Bracket Breakdown: South Regional

Our tour of the bracket moves on to UNC's regional in the South. (Previously, the East and Midwest Regions.)

After the jump, analysis on why the South has the toughest top four seeds in the field, coupled with tough outs among the lower seeds. This will be an exciting region to watch and could feature numerous upsets.

SOUTH REGION EFFICIENCY BREAKDOWN

All data from Ken Pomeroy. Teams listed in order of best to worst within each category. Each team's national rank is listed in parentheses.

South Region Adjusted Efficiency

Bracket Rank Offensive Efficiency Defensive Efficiency
1 North Carolina (1) Illinois (4)
2 ASU (5) Gonzaga (9)
3 Gonzaga (6) SFA (13)
4 Oklahoma (8) UNC (35)
5 Syracuse (10) ASU (36)
6 Clemson (12) Temple (40)
7 Michigan (41) Syracuse (42)
8 LSU (51) Butler (45)
9 Butler (63) Oklahoma (46)
10 WKU (68) Akron (50)
11 Temple (69) Clemson (52)
12 Illinois (97) LSU (53)
13 Akron (153) Michigan (67)
14 Radford (187) Morgan St. (92)
15 Morgan St. (210) Radford (166)
16 SFA (242) WKU (168)

 

SOUTH REGIONAL BREAKDOWN

Best First Round Match Up: (7) Clemson vs (10) Michigan

The once-proud Michigan program fell on hard times after the departure of the Fab Five, culminating in missing the NCAA Tournament for more than 10 straight years. Anyone who saw the fans and players go absolutely crazy on Selection Sunday after being chosen as an at-large bid understands how much this means to the program. Rest assured -- John Beilein will have his team ready to play. This game may feature the most interesting defensive match ups of any first-round game, with Michigan's 1-3-1 zone against Oliver Purnell's full-court pressuring version of "40 Minutes of Hell."

Upset Watch: (5) Illinois vs (12) Western Kentucky

Former Texas assistant Ken McDonald is in the final stages of his first season as head coach of the Hilltoppers, a team that made the Sweet 16 last season and possesses a win against overall number one seed Louisville. Illinois isn't as bad as their famous 39-33 loss to Penn State earlier in the season, but will have the heart and soul of their team -- senior point guard Chester Frazier, their best perimeter defender -- for only a few minutes, if at all. Teams seeded in the 12 slot have won about one in three first-round match ups since 1985 and Illinois looks the most vulnerable. However, Western Kentucky is a terrible defensive squad (168th in adjusted defensive efficiency) and even though the Illini aren't an efficient unit themselves, they do pass the ball extremely well and will run their motion offense.

Home Court Advantage: (1) North Carolina

The Tar Heels won't have to travel far to play their first-round match up, just down the road to Greensboro, where fans will have ample opportunity to mix it up with Duke fans watching the Blue Devils in their regional. The bigger concern than obnoxious Duke fans is the status of Tywon Lawson, the guy who makes the Tar Heels transition game go. Everything hinges of Lawson's health for the consensus preseason best team, which could have to deal with LSU, the SEC's best team and a hot Gonzaga squad to get into the Elite 8.

Best Individual Match Up: ASU's James Harden vs Temple's Dionte Christmas

Harden isn't the most athletic player in the country, but he changes pace and uses hesitation moves to maximize the effect of his physical skills. He does so well enough for DraftExpress to consider him the second-best prospect for the 2009 NBA Draft, trailing only Blake Griffin. With the court vision to find his teammates and a defensive-minded attitude, Harden does more than score the basketball. 

Christmas is a scorer with better elevation and shooting form than Harden, and only averages one point less per game. Also capable of getting his teammates involved, Christmas must stay out of foul trouble on the defensive end against Harden, while running the Sun Devils' star off his catch-and-shoot jumper, as Harden shoots the ball poorly off the dribble.

This may be the best match up on the wing in the first round. 

 The Game College Hoops Fans Should Hope Happens: (1) North Carolina vs (4) Gonzaga 

This potential second-round match up could be the end of the road for the Tobacco Row All-Star squad if point guard Tywon Lawsone can't get healthy. With adjusted offensive and defensive efficiencies both in the top 10, the Zags are the epitome of balance, with six players who could lead them in scoring. They're also the hottest team in the country after blowing through their conference tournament and have a chip on their shoulder after bowing out in the first round of the tournament the last two seasons.

Most Interesting Tidbit

LeBron James may well be rooting for his hometown Akron Zips when they face Gonzaga -- Keith Dambrot, the Akron coach, was the high school coach of James at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School, even helping the superstar with his jump shot before his first NBA season.

Most Likely High Seed to Lose: (2) Oklahoma

The Sooners are widely considered the weakest two seed in the Tournament and could have problems if they face Clemson in the second round. If Clemson can slow down Blake Griffin, the game will fall into the hands of the OU perimeter shooters, who have been inconsistent all season. With sensational frosh Willie Warren slumping down the stretch, it could spell an early exit for the Sooners.

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