Welcome to the Dirty South, where Kansas is the No. 1 overall seed but not the only team that knows what it’s like to play in the crosshairs as a target. Villanova, the South Region's No. 2 seed, spent time this season ranked No. 1 and Maryland was the preseason No. 1 in the ESPN.com Power Rankings. That’s not to mention Connecticut, which cut the nets down in its most recent NCAA tournament appearance back in 2014. West Coast teams Arizona, California and Colorado hope to feel some of that Southern hospitality, as three of the Pac-12's seven NCAA tournament representatives were stuffed in this region.
Players to watch
Wayne Selden Jr. (Kansas): Go back and replay Selden’s dunk over Baylor’s Ishmail Wainright in the Big 12 tournament semifinals. When Selden is at his explosive best, the Jayhawks are a tough group to defend.
Jaylen Brown (California): As impressive as Brown has been on the floor, where he has averaged 15.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per game as a freshman, he also does a pretty accurate impersonation of Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin.
Melo Trimble (Maryland): Trimble is exactly the kind of player who can lift a team, Kemba Walker-2011-style. Trimble is an explosive guard and has a well-earned reputation for being a closer when the game is on the line.
Jarrod Uthoff (Iowa): The 6-foot-9 forward ranks seventh in Ken Pomeroy’s Player of the Year standings as one of the most efficient offensive players in the nation. He has scored 20 or more points in 15 games this season and led the Hawkeyes with an 18.9 scoring average.
Sheldon McClellan (Miami): Not many players in the nation improved as much as McClellan did shooting the ball between his junior and senior seasons. He learned to be a bit more selective and as a result is shooting 50.2 percent from the field and 39.5 percent from 3-point range.
California: No other team in the region has potentially two 2016 NBA draft lottery picks in their starting lineup like California’s Ivan Rabb and Brown. The Golden Bears, who finished undefeated at home, took a while to come together while their freshmen got acclimated to how they needed to increase their intensity on the road. But the point is, they did get it together, winning eight of nine games to close the regular season. They nearly reached the Pac-12 tournament championship game but lost to Utah 82-78 in overtime in the semifinals. The Bears aren’t solely relying on youth, either, although senior guard Tyrone Wallace is the only current player on their roster who played for Cal in its last NCAA tournament appearance in 2013.
Arizona: The Wildcats get the winner of the First Four matchup between Vanderbilt and Wichita State. As in, arguably the best First Four game on paper in the brief history of the games in Dayton. The Commodores largely underachieved this season, but their duo of guard Wade Baldwin and 7-foot center Damian Jones can carry the team. Strong backcourts have also been known to carry teams far in March, and no one has a better duo than the Shockers’ Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker, who both have Final Four experience. Either team could give the Wildcats a problem in different ways.
Matchup we’d love to see
Villanova-Temple in Brooklyn in the second round: The Wildcats dominated the Owls 83-67 on Feb. 17. Temple also got obliterated by Nova 85-62 last season. And back in 2013-14, the Owls suffered a 90-74 loss to their cross-town rivals. In general, Villanova has dominated all of its Big 5 Philadelphia brethren the past three seasons. Nova is a collective 12-0 against St. Joseph’s, La Salle, Pennsylvania and Temple over that span and has beaten each team by more than 20 points at least once in those 12 matchups. Surely, Temple has had enough of this dominance. And the Owls would be at home in the role of underdog, as the pressure on Villanova to make their first Final Four since 2009 is at an all-time high after early tournament exits the past two seasons.