March Madness 2016: Regional breakdown


Andrew Lubbers

This year’s path to the Final Four leads to Houston, this year’s host city.

Andrew Lubbers, Sport editor

If the NCAA tournament generates half the craziness the regular season did, this year’s tourney may leave its mark as one of the wildest in recent history. Six teams reached #1 in the polls this year and all of them, plus 62 more hopefuls, will fight for the right to hang a championship banner in their arena. This region-by-region breakdown delves into the possibilities of what can happen during this memorable March.


Lead by the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks, the South undoubtedly produces the toughest path to Houston as it features five other teams that reached the top 10 at some point this season in Villanova, Iowa, Miami, Arizona, and Maryland. Add red-hot UConn and stingy, defensively sound teams such as Temple and Wichita State, along with upset-minded South Dakota State and Hawaii and a clear front-runner seems impossible to find.

Matchup We Would Love to See: Cal vs. Kansas in the Sweet 16. We will learn a lot about future NBA lottery pick Jaylen Brown if he can take the Golden Bears this far. A battle against the top overall seed holds the potential for a classic.

Dark Horse Team to Watch: Temple. Winners of the AAC regular season crown, the Owls beat four tournament teams along with #25 SMU to get to the big dance. If they can sneak past Iowa in round one, a Villanova squad that has struggled to get past the second round in recent history awaits.

Final Four Representative: Kansas. Though the toughness of this region will surely test them, the Jayhawks are well prepared and red hot, winning their last 13 games in the Big 12, arguably the country’s best conference.



Oregon’s first one-seed in program history gives them two practical home games in nearby Spokane, Washington. But both St. Joe’s and Cincy are strong defensively can pull off an upset in the round of 32. The region’s best player, Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield, will look to take the Sooners to their first Final Four since 2002 and the defending champion Duke Blue Devils will attempt to become the first repeat champion since 06-07 Florida.

Matchup We Would Love to See: Texas vs. Oklahoma in the Sweet 16. The fierce rivals split the season series and a battle in the tournament would surely go down as one of the biggest matchups in series history.

Dark Horse Team to Watch: Yale. Though this will be just the fourth NCAA tournament appearance in the program’s 120 year history, the Bulldogs possess the tenacity, size, and quite obviously, the brains to upset Baylor in the first round.

Final Four Representative: Oklahoma. The Sooners, like Kansas, are battle-tested and ready after conference play in the grueling Big 12. This experience should help them on their way to Houston.



Traditional powers dominate this region as it features North Carolina, Kentucky, Indiana, Xavier, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Notre Dame. The Tar Heels won the ACC in the regular season and followed it up with a conference championship. Roy Williams continues to praise the balance and resiliency of this year’s squad, but will he take UNC back to the promise land?

Matchup We Would Love to See: Indiana vs. Notre Dame in the Elite 8. Yes, this may be a long shot, but a battle between two Indiana powerhouses to go to the Final Four would surely be epic.

Dark Horse Team to Watch: Providence. The Friars climbed as high as #12 in the polls before struggling down the stretch. However, this team is stingy, good offensively, and capable of spoiling North Carolina’s run in the round of 32.

Final Four Representative: Xavier. Coach Chris Mack and the Musketeers yield one of the deepest teams in the tournament, with seven players averaging 19+ minutes and only one averaging over 30. The Musketeers will shrug off their loss in the Big East tournament final and stay fresh enough to outlast the traditional powers on their path to Houston.



Despite coming in at #2 in the latest poll and winning the Big 10 tournament, Tom Izzo and Michigan State received a two seed in arguably the weakest region of the tournament. Virginia holds the top seed, but faces a tougher road to the Final Four than Sparty.

Matchup We Would Love to See: Virginia vs. Michigan State in the Elite 8. Michigan State ended Virginia’s run in the Sweet 16 in 2014, and in the round of 32 last year, a rematch means a chance for Virginia to finally exorcise a demon and reach the Final Four for the first time since 1984.

Dark Horse Team to Watch: Purdue. The five seeded Boilermakers hold experience, depth, and share the ball as well as any team in the country, ranking fifth in assists. They went toe-to-toe with Michigan State in the Big 10 final and can pull a major upset in the Midwest.

Final Four Representative: Michigan State. When I typed Tom Izzo’s name earlier, it auto-corrected to “March.” Izzo’s teams always improve throughout season and when the big dance comes, Sparty will be ready. Player of the Year candidate Denzel Valentine will lead Michigan State to the Final Four, capping and illustrious collegiate career.

Champion: Oklahoma. The Sooners have the easiest path to Houston and will use Buddy Hield’s leadership and shot to defeat Michigan State and hang a banner in Norman.