucky’s defense could not stop UCLA in Rupp Arena, the Wildcats’ home building, and Kentucky’s defense hasn’t improved much since then. That’s a tough matchup for Kentucky even though it will want to avenge that loss. Then comes North Carolina, whom Kentucky beat, 103-100, in December. Since that game, North Carolina has been the better team. Also, UNC wing defender Theo Pinson was injured and out of that game. Now, North Carolina is healthy. The Tar Heels have a great chance to win the South, but Kentucky is in a very different position.
Midwest Region: Purdue
This is a nasty spot for the Boilermakers, who would have to play Iowa State in round two and then Kansas in the Sweet 16. Even if the Boilermakers get past Iowa State and Kansas, they will likely need to beat Louisville, another excellent team. There are no breathers for Purdue, and at all levels of tournament competition.