#1 Florida Gators (32-2)
This is a team that suffered two early season losses to Wisconsin and Connecticut and basically ran the table when they were at full force the rest of the season. Florida already sports a victory over the 2nd seed in their bracket, Andrew Wiggins and the Kansas Jayhawks, 67-61 and the Jayhawks would have to possibly get by Syracuse or Ohio State if these two teams were to meet again in the Elite 8 if Florida handles their business.
Florida has a fairly easy road as it appears now to get to the Elite 8. The Pac-12 Champion, UCLA Bruins, would be Florida’s only major obstacle as the Bruins pulled off a huge win to get the #4 seed in defeating the top seeded Arizona Wildcats of the West Region.
The #5 VCU Rams could be Florida’s 1st test, but the Rams lost the Atlantic 10 Championship to St. Joseph’s and that will kill some of their momentum, coming into this tournament.
#2 Kansas Jayhawks (24-9)
We flip the script with the Jayhawks and even though they’re a #2 seed and possess one of the best freshman in the country in Andrew Wiggins, there would have to be major upsets for them to get out of this bracket. Kansas only made it to the semifinals of the Big-12 and it will take a greater effort when dealing with either Stanford or New Mexico in the 2nd round and then either Ohio State or Syracuse in the Sweet 16. This team needs to show something that we haven’t already seen in order for them to beat Florida and get to the Final Four.
#3 Syracuse Orange (27-5)
All along, it appeared that Syracuse was destined for a #1 seed as they dominated most of the entire season as a new member of the ACC, but Syracuse went into an awful tailspin, losing 5 out of their last 7 games. The question is, was the Orange winning their first 25 games a major fluke or can they get back to their original form?
If we see the Syracuse team that defeated Duke, you’re looking at a team that can give Florida a run for their money. If we’re looking at the team that’s lost 5 out of their last 7 games, then the Orange will likely see an early exit from the “Big Dance”. C.J. Fair and the Orange wouldn’t have to deal with UCLA or Florida for a while. Their first challenge would be Ohio State and then would have to deal with Kansas in the Sweet 16. Syracuse has been a great post season team in the past. Are they up for the challenge?
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#4 UCLA Bruins (26-8)
After defeating a #1 seed in the Pac-12 Championship as good as Arizona, UCLA could’ve been higher than a 4 seed. Except for wins over Pac-12 teams, the wins on their schedule haven’t been all that impressive, but when you can come up big in a big spot against the team of the caliber of Arizona, you must be taken seriously.
Kyle Anderson came up with a huge 21 point, 15 rebound, and 5 assist performance in the Pac-12 Finals. When UCLA likely meets VCU in the 3rd round, they’ll get to play in their home state and this will be an advantage and good spot for them.
The ultimate test could be a matchup against Florida, Casey Prather, and Scottie Wilbekin in the Elite 8 and that will decide their fate. Momentum is what UCLA has in their favor.
Ohio State should be a dangerous team as they’ve beaten the likes of Michigan State and have a lot of experience with LaQuinton Ross, Lenzelle Smith Jr., and Aaron Craft. The Buckeyes possess a top-notch defense and if they could get past Syracuse, they could make some major noise with a winnable matchup against Kansas.
This is a region with a big-time favorite in Florida, but there are some teams “x-factors” in Syracuse, UCLA, and Ohio State, that can make this bracket a very interesting one.