Top 4 Seeds: (1) Florida, (2) Kansas, (3) Syracuse, (4) UCLA
Although this isn't the strongest region, it doesn't mean that this region can't provide us with teams that can win the title.
Florida comes in to the tournament with the top overall seed, finishing at 32-2, including an undefeated 21-0 record against SEC opponents. In the two games Florida lost this season, either Casey Prather was suspended (@ Wisconsin), or Prather was hobbled with an ankle injury (@ UCONN). Florida ranks 5th in adjusted defense according to kenpom.com, and that was shown throughout the SEC tournament. Florida held both Missouri and Tennessee, 31st and 29th respectively in Adjusted Offense according to kenpom.com, to 49 points. Then they held Kentucky and their #19 adjusted offense to 60 points. This Florida defense is legit, and with Prather and Wilbekin leading the charge on offense, it's no wonder why many people are considering Florida the favorite to make it to Arlington.
Kansas is the #2 seed in the South Region, finishing at 24-9. They are led by their freshman sensation, Andrew Wiggins. The Jayhawks are going to need Joel Embiid to get healthy as soon as possible. Without Embiid on the floor, the Jayhawks haven't looked like themselves, losing the interior advantage they've had throughout the entire season. In their losses to West Virginia and Iowa State, their inability to score inside has killed the Jayhawks. They will need Embiid healthy in order to make a final four run.
Syracuse is the 3 seed in this region, and they have a chance to make a deep run in the tournament. It seems like forever ago that Syracuse was 25-0, looking at a realistic chance at being undefeated heading into the tournament. Now, Syracuse has gone 2-5 in their last 7 games, including losses to Boston College, Georgia Tech, and NC State. Syracuse has just been unable to score effectively as of late, only putting up 61.6 points per game. Their defense remains as legit as ever, as even though they have gone 2-5, they've only allowed more than 66 points once (@ Virginia, where they let up 75). If Syracuse wants to make a deep run, they're going to need to provide more offense then they have, and it will be up to C.J. Fair and Tyler Ennis to lead the charge.
UCLA comes in as the 4 seed, winners of the PAC-12 conference tournament. UCLA comes into the tournament with 3-straight neutral court wins, including the championship game against Arizona. Although UCLA is 14th in adjusted offense according to kenpom.com, their defensive SOS ranks 62nd. They played the #1 defensive team according to kenpom.com (Arizona) twice, scoring 75 points in both games. I think that UCLA's offense is legit, but defensive woes (49th in adjusted defense on a 45th toughest offensive SOS), may hamper this team in the later round.
Upset Special: Dayton over Ohio State
Now, let me explain first, I don't see any first round upsets in this bracket, save for Pittsburgh over Colorado (9 vs. 8). However, I would not be shocked to see Dayton pull of the upset on Ohio State. This has more to do with Ohio State than it has to do with Dayton. Let's face the facts, Ohio State cannot score. Outside of LaQuinton Ross (15.4 ppg), nobody else averages more than 11.1 points per game. On top of that, Dayton can score. They have a top 30 offense, led by the three-headed monster of Jordan Sibert, Devin Oliver, and Dyshawn Pierre, who all average higher than 46% from the field and 38% from 3. If you want a reason to be weary of Dayton, look no further than their 101-ranked defense. Their defense is so bad, even a stagnant offensive team like Ohio State can score on them.
Sweet Sixteen: (1) Florida, (2) Kansas, (3) Syracuse, (4) UCLA
You could make the case for VCU and their 2nd-ranked defense to make it ahead of UCLA, and also a case can be made for New Mexico, the 7 seed that could give Kansas fits, especially without the services of Embiid. However, I think the top 4 seeds are going to make it. I think that Florida has proven too tough for almost everybody this year, and as stated before, hasn't lost with a 100% healthy Casey Prather. I think Syracuse will stop Ohio State's stagnant offense and score just enough to make it past Ohio State. I think that KU will find a way to make it past NM by riding Andrew Wiggins into the sweet 16, and I believe that UCLA's way to win on the neutral court is going to prove helpful, and help them squeak past VCU. This could shape up for two extremely fantastic sweet sixteen match-ups consisting of Florida vs. UCLA and Syracuse vs. Kansas, especially if Embiid is considered healthy enough to participate in the 2nd weekend of the tournament.
South Region Champion: Florida
I think Florida is too tough for UCLA and I'm going to put my money on KU getting Embiid back for the match-up against Syracuse, which will prove enough to get past Syracuse. This makes an epic match-up that should be a national championship game more than a regional final between Florida and Kansas. I think with Florida's ability to score inside and out with Wilbekin and Frazier on the outside, Young on the inside, and Prather with the ability to score both inside and out (61% from the field, 40% from 3) should prove enough to get by Kansas and propel Florida to Arlington.