At first glance, the Midwest Region gives No. 1 seed North Carolina some great matchups from start to finish. Upon closer inspection, though, it also offers a funny little potential twist that will make Roy Williams’ life a lot more complicated than he wants it to be.
Depending on how you look at it, the Tar Heels probably won’t even break a sweat until the Sweet 16. Heck, even at that point, their presumed opponent in Michigan (18/1) isn’t built to compete with the likes of Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, John Henson and Kendall Marshall.
Worst case scenario, even if Henson is still hobbled at this point (currently his status is questionable), North Carolina (7/5) still has more than enough talent to take out a streaky, small Wolverines bunch who were quite clearly a notch below the two teams they shared a piece of the Big Ten regular season crown with. Could Michigan get really, really hot and knock off Williams' group? Sure. Is that where the smart money is? Nope.
The bottom half of the bracket is actually far more intriguing than the top half. San Diego State (30/1) performed relatively well this year, but this team’s loss versus New Mexico in the Mountain West final exposed it for what it really is. There is no Sweet 16 in Steve Fisher’s future this March, and an N.C. State (20/1) team with a lot of length and quality point guard play will be who makes sure of that.
Belmont (18/1) is riding into this thing on a 14-game winning streak; meanwhile, Georgetown (11/1) has turned getting upset in the NCAA tournament into a hobby. You don't want to dismiss the Hoyas, but they haven't exactly earned confidence at this point either. Barring something unforeseen happening, look for two lower seeds in Belmont and N.C. State to meet for an epic clash in the Round of 32.
Kansas (21/10) will probably get more of a fight than anyone expects it to from Detroit, but the Jayhawks will get their first real test in the Sweet 16 against the winner of N.C. State versus Belmont. If Kansas manages to land in the regional finals, Bill Self’s group will then essentially play a home game versus Williams’ Tar Heels for the right to advance. And we all remember how Williams and his North Carolina squad fared last time.