No. 1 seed Pittsburgh appears to be the major contender to win the region. The Panthers finished the season 27-5, and the five losses were by a combined margin of 18 points. But Pittsburgh will be battling it’s own tournament history. The Panthers last Final Four came in 1941, and when they were seeded No. 1 in 2009, they fell to Villanova and Scottie Reynolds’ last second shot in the Elite Eight.

The other top seeds in the Southeast are No. 2 Florida and No. 3 BYU. The Gators are the most surprising No. 2 seed, currently ranked No. 12 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll and having lost to No. 4 seed Kentucky by 16 points in the SEC championship game.

Additionally, BYU is without starting center Brandon Davies, who was suspended from the team after having sexual relations with his girlfriend, violating Brigham Young’s honor code. Without Davies, BYU lost badly to No. 2 seed San Diego State by 18 points in the Mountain West Conference championship. Still, the Cougars have a national player of the year candidate in Jimmer Fredette, who is leading the nation with 28.5 points per game. BYU is the other serious contender in the Southeast, with No. 4 seed Wisconsin and No. 5 Kansas State having struggled throughout the year.

The region’s dark horse is St. John’s. The Red Storm shocked the nation by finishing No. 18 in the polls and fifth in the Big East conference. However, leading rebounder D.J. Kennedy was lost when he tore his ACL against Syracuse in the Big East tournament, and the Red Storm will have to prove they have enough depth without him to make a run.

A potential upset could come from perennial tournament-run-maker Michigan State. If the Spartans can get by UCLA in the second round (also an intriguing matchup of two elite programs), the Spartans could make a run past Florida and either St. John’s or BYU. Michigan State lost Korie Lucious for the season because of a violation of team rules, but the Spartans have played a tough schedule this season and have two consecutive Final Fours under their belts.

In terms of players to watch, first and foremost comes Jimmer Fredette of BYU. If he plays well enough, he could snatch away that player of the year award from Kemba Walker of UConn. St. John’s guard Dwight Hardy was a late candidate for Big East player of the year and should light it up for the Red Storm. Jacob Pullen of Kansas State and Ashton Gibbs of Pittsburgh are also two highlight reels in action.

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