Big East regular season champion Pittsburgh earned the top NCAA Tournament seed in the Southeast Region. If the Panthers win their first two games, they'll join this region's three other first weekend survivors in New Orleans for games on Thursday and Saturday, March 24 and 26.
However, this region is full of potential roadblocks that could keep Jamie Dixon's team from the Final Four once again. Sure, Pittsburgh will roll past whichever automatic qualifier, UNC Asheville or Arkansas-Little Rock, gets out of the First Four in Dayton, but the winner of the No. 8 vs. No. 9 game between Butler and Old Dominion will give the Panthers fits in the third round on Saturday. The Monarchs, in particular, are primed to pull the upset, as they play a very similar style to Pitt. Plus, they're a veteran team that will limit mistakes and can outrebound virtually anyone.
Florida, this region's surprising two seed, anchors the bottom half of the bracket. Their potential Sweet Sixteen matchup against BYU, a team they lost to in overtime in the first round last year, is an interesting one, but not quite as interesting now that Brandon Davies won't be going against Vernon Macklin and Patric Young inside. Of course, both teams need to make it out of the first weekend for that game to happen. The problem is that both teams could face familiar, or soon-to-be familar, foes this weekend. Thhe Gators' potential third round opponents are Michigan State, a team they lost to in the 2000 National Championship game, and UCLA, whom they defeated en route to both the 2006 and 2007 NCAA titles. Meanwhile, the Cougars may face future West Coast Conference-mate Gonzaga, if the Bulldogs' can top Steve Lavin's veteran St. John's squad, which will be missing the injured D.J. Kennedy.
Most Intriguing Second Round Game: No. 9 Old Dominion vs No. 8 Butler in Washington on Thursday. It's a case of mid-major vs. mid-major, with the winner having an excellent shot at pulling an upset and making it to the second weekend. These two met in a No. 5 vs. No. 12 game in Buffalo back in 2007. The Bulldogs won that contest, and made it all the way to the Sweet Sixteen, where they gave eventual national champion Florida its toughest game en route to the trophy.
Upset Special: No. 13 Belmont over No. 4 Wisconsin in Tucson on Thursday: The Bruins fell one point short of upending Duke in the first round in 2008. Plus, they played Tennessee (twice) and Vanderbilt close this season. Rick Byrd's team also has size, as Mick Hedgepeth and Scott Saunders are two of the best big men outside of the Big Seven conferences.
Chris Dobbertean's Regional Pick: Florida has a nice draw, especially with BYU's current depth issues, and Pittsburgh's inability to get over the hump in the Tournament.
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