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NCAA Tournament: Breaking down the South Region

By By The Sports Xchange
Published On: Mar 18 2013 10:43:28 AM CDT
Kansas Jayhawks basketball, 2012-13

Dave Kaup/Reuters

Kansas is the top seed in the South, extending its NCAA Tournament-best streak of consecutive tournament appearances to 24 years.

The Jayhawks were the No. 2 overall seed in the tournament behind only Midwest No. 1 seed Louisville. KU lost in the national championship game to Kentucky in April 2012, and has been to the Elite Eight back-to-back years.

The path back to the Final Four for Kansas takes them through Kansas City, where the Jayhawks last weekend claimed the second leg of the Big 12 conference sweep, adding the tournament championship to the regular-season title.

But the road to the Georgia Dome could also include Georgetown (25-6) and talented scorer Otto Porter in the regional final and familiar faces from postseason's past: North Carolina, which KU dispatched in St. Louis in a regional final last March, and VCU. The Rams beat Kansas in the 2011 regional final on the way to the Final Four in 2011.

TEAMS TO BEAT

Kansas (29-5) has more wins against top-50 teams than anyone in the field. The Jayhawks are led by Ben McLemore, a freshman shooting guard with size and range. He's difficult to check and shot selection hasn't been a concern. Kansas' calling card under Bill Self isn't scoring -- it's defense. The Jayhawks lead the nation in field-goal percentage defense, with center Jeff Withey -- he blocked 10 shots in an NCAA Tournament game last year -- and Kevin Young helping control the middle.

Georgetown (30-4) is more talented than any of John Thompson III’s past editions. The experience factor could bite the Hoyas. Otto Porter gives them a clutch scorer and matchup problem capable of taking over games and scoring in the 30s.

Michigan (26-7) is first in the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio -- the Wolverines average less than 10 turnovers per game -- with two talented scorers many believe have NBA futures in Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway Jr. Burke (19.2 points per game) is 24th in the nation in scoring.

UPSET WATCH

No. 15 Florida Gulf Coast over No. 2 Georgetown: FGCU has a win over another No. 2 seed -- Miami (Fla.) and the Hoyas have a recent history of being bounced by lower-seeded teams. In each of the past four tournament losses for Georgetown, they've lost to teams seeded No. 10 or worse. Does the Hoyas' defense bail them out?

No. 11 Minnesota over No. 6 UCLA: Minnesota gets a break with Jordan Adams out for UCLA, and the Golden Gophers can dominate the glass. Trevor Mbakwe is the Gophers' chairman of the boards, but everyone on the roster attacks missed shots, and Minnesota outrebounds opponents by 8.2 rebounds per game.

PLAYERS TO KNOW

Michigan G Trey Burke: He's a national player of the year candidate and Big Ten Player of the Year because of his ball-handling ability and creative scorer's mentality. He averaged 6.7 assists to go with nearly 20 points and covets the spotlight stage.

UCLA G Shabazz Muhammad: The top-ranked freshman in the nation, Muhammad took time to find his groove but is proving to live up to that billing with an inside-outside game that can cause nightmares for defenders.

Kansas C Jeff Withey: Withey was the defensive player of the year because of his shot-blocking skills, averaging almost four blocks per game. A 7-footer with the wingspan of a 747, the Jayhawks aren't the same playing without him, and foul trouble is always a worry.

NUMBERS TO NOTE

4: Each of the top four seeds was ranked No. 1 in the nation during the 2012-13 regular season.

22.7/5.6: Points and assists per game for South Dakota State guard Nate Wolters. The senior matches up with Michigan's Trey Burke in one of the highlights of the second round.