Defense rules the South Region.
The top two seeds — Virginia and Cincinnati — ranked first and second in scoring defense. If they meet in the regional final, the first to 50 might win.
The Atlantic Coast Conference was terrific this season, which makes Virginia’s 31-2 record all the more amazing. The Cavaliers’ lone conference loss was by one point to Virginia Tech (they also lost at West Virginia).
Virginia roared to the ACC Tournament title beating North Carolina in the final, and enters the NCAA Tournament with the most regard since they were a top seed from 1981-83, the Ralph Sampson years.
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The Cavaliers went 17-1 in ACC play. The last team to lose only one ACC game in a season was Maryland in 2002, and the Terps won the national championship that year.
Second-seeded Cincinnati, led by Gary Clark, won the American Athletic Conference Tournament on Sunday and has its highest seed since 2002.
No. 3 seed Tennessee was picked to finish 13th in the SEC. But Rick Barnes, in his third season, has delivered one of the best years in Vols history. They’re back in the NCAA after a four-year absence, and Tennessee has one of the nation’s youngest teams.
Forgive us for looking ahead to a delicious second-round contest in Boise between Wildcats: fourth-seeded Arizona and fifth-seeded Kentucky. NBA scouts will be particularly interested in this one.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Is anyone playing better than Arizona center Deandre Ayton? He dominated the Pac 12 tournament with 32 points against both UCLA and USC, and he added 18 boards against the Trojans. He could be the first player selected in the NBA Draft.
Loyola over Miami. The 11th-seeded Ramblers rolled in the Missouri Valley Conference, and following the region’s theme play excellent defense. The Hurricanes finished the season 10-8.
FINAL FOUR PICK
Arizona over Virginia