March Madness 2017 Predictions: South Region

- Posted: Wednesday, March 15th

Bracket Predictions: East Region - South Region - Midwest Region - West Region - Final Four

Below you will find our predictions for the South region of the 2017 NCAA Tournament:

Round of 64 picks

(1) North Carolina over (16) Texas Southern

Texas Southern is 0-6 all-time in the tournament and will look to do something no other team has done -- win as a No. 16 seed. Despite starting four guards, the Tigers shoot less than 30 percent from three-point range and won't have the length, athleticism or talent to keep up with the 'Heels.

(9) Seton Hall over (8) Arkansas

Seton Hall enters the tournament winners of six of their past eight and the two losses were to East Region No. 1-seeded Villanova. Meanwhile, four of their six wins over that stretch were against tournament teams -- Creighton, Xavier, Butler and Marquette.

(12) Middle Tennessee over (5) Minnesota

One year after pulling off a 15-over-2 upset against Michigan State, Middle Tennessee is even better than they were last year. This year, it's the much more common 12-over-5 upset as they advance to Round 2. Then again, is it an "upset" if they're favored?

(4) Butler over (13) Winthrop

With impressive wins against Arizona and division-rival Villanova (two times), Butler is a top-four seed for the first time in school history. (They have been a No. 5 seed twice -- 2007 and 2010.) With an opening-round win, Butler will have won at least one tournament game in 10 of their past 11 tournament appearances.

(6) Cincinnati over (11) Kansas State

Winning in their play-in game over Wake Forest, Kansas State moves into the Round of 64 and coach Bruce Weber has referred back to Shaka Smart's VCU team going from the First Four to the Final Four in 2011. How deep will KSU go in the tournament? Based on my projections, the First Four win will be their postseason highlight.

(3) UCLA over (14) Kent State

UCLA's Lonzo Ball, who's not (yet, at least) better than Steph Curry (regardless of what his father may say), led the nation in assists per game (7.7) for college basketball's top-scoring offense while also averaging 14.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game.

(10) Wichita State over (7) Dayton

A 10-over-7 upset? Not exactly. Not only are the Shockers favored by six points, but only seven teams have a better adjusted efficiency margin (via kenpom). In addition, they are one of just four teams in the country to rank in the top 20 in adjusted offensive and defensive efficiency -- the other three teams are either a No. 1 seed or their next opponent (Kentucky) in the Round of 32.

(2) Kentucky over (15) Northern Kentucky

Following a win over their in-state rivals, the Wildcats have a potentially brutal three-game run against Wichita State, UCLA and North Carolina if they are going to advance to Final Four.

Round of 32 picks

(1) North Carolina over (9) Seton Hall

Seton Hall is a good rebounding team (+6.7 differential, 19th-best in the country) and Angel Delgado had 26 double-doubles on the season. But UNC led the country in rebounding margin (+12.7) and I saw a stat that UNC gets an offensive rebound on 42 percent of its missed shots. UNC advances to the Sweet 16 although this could be a closer game than most may expect.

(4) Butler over (12) Middle Tennessee State

As noted above, Butler's No. 4 seed is their highest in school history. Entering the tournament, they have won all eight games as the higher seed in a matchup. Based on their first two games, they would extend that record to 10-0 all-time.

(3) UCLA over (6) Cincinnati

The last time these two teams met in the tournament (2002), they combined to score 206 points as UCLA won, 105-101, in double overtime. It may not be a double-OT thriller, but I have UCLA once again moving on.

(2) Kentucky over (10) Wichita State

As noted above, Wichita State is under-seeded, but Kentucky should advance with their pair of backcourt lottery players in Malik Monk and De'Aaron Fox. In fact, no Calipari-coached Kentucky player has averaged more points per game than Monk (20.4 PPG).

MORE: Both Monk and Fox are top-10 picks in my 2017 NBA Mock Draft

Sweet Sixteen

(1) North Carolina over (4) Butler

As noted above, Butler has a pair of wins this season against No. 1-seeded Villanova. When playing at their best, UNC's best may be better than anyone else's best. Butler isn't a great rebounding team and no team crashes the boards like the Tar Heels. UNC moves on to face the winner of UCLA-Kentucky.

(3) UCLA over (2) Kentucky

In a battle of two historical powerhouses with a combined 103 tournament appearances, there are multiple NBA freshmen first-rounders on both squads. With Ball's rare vision, passing and ability to create, the Bruins have six players to average 10-plus points per game including Ball himself. Earlier this season, UCLA beat Kentucky at Rupp Arena and I have them winning their second matchup of the season to advance to the regional final.

Elite Eight

(1) North Carolina over (3) UCLA

There are eight teams with odds of 12/1 or better to win the NCAA Tournament and three of those eight are the top-three seeds in the South region -- North Carolina (11/2), Kentucky (11/1) and UCLA (12/1). All five of Carolina's starters are juniors or seniors and Justin Jackson was the ACC Player of the Year. A Kris Jenkins buzzer-beater away from being defending national champions, the Tar Heels advance for a shot to finish the job this year.

> Other brackets: East Region - Midwest Region - West Region

> 2017 March Madness Final Four Predictions

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