Most intriguing opening-round matchup: No. 4 Michigan vs. No. 13 South Dakota State
Michigan obviously has the overall edge in talent, but it's facing a South Dakota State team that went to the tournament for the first time ever last season and gave Baylor all it could handle. The Wolverines haven't exactly been consistently on top of their game down the stretch and they will need to be to advance here. The Jackrabbits feature one of the best players and pure scorers in the nation in Nate Wolters. He had the highest single-game point total of any player in the nation this season when he scored 53 in the first week of February against IPFW. South Dakota State won on the road at New Mexico, which is enough evidence to prove it can beat just about any opponent.
[Related: Breaking down the South Region]
Best potential round of 32 game: No. 1 Kansas vs. No. 8 North Carolina
North Carolina has been playing its best basketball of the season late, winning eight of its past 10 games. If it can get by No. 9 seed Villanova – no small task – it might be just the type of team capable of giving top-seeded Kansas problems. Throw in the intrigue of Tar Heels coach Roy Williams once again facing his former program in the postseason and you have plenty of reason to want to see this one. Williams has faced Kansas twice since bolting for UNC in 2003 and he came out on the losing end both times – the 2008 Final Four and last year in the regional final of the NCAA tournament.
Ripe for an upset: No. 6 UCLA
The Bruins lost one of their best players and their second-leading scorer in the Pac-12 Conference tournament semifinals when guard Jordan Adams suffered a broken foot. That loss probably cost the Bruins a better seeding. Without Adams, this simply isn't the same team that won the regular season Pac-12 title. UCLA faces a Minnesota team in the Round of 64 that is battle tested from dogfights in the Big Ten all season and badly in need of wins here to help make a case for more patience for coach Tubby Smith. The Golden Gophers limp into the tournament with three consecutive losses but this team upset Indiana, ranked No. 1 at the time, just three weeks ago.
Bound for the Final Four: No. 2 Georgetown
The Hoyas have two factors working in their favor that should allow them to emerge from this region: Otto Porter Jr., and a team dedicated to defense. Georgetown is one of the best defensive teams in the nation. It gives up only 56 points a game and rank fourth in field goal percentage defense. The numbers say Porter should be a little more selfish and look for his shot a bit more often. He's making nearly 50 percent of his attempts but scoring a little more than 16 points a game. Porter isn't a one-man show. Junior guard Markel Starks is a nice complement, making 42 percent of his 3-pointers and dishing out three assists a game.
Possible Dark Horse: No. 3 Florida
The one major concern with the Gators is their season-long struggle to win away from home against good teams. All seven losses came on the road or in neutral court games, but this is also a team that boasts wins over Wisconsin and Marquette and some absolutely dominant stretches in the SEC. The Gators are another very good defensive team, even slightly better than Georgetown. It's a well-rounded roster led by senior guard Kenny Boynton and senior big man Erik Murphy. These guys have been to the Elite Eight the past two seasons and are capable of going a step or two further.
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