2017 NCAA Bracket Predictions and Picks: South Region

WhatIfSports.com fired up its college basketball simulation engine to play the entire 2017 NCAA Tournament 1,001 times. View the full bracket predictions and picks or check out our region-by-region previews. After you’ve done your homework, create an entry in the FOX Sports / SI Bracket Challenge.

Regional Previews: East | Midwest | South | West

North Carolina may be a No. 1 seed for a 16th time, but the Tar Heels own three ugly marks on their resume. They lost to Duke twice over the past month including in the ACC Championship game and Virginia held them to just 43 points on the last day of February. It was the lowest point total for the program since 1979. To be fair, in the Tar Heels other meeting with the Cavs, Roy Williams’ squad smashed them by 24 points.

In 1,001 simulations of the NCAA Tournament, North Carolina cuts down the nets 8.5 percent of the time, trailing only UCLA and Villanova for the best championship odds. The Tar Heels are the most likely team to reach the Elite 8, but by a razor-thin margin. Tar Heels advance in 55.5 percent of the sims compared to UCLA’s 48.6 percent.

Note: here is a good reminder both UCLA’s and UNC’s path to the Elite 8 consist of different Sweet 16 matchups and not just one. For example, UCLA didn’t always beat Cincinnati and Kentucky to reach the Elite 8. It could be Wichita State.

UCLA’s Lonzo Ball leads the program’s most-balanced postseason roster since Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook took the Bruins to the Final Four in 2008.

Despite the loss to Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament, the simulation engine loves the Bruins’ statistical resume heading into the tournament. UCLA owns the best odds to reach the Final Four (34.1 percent), NCAA Championship Game (20.8 percent) and cut down the nets (13.7 percent).

South Region Odds Of Advancing

As reputation continues to precede the program, Kentucky’s top four leaders in minutes per game consist of one sophomore and three freshman. The Wildcats are also on their hottest streak of the season, winners of 11 straight and 12 out of 13. However, only one of those wins came against a Top 25 program: Florida.

The No. 2 seed looks good on paper, but the simulation gives the Wildcats the fourth-best odds of reaching the Sweet 16 (45.6 percent), Elite 8 (15.2 percent) and Final Four (6.9 percent) in the South Region.

Butler remains a little-engine-that-has squad to consider come tourney time. The Bulldogs beat overall No. 1 seed Villanova twice, No. 2 seed Arizona and No. 6 seed Cincinnati during the regular season. However, they lost their regular season finale to Seton Hall and Big East Tournament quarterfinal loss to Xavier.

The Bulldogs nibbled, but failed to chomp down on the opportunity this simulation season. Butler advanced to the Sweet 16 in 51 percent of the simulations, but rank behind Oklahoma State, Iowa State and Marquette in odds to reach the Elite 8. They’ll need a little bit of a miracle to reach their third Championship Game this decade as the engine spit out 2.3 percent odds.

Regional Previews: East | Midwest | South | West