1 This is the marquee region, without question. North Carolina, Kentucky and UCLA are seeded 1-2-3. They also are the top three teams in all-time Final Four appearances: North Carolina has 19, and Kentucky and UCLA have 17 each. The three schools have combined for 25 national titles.
2 The region’s next tier, in terms of name recognition, isn’t too shabby, either. Arkansas reached back-to-back NCAA title games in 1994 and ’95. Butler did the same in 2010 and ’11. Seton Hall was the NCAA runner-up in 1989. Wichita State went to the Final Four in 2013. The Gophers went in 1997 (since vacated). Cincinnati has five Sweet 16 appearances since 1992.
3 A Wichita State-Kentucky rematch? Too bad it would come in the second round. Three years after a classic game in the round of 32, Wichita State could be poised for revenge. Analyst Ken Pomeroy rates the 10th-seeded Shockers as the nation’s eighth-best team.
4 This is the second consecutive No. 1 seed for the Tar Heels, who lost to Villanova in last year’s championship game on Kris Jenkins’ last-second three-pointer.
5 North Carolina has the most losses of any No. 1 seed (seven) in the tournament. The three other top seeds — Villanova, Kansas and Gonzaga — combined for eight losses. But the ACC sent nine teams to the NCAA tournament, and North Carolina won that league’s regular-season title by two games.
6 Danny Manning earned a permanent place in March Madness lore when he led a sixth-seeded Kansas team to the national title in 1988 — which included a win against instate rival Kansas State in the Elite Eight. He will see the Wildcats again as Wake Forest’s coach in a play-in game matchup Tuesday, with the winner facing No. 6 seed Cincinnati.
7 Second-seeded Kentucky (29-5) won the SEC regular-season and tournament titles. The Wildcats — who open with Northern Kentucky — have a potential Sweet 16 matchup with third-seeded UCLA (29-4), which beat the Wildcats in December to end their 42-game winning streak at Rupp Arena. Lonzo Ball scored 47 points in the Bruins’ win.
8 UCLA is the region’s popular upset pick, partly because the Bruins are so fun to watch. Ball, a freshman guard, is a passing artist who hits 41 percent of his threes and he’s surrounded by talent. UCLA returns to the tournament after a one-year absence. The Bruins (29-4) have won nine of their past 10 but fell flat against Arizona in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals. Coach Steve Alford said Ball has been playing despite an injured thumb.
9 Watch out for fourth-seeded Butler (23-8) and No. 9 seed Seton Hall (21-11). The Bulldogs, who face No. 13 seed Winthrop, handed No. 1 overall tournament seed Villanova two of its three losses. And the Pirates, who face eighth-seed Arkansas, upended Villanova last year in the Big East tournament to spark the Wildcats’ title run.
10 If you’re a Kenpom.com fan, here’s where the top South Regional teams sit in Pomeroy’s latest national rankings: North Carolina (3), Kentucky (4), Wichita State (8), UCLA (18), Cincinnati (22), Butler (26), Kansas State (29), Wake Forest (30), Gophers (33), Dayton (36), Arkansas (38), Middle Tennessee (48).
11 The Gophers beat No. 8 seed Arkansas 85-71 at Williams Arena on Nov. 22. The Razorbacks are the only team in the region that the Gophers played during the regular season. Amir Coffey scored 19 points, all in the second half.
12 Butler has the highest seed in school history at No. 4. The Bulldogs reached the NCAA championship game in both 2010, losing to Duke, and 2011, losing to Connecticut. Butler was a No. 5 seed for that first ride, and a No. 8 for the second one.
13 Cincinnati is heading to the tournament for a seventh consecutive time and will be a No. 6 seed. The Bearcats are one of only eight teams with seven consecutive NCAA appearances, joining Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas, North Carolina, VCU, Wisconsin and Michigan State.
14 North Carolina opens with Texas Southern, coached by Mike Davis, who has now coached three schools to eight NCAA tournaments. He also guided Indiana and Alabama-Birmingham into the tournament.
15 Minnesota’s first bid in four seasons under Richard Pitino makes this the first time a father and a son each have taken a team as a head coach to the same NCAA tournament.
16 The regional semifinals and final are March 24 and 26 in Memphis, in the southwestern corner of Tennessee. Driving distance from the Twin Cities: 830 miles.