It is hard to go back on what we have said all year long now. Even though Florida went and lost another close game against Mississippi in the SEC finals, they have been at the top of the computer for the couple of months.
But those losses, especially in the SEC, caused Florida to miss out on grabbing a No. 1 seed. Instead, they slipped all the way to the three line, and that won't be an easy road. Ahead of them is either UCLA or Minnesota, and potentially Georgetown. If one of those teams decides to slow it down -- and we know that Georgetown will -- Florida could be in line for another close game, and it could get dicey.
That is saying nothing about the top half of the bracket featuring Kansas, the No. 5 team in the computer; Virginia Commonwealth, who will wreak havoc on the Gators; and Michigan.
If anything, this is the toughest region to escape, for the top five seeds are some of the best in the country at doing what they do. And Bill Self coaches one of them, and he just wins.
But there are some chances for upsets:
1. Nater's got to Nate: South Dakota State could be one of two teams when it faces Michigan. It could look like Ohio did last season when the Bobcats took out the Wolverines, making them uncomfortable, and pushing the guards. Or it could be the single-man team that Nate Wolters can sometimes be. If they are the former, the Jackrabbits could get up on Michigan, but that is a hard case to make. South Dakota State isn't the turnover machine they will need to be, and Trey Burke is much improved over the version of Burke that took the floor last season. At the least, we should get to see Nate Wolters go off, but more on that to come.
2. Another 15 moves on? OK, this is a bit of a stretch. If there is anything we have said about Florida Gulf Coast this season, it is that the Eagles are not the same team that they were last season. They don't win with the 3-point shot any longer. They need to get the ball inside. But maybe things will be different against Georgetown. I can't imagine the Hoyas conceding the inside, and perhaps that 3-point shooting will get back to where it was last season. If that even opens the door a little for Sherwood Brown, we could be in for a treat.
3. Akron is going to try: This was the worst matchup that the Zips could hope for. This Virginia Commonwealth team is probably a lot better than the No. 5 seed that they received. And the pressure defense is not going to be easy to withstand for a team that is without its point guard. But Keith Dambrot has a way of making things work. If you are going to place this on your bracket, you might want to do it in pencil until the very final moment it is due.
Top three mid-major players to watch:
1. Nate Wolters, South Dakota State: There is no doubt that this will be the player that will have all the eyes on him from the mid-majors in this region. Wolters has the ability to change the game all by himself. He can make this into a shooting contest. And he can win it too. We saw him do that all on his own -- well, no one saw it since it wasn't televised -- when he scored 53 points, the most in the country this season. Wolters is going to put on a show, and we will all get to be witnesses, and I am giving away my preview on this game coming later this week. Better move on.
2. Demetrius Treadwell, Akron: What, you were expecting Zeke Marshall? The most important player for Akron will be Carmelo Betancourt, the freshman point guard. But the player that will be the difference maker inside will be Demetrius Treadwell, who has grown up this season. He was good last year; this year he was great shoring up the inside for the Zips. One big question will be Tree's temper which has been known to get the best of him. VCU's defense is probably the worst possible foil for him, and will probably make him madder than hell. But sometimes that is when Tree does his best work inside. I am counting on a double-double. I just don't think it will be enough for the Zips.
3. Sherwood Brown, Florida Gulf Coast: The player of the year in the Atlantic Sun will have his talents on display in the first round. He has the ability to cut through defenses and get to the rim. He has the shooter's touch. And he manages to hold onto the ball, which will be very important against Georgetown's defense. As with the other two mid-majors that we picked for upset potential, this was a tough matchup for Florida Gulf Coast to draw, if only because Georgetown isn't going to give much up in the lane. They will be outmatched inside. So Brown might not get to show off as much as he should. But if he does, well, watch out.