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    JOE SULLIVAN | COLLEGE BASKETBALL

    Some things to look for around the NCAA bracket

    Middle Tennessee guard Giddy Potts (20) reacts to making a three point basket during an NCAA college basketball game against Mississippi in Oxford, Miss. on Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2016. (Bruce Newman, Oxford Eagle via AP)
    bruce newman/AP
    Giddy Potts and Middle Tennessee will look to pull an early upset vs. Minnesota.

    After staring at it a long time, I have some thoughts on the NCAA Tournament bracket.

    If you hold the bracket in your hand, it has to feel heavier on the right side. The Midwest and South regions are just better than the East and West.

    My favorite first-round games:

    Virginia vs. UNC Wilmington: A contrast in styles. Wilmington has to speed up the Cavaliers.

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    Florida vs. East Tennessee: A potential 4-13 upset. East Tennessee is a veteran team that won’t be rattled.

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    South Carolina vs. Marquette: If you haven’t seen Carolina’s Sindarius Thorwell, check him out. He’s college basketball’s hardest-working man. The Gamecocks will try to physically wear down the Fightin’ McGuires.

    Florida State vs. Florida Gulf Coast: A game that would never appear on Florida State’s regular-season schedule. It’s a chance for the Eagles to make a mark, and they’re capable of doing it.

    Saint Mary’s vs. VCU: Mary’s plays the beautiful game; VCU will try to knock them on their butts.

    Creighton vs. Rhode Island: A win or two would be a landmark event for URI coach Danny Hurley. No team will be more intense than the Rams.

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    Minnesota vs. Middle Tennessee: I love Giddy Potts and the Blue Raiders, but they have to avoid being overwhelmed in the paint by the Gophers.

    Dayton vs. Wichita State: Two outstanding teams that are well-coached. This will go down to the wire.

    Five players you never heard of who could make an impact:

      South Dakota State’s Mike Daum, who is the No. 2 scorer in the nation at 25.3 ppg.

      Bucknell’s Zach Thomas, who never seems to leave his feet but makes one smart play after another.

      Middle Tennessee’s Giddy Potts, who looks like a football player but shoots like he was born to do it.

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      Winthrop’s Keon Johnson, who’s listed at 5-7 but looks shorter and averages 22.5 ppg.

      New Mexico State’s Ian Baker, another short guy at 6-0 but he leads his team in scoring and assists.

    Five players who will play up to their reputation:

      Villanova’s Josh Hart, a consummate team player.

      Duke’s Luke Kennard, a master of the head and pump fake.

      Maryland’s Melo Trimble, maybe the best closer in the tournament.

      Kansas’s Frank Mason, a dynamo at guard who should be National Player of the Year.

      UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, a freshman who is wise beyond his years and makes all of his teammates better.

    Some more observations:

      Why does the committee do this to me — that is, match up two teams I like? They did it twice this time with Dayton-Wichita State and Saint Mary’s-VCU.

      Wichita State is a 10 seed, Vanderbilt is a 9. If they were matched up, Wichita State would be a 6- or 7-point favorite, if not more. The Shockers are favored by 6 points against seventh-seeded Dayton.

      Would it have killed the committee to seed North Carolina Central 15th and keep it out of the First Four? Troy, Jacksonville State, and Northern Kentucky . . . any of those three could have been in Dayton.

      Second-round games I hope happen: UNC Wilmington-East Tennessee, SMU-Baylor, Kansas-Michigan State, Purdue-Iowa State, North Carolina-Seton Hall, Cincinnati-UCLA, Kentucky-Wichita State.

    Joe Sullivan can be reached at joseph.sullivan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeSullivan