- Andy Katz, ESPN.com Senior Writer
- 0 Shares
This is the hardest region, even though the selection committee pegged No. 1 seed North Carolina as the second seed overall. The Tar Heels could have to beat potential national championship contenders Kansas and Connecticut to get to the Final Four.
The committee continues to say that it doesn't look at potential matchups, but can you imagine a North Carolina-Kansas Elite Eight game? That would be Roy Williams' worst nightmare. He doesn't want to face his former players and deny them the chance to get to their third Final Four in four years.
Connecticut was protected, getting to stay close to home in Worcester. The sleeper team in this region could be Charlotte if the 49ers play up to their potential.
Strength of Region
This one is loaded. Villanova is one of the toughest teams to face and has the talent to make a Final Four run. Florida just locked up the SEC tournament title. Wisconsin played for the Big Ten tournament title. We already mentioned Charlotte and Connecticut. NC State reached the ACC semifinals and Iowa State upset Kansas earlier this season, proving they could cause problems.
No. 5 Villanova vs. No. 12 New Mexico
The Wildcats love to run and the Lobos want to grind out a win. Danny Granger carried the Lobos to a MWC tournament title and he's a likely first-round pick. The 12 vs. 5 is already a good pick for an upset and the Lobos have the chops to contend with the Wildcats.
No. 7 Charlotte vs. No. 10 NC State
The 49ers are usually the team that doesn't get the pub in the state but can't get the big boys in the ACC to play them. The selection committee gave them a chance. Julius Hodge (N.C. State) and Eddie Basden (Charlotte) are two of the best players in the country and have the ability to carry their teams.
No. 13 Ohio vs. No. 4 Florida
The Gators are playing their best basketball of the season but so too is Ohio. Both teams have key young players at critical positions. The Bobcats are loose and are thrilled to be in the Dance. They've got a point guard with moxie in Jeremy Fears and one of the best rebounders in the country in fellow freshman Leon Williams. We're not saying this will happen, but there's a chance.
Player to Watch
Rashad McCants, North Carolina:
He has the potential to be the best offensive player in the tournament. McCants missed the last two weeks of the regular season with an intestinal disorder. He returned to play 15 minutes and scored 13 points in the ACC quarterfinal win over Clemson. He played 22 minutes and was 6-of-14 for 17 points in the semifinal loss to Georgia Tech. If he's on, he could carry the Tar Heels to the title.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
Despite being the No. 2 overall seed, North Carolina has a lot of company vying for a trip to St. Louis.