The South Region in the 2018 NCAA Tournament is officially off the hook. Kentucky, as a 5 seed, will never have to wear the road uniforms if they reach the Final Four. With Nevada’s furious comeback against #2 seed Cincinnati, the 2018 South Regional becomes the first region since the field expanded to 64 teams where none of the top 4 seeds advanced to the Sweet 16. (There have only been 4 times where a #4 seed was the highest seed to advance out of the first week in a regional).
Here are the regions where the combined total of the seeds that advanced to the Sweet Sixteen were the highest, since 1985:
So yes, there were four other regions at the top–but in all of those the #1 seed was intact and the chaos was in the other quadrants. They include some of the most memorable Cinderella runs of all-time. The 2011 Midwest had VCU as an 11-seed, along with #10 Florida State and #12 Richmond, and it was VCU that stunned Kansas to go to the Final Four. The 1986 East Regional had Navy with David Robinson, a DePaul run as a 12-seed, and Cleveland State, along with Duke. The 2001 South was #1 Michigan State along with Gonzaga back when they were a Cinderella, and a Penn State versus Temple matchup. The 1990 West had UNLV, and the emotional run by Loyola Marymount along with Ball State coming within a point of beating UNLV in the Sweet 16.
The South is officially, already, the wackiest, wildest region even compared to those though. We’ve already seen the following:
- Loyola-Chicago hit a deep three to stun Miami;
- Buffalo destroyed #4 seed Arizona;
- Nevada rallied against Texas and won in overtime;
- UMBC pulled the first 16 vs. 1 upset ever over Virginia;
- Loyola-Chicago hit another late shot on a bounce off the rim to take down #3 Tennessee;
- Nevada completed a massive second-half comeback with a game-winning shot in the final seconds, as #2 Cincinnati collapsed.
When you add in the Michigan buzzer beater, and #7 Texas A&M destroying defending champion North Carolina, and #11 Syracuse taking down Michigan State in a defensive slog-fest, this tournament is approaching 1990 for wildest ever in the first four days. But the South stands above it all in chaos.
Lest you think this means you can just pencil in the Kentucky Wildcats for the Final Four, the favorite entering the Sweet 16 in wacky regions has gone on to the Final Four only about half the time, and most of those were heavier favorites as #1 seeds. Past crazy regions have produced teams like VCU in 2011, Wichita State in 2013, Syracuse two years ago, Wisconsin and North Carolina as #8 seeds in 2000, and the only 8 seed to win a national title, Villanova in 1985.