Breaking down the NCAA tournament bracket: What you need to know

Jabari Parker
Jabari Parker is one name you should already know.
Credit: Getty Images

Now that you have your bracket in front of you, you have just three short days to fill it out.

You can’t hope to possibly learn everything about the NCAA basketball season in that short a period of time, but if you don’t want to go with picking mascots, we can at least provide a basic rundown of what you need to know in each region of the bracket.

And if you are one of those people who eschews the brackets and just wants to watch some really good college basketball, we’ve got you covered there as well with all the players and teams you totally pretended you had heard of with your friends all season long.

So get in there and dig through the best tournament of the year in sports.

SOUTH REGION

The South features plenty of star power, with traditional powers like Florida (two titles), Syracuse (one title), Arizona (one title), Kansas (three titles) and UCLA (11 titles). It also features two of the top freshmen in the tournament.

Favorite to watch: Florida — The Gators are the odds-on favorites to win the Big Dance and reclaim the glory coach Billy Donovan established in 2006 and 2007.

Underdog to watch: New Mexico — The Lobos don’t get much attention in the East, but they have a very good team year in and year out. Don’t be surprised to see them beat an undermanned Kansas team in the third round.

Player you know: Andrew Wiggins — The likely No. 1-overall pick in this June’s NBA Draft will have just one tournament to get it right. The freshman won’t be sticking around Lawrence, Kansas, for a repeat performance.

Player you should know: Kyle Anderson — The UCLA guard/forward was a rare big-time recruit who stuck around for a second season. The 6-foot-9 wing — and sometimes point guard — is an impossible matchup.

Upset to watch: No. 12 Stephen F. Austin over No. 5 VCU

Final Four pick: Florida

EAST REGION

No one had Virginia as a No. 1 seed in February, let alone last November. But the Cavaliers won the ACC regular season and knocked off Duke to take the tournament crown.

Favorite to watch: Michigan State — Outside of Louisville, the Spartans may be the hottest team in the country — and they’re always dangerous in March.

Underdog to watch: Iowa State — Yes, they are ranked higher than the Spartans, but the Cyclones are so good they may make the Final Four.

Player you know: Shabazz Napier — UConn’s senior guard led the team in points, rebounds and assists per game on his way to claiming American Athletic Conference Player of the Year honors. He did so just narrowly over Cincinnati’s Sean Kilpatrick, who is also in the region.

Player you should know: Bryce Cotton — There is nothing run of the mill about this Cotton. The Providence guard scored 21.4 points per game but was overshadowed by Doug McDermott in the Big East.

Upset to watch: No. 11 Providence over No. 6 North Carolina

Final Four pick: Iowa State

WEST REGION

Arizona claimed the No. 1 seed they were in line for much of the season while others (we’re looking at you, Syracuse) faltered.

Favorite to watch: Arizona — The Wildcats looked like they were going to be heavy national championship favorites until starter Brandon Ashley went down in February.

Underdog to watch: Oregon — Few team were as up and down as the Ducks started 13-0, lost nine of 11 and finished the regular season with seven straight wins, including big ones over Arizona State, UCLA and Arizona.

Player you know: Marcus Smart — The Oklahoma State sophomore made national headlines for shoving a fan last month, but he’s also a lottery pick in this year’s draft.

Player you should know: Shawn Long — One of the most-versatile players in the country, Louisiana-Lafayette’s Shawn Long posts 10 rebounds per game and shoots 44 percent from 3-point range.

Upset to watch: No. 11 Nebraska over No. 6 Baylor

Final Four pick: Arizona

MIDWEST REGION

The Midwest is highlighted by the 34-0 Wichita State Shockers. Congratulations, now you get Louisville, Duke and Michigan in your region.

Favorite to watch: Louisville — Las Vegas oddsmakers are already picking the defending champions — an absurdly underrated No. 4 seed — to win the region.

Underdog to watch: Kentucky — We know they’ll have more McDonald’s All Americans than any team they face, but can they come together?

Player you know: Jabari Parker — Duke’s super freshman looked superhuman in the ACC tournament. He’ll be in the NBA next season.

Player you should know: T.J. Warren — For all the talk of Parker and Syracuse’s C.J. Fair, it was N.C. State’s Warren who won the ACC Player of the Year. The sophomore scored just shy of 25 points per game.

Upset to watch: No. 8 Kentucky over No. 1 Wichita State

Final Four pick: Louisville

Follow Metro New York Sports Editor Mark Osborne on Twitter @MetroNYSports.



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