This year's NCAA tournament bracket might be the most unpredictable one in recent memory, as even the elite teams have struggled mightily against inferior competition. The stage is set for a plethora of big-time upsets.
Sometimes the selection committee does you favors with easy matchups early on, but other times it can be less forgiving.
Let's break down the elite teams who will struggle with tough matchups early on.
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Oftentimes, the No. 1 seeds get a cakewalk into the Sweet 16. But then there are those instances where dangerous No. 8 or No. 9 seeds present themselves as formidable matchups.
That's exactly what happened to Kansas this year. Assuming it tops No. 16 seed Western Kentucky, Bill Self's squad will face either North Carolina or Villanova.
The Tar Heels aren't as dominant as they have been in recent years, but they are still very capable of beating elite competition. If they get past Villanova, it will set up a less-than-favorable circumstance for the Jayhawks.
Roy Williams' squad went 9-3 to close out the season and made it to the ACC Championship Game. The Tar Heels are trending upward, and the Jayhawks have had problems against tough teams plenty of times this season.
The 'Canes are a trendy pick to make the Final Four (and beyond), but they'll have their hands full in a potential third-round matchup with Illinois.
The Fighting Illini can knock it down from the perimeter, which is the only way you can beat Miami. They also are no strangers to elite competition, having beaten two No. 1 seeds—Gonzaga and Indiana—earlier in the season.
Brandon Paul and D.J. Richardson are capable of scoring in bunches, and that could spell doom for a Miami team that will have its focus on the following week.
It will be no cakewalk for Miami if Illinois can get past Colorado in its opening game.
The Zags are arguably a sleeper pick even as a No. 1 seed, but not many people will expect them to struggle in their third-round game.
The winner of Wichita State and Pittsburgh will face Gonzaga for the rights to call itself a Sweet 16 team. Both present unique matchups that the Bulldogs could struggle with.
The Panthers bring a power-six level of competition with them, which is something the Zags aren't too familiar with. They're no stranger to top talent and won't be swayed by what the Bulldogs present.
But perhaps the most dangerous matchup for Gonzaga is Wichita State. The Shockers boast a tall squad that can guard on the perimeter, as well as play stout defense inside. They should be able to contain Kelly Olynyk and prevent the Zags from putting up too many deep shots.
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