The time has come to pick your losers, watch a bevy of improbable upsets and lose interest in the second weekend after your bracket falls apart.
The 2016 bracket is treacherous and filled with land mines, with parity across the map meaning that almost anything can happen. Are the No. 1’s the favorites, or will a mid-seed catch fire and make an incredible run at a title? Here is a brief, first-glace breakdown of this year’s four regions:
The South is headlined by No. 1 overall seed Kansas, which faces Austin Peay. But an intriguing matchup will be the No. 8-9 match between Colorado and UConn. These teams have the firepower to pull an upset over the Jayhawks. Some other talented clubs with Final 4 talent are in the South, with Maryland slated to face South Dakota state as a five-seed and Cal, a four-seed facing Hawaii. Villanova is the No. 2 seed on the south, a surprising move that will force the Wildcats to chase their postseason hopes away from Philadelphia. Temple, which survived the bubble, has a tough 10-7 battle against Iowa in the South too. Also keep an eye out for a great play-in match up between Vanderbilt and Wichita State.
The Oregon Ducks will have a few challenges in their bracket as well, first and foremost the Baylor Bears (who face Yale) in an intriguing 5-vs-12 matchup. Grayson Allen and the Duke Blue Devils earned a No. 4 seed and will face another North Carolina team in No. 13-ranked UNC Wilmington and could be bounced by Baylor in Round 2. A bit further down the bracket Oklahoma, a squad that had a legitimate chance at a 1-seed will play in Oklahoma city against Cal St. Bakersfield. The last team in the top four is Texas A&M. On upset alert is Texas, which faces always tournament-tough Iowa State.
All eyes will be on UNC in the East regional, but tough No. 4 and No. 5 seeds will be eyeing the Tar Heels, winners of the ACC regular season and tournament, as the region marches toward Philadelphia. No. 5 Indiana, if they thwart Chattanooga will face Kentucky, the No. 4 seed (if they take care of Stony Brook). Both of these powerhouses could create very interesting matchups against North Carolina. On the bottom of the Eastern bracket is Xavier, the region’s No. 2 and No. 3 West Virginia, both looking to be snipers against the highly-touted Heels. Michigan and Tulsa will play in a play-in fight for No. 11.
Virginia is the top dog in the final region and will have to watch out for Purdue, the No. 5 seed (which faces Little Rock), and No. 4 Iowa State (facing Iona). Michigan State learned it’s fate late in Sunday’s selection show, and will star as the No. 2 seed (and will face Middle Tennessee). If they advance, they’ll put their Big 10 title to the test against the winner of the 10-7 match between Dayton and Syracuse. Rounding out the bracket are No. 3 seed Utah (facing Fresno State) and No. 6 Seton Hall (facing No. 11 Gonzaga).