- North Carolina
Sleeper team to win: Houston Cougars
Houston enters the Midwest region as the #3 seed but seems to be overlooked in a region full of bluebloods Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky. Houston losing to Cincinnati in the American Conference Championship game is the last thought we have of the Cougars, but this team is legit. Winning their conference regular season championship while also having non-conference victories over Utah State, LSU and Oregon (with Bol Bol). Houston has a legit star in Corey Davis Jr. and a veteran coach in Kelvin Sampson. They are also very deep, playing 9 players over 20 minutes per game. A potential third round matchup with the offensive minded Iowa State and Kentucky will make their road difficult but being a upperclassman lead team will put them in great shape to make a run.
Potential first round upset: New Mexico State over Auburn
Auburn is riding high after their dominate victory over Tennessee in the SEC Championship game. They now have to face a New Mexico State team that has quietly been playing some of the best basketball in the country. New Mexico State has not lost since January 3rd and ran through their conference tournament dominating Grand Canyon in the final 89-57.
Auburn has great talent but they rely a lot on the three ball, they will also be traveling to Salt Lake City which will force them to deal with the elevation change. New Mexico State has experience playing in that atmosphere. Bruce Pearl’s team cannot look past the Aggies, if they do they will be ripe for the upset.
Who will win: Kentucky
A fully healthy Kentucky team has shown what they can do on the national scene. The Wildcats have a strong leader in Reid Travis and have seen great development from Ashton Hagans and Tyler Herro. The potential matchup with North Carolina would be an epic battle between two teams that can easily see themselves winning it all. The advantage I see for the Wildcats is their depth. This bracket is the most competitive and will feature some great matchups.
Second Round Picks:
New Mexico State