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When Duke bounced North Carolina from the ACC Tournament on Friday night in the semifinals in Brooklyn, many believed the 1-seed in the South -- a spot set up nicely for the Tar Heels after winning the regular season championship -- was going to get passed to the Blue Devils. 

On a Selection Sunday with very little bubble drama, the biggest curveball from the committee (other than some seeding issues) was making UNC, not Duke, a No. 1 seed along with Villanova, Kansas and Gonzaga. The selection committee had seen enough, it seems, prior to the ACC Tournament to feel comfortable giving Roy Williams the top seed in the region and a favorable geographic path from Greenville, S.C. to Memphis, Tenn. to the Final Four.

The bracket path is less friendly, with dangerous Big East threats Seton Hall and Butler in the top of the region and two more Final Four hopefuls, Kentucky and UCLA, hoping to knock off the top-seeded Tar Heels in the Elite Eight. 

Three initial thoughts

1. The Glamour Region

Can you imagine what Sweet 16 weekend might look like in Memphis? North Carolina, Kentucky and UCLA make this the glamour region and, if the games these teams played against each other during the year were any indication, those dream matchups could make for impeccable theater. Kentucky-UNC in December (a 103-100 Wildcats win) still gets my vote for game of the year, and getting a rematch with a Final Four spot on the line would be awesome. 

Of course, there is the not-so-small issue of getting there, and Kentucky could run into the best 10-seed in the tournament in the second round in Wichita State, or have to face a senior-laden Dayton team. Wichita State got bounced by a low-seed Kentucky in 2014, and now could get a chance to return the favor. If John Calipari makes it to Memphis -- where he led the Tigers to a Final Four run in 2008 -- the Sweet 16 could feature a rematch with UCLA. The Bruins shocked everyone with a 97-92 in Rupp Arena, disrupting the Wildcats’ non-conference home winning streak and proving that this UCLA team was ready to compete for a title in 2017.  

2. Wichita State was done a disservice by the selection committee 

Last year, KenPom and other ranking metrics had Wichita State as a top-20 team through the year. The selection committee sent Gregg Marshall and the Shockers to the First Four as an 11-seed, far too low compared to the other teams in the field, and they proved it on the court against fellow No. 11 Vanderbilt in the First Four and No. 6 Arizona in the first round with double-digit wins. Wichita State is currently ranked No. 8 in KenPom and No. 11 in Sagarin but finds itself again with a double-digit seed. What the selection committee is leaning on here is the low RPI rating and lack of quality wins that comes with playing in the Missouri Valley Conference. Committee members are willing to look at advanced metrics to help break ties in a tough spot, but it’s clear that they still ride and die with RPI when it comes to seeding the conference champions.

On the opposite side of things is Dayton, led by Archie Miller and coming off a year where the Flyers were the class of the Atlantic 10. The league was down from where it has been in previous years, but the seniors on this Dayton team represent the winningest four years in program history. Wichita State is getting a lot of buzz for its seed, but too much focus away from the opponent could make the Shockers ripe for a stunning first round exit on Friday night. 

3. Best potential matchup: UNC-Kentucky II  

Wichita State and Dayton is the best matchup on the books for the first round. Each team is capable of beating Kentucky and making a run to the Elite Eight, but if that happens it would prevent us from getting the best potential matchup of the region: a rematch of the CBS Sports Classic thriller between Kentucky and North Carolina. Malik Monk dropped 47 points in that up-and-down game that announced college basketball’s arrival to the casual sports calendar. 

Roy Williams has the juniors and seniors, John Calipari has the freshmen phenoms. Both teams love to get up and down and score, and both coaching staffs have plenty of experience in these high-pressure NCAA Tournament games. 

Five best players 

1. Justin Jackson (North Carolina): The ACC Player of the Year boosted his scoring significantly this year, taking over down the stretch of the regular season. If Jackson is locked in with his jump shot (not the case in the ACC Tournament loss to Duke) then it elevates UNC from a deep and experienced Final Four hopeful to legit national title contender. 

2. Lonzo Ball (UCLA): Forget about LaVar Ball for a second, and let’s focus on Lonzo himself. The leader of the Bruins’ potent offensive attack has proven to be not only a strong scorer (14.8 points per game) but a great facilitator as well (7.7 assists per game). What’s going to help UCLA the most is his fearlessness in clutch situations, and given the strength of the region you can expect to find the Bruins in some tight games later in the tournament. 

3. Malik Monk, De’Aaron Fox and Bam Adebayo (Kentucky): You have to include the entire trio of Kentucky freshmen because without all three playing at a high level I don’t think you can expect Kentucky to win the title. Fox finally looks healthy after knee and ankle issues kept him limited near the end of the season, and Adebayo has continued to improve as a force down low through the year. Monk? Well he’s just 30 points waiting to happen every time he steps on the floor. This trio gives Kentucky fans 2012-type feelings for a good reason. 

4. Giddy Potts (Middle Tennessee): The Blue Raiders’ high-scoring guard is going to be the key to knocking off Minnesota in the First Round. Potts is averaging 15.8 points per game on the year and, with Reggie Upshaw back as well, Middle Tennessee looks ready to stun a Big Ten team for the second year in a row. 

5. John Collins (Wake Forest): The 6-10 sophomore was the best big man in the ACC this year. Collins averaged 18.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game and put himself right in the thick of the ACC Player of the Year race, leading the Demon Deacons to their first NCAA Tournament bid under Danny Manning. 

Three bold predictions

The biggest first round upset will be ... Wake Forest (or Kansas State) over Cincinnati and Middle Tennessee over Minnesota. That’s right, two double-digit seeds will make it to the weekend in the South Region, providing some Cinderella-style fun in a bracket dominated by the best and most explosive teams in college basketball. 

The lowest-seeded school to make the Sweet 16 will be ... No. 12 Middle Tennessee. Butler sputtered a bit at the end of the season, losing as a favorite to Seton Hall on Senior Night and getting bounced by Xavier in the Big East Tournament. The Blue Raiders won our hearts last season with the upset of Michigan State, but the real magic might be in the sequel with a shot to book a spot in the Sweet 16, hosted just down the road in Memphis.  

The winner of the South Region will be ... North Carolina. With Roy Williams as head coach, North Carolina has never been bounced before the Elite Eight as the No. 1 seed. Never. Williams is as good a coach with a front-runner as they come, and even a region packed with blue bloods should be manageable for the 2017 Tar Heels.