We're entering the homestretch of first-round voting in the 2012 MTV Musical March Madness tournament — polls close on Sunday at midnight ET — but there's still time to help guide your favorite band to victory ... or at least to round two.
Because as history has shown us time and time again, there are no guarantees when it comes to MMM, as heavily favored bands fall by the wayside and unheralded underdogs make deep tourney runs. Of course, it's all up to you — you can spread the word by downloading one of our custom MMM badges, or by using the hashtag #MMM on Twitter — but to help with any last-minute decisions, we've spent all week breaking down each of the March Madness regions.
We started with the mighty Midwest and moved on to the wild West and the erudite East. Today, we'll close with the down-and-dirty South, which has produced both the 2010 champion, Coheed and Cambria, and the 2011 runner-up, Paramore. And this year, well, it looks like that tradition could continue.
Because the 2012 South region once again features not only Paramore but Evanescence (who might very well be the team to beat) and MMM powerhouses like 30 Seconds to Mars and Linkin Park too. One of those four bands is going to advance to the Final Four ... and stands a pretty good chance at winning it all. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. Here's a look at all the first-round matchups in a very loaded South.
#1 Evanescence vs. #16 Alabama Shakes: Pity the 'Bama Shakes, who were playing near home but drew the all-powerful Evanescence in round one. Not surprisingly, this one was over early, and given EV's 17,000-vote cushion, we're thinking they'll advance to round two. In fact, they might not be challenged until the Sweet 16, with a potential matchup against Linkin Park looming.
#2 Paramore vs. #15 Gotye: Sure, Gotye spent the weeks leading up to MMM practicing his pick-and-roll, but when the tourney began, he got appropriately rolled by Paramore, who clearly have bigger things on their minds. Much like Evanescence, they won't face a tough opponent until the Sweet 16, where they'll probably meet 30 Seconds to Mars.
#3 Kings of Leon vs. #14 Phoenix: Will this be the year the Kings make a deep run in the tourney? Um, probably not. For the second time in three years, they appear headed for a first-round exit, this time at the hands of Phoenix, who hold a pretty hefty lead. Surprisingly, this would be the third-straight year they make it to round two ... the trick now seems to be figuring out how to advance from there.
#4 Jack White vs. #13 Shinedown: White goes it alone in MMM 2012, and so far, he's finding it tough to shoulder the load. He owns a slim lead over upset-minded Shinedown, who look to continue the recent trend of heavy bands going deep in the tournament. Though they're trailing, we like Shinedown's spirit, and we're picking them to knock off White and advance.
#5 Linkin Park vs. #12 At the Drive-In: Last year, LP made it all the way to the Sweet 16 before getting bounced by Paramore. This year, we're pretty confident they'll make it past ATDI in round one (they're up by some 12,000 votes), but the selection committee certainly didn't do them any favors after that: They'll have to get past Evanescence if they want to finally taste the Elite 8.
#6 30 Seconds to Mars vs. #11 Sleigh Bells: Obviously, the selection committee has it out for the poor Sleigh Bells, who drew Linkin Park in the opening round last year and got 30 STM this year. As you'd probably expect, Jared Leto and company hold a sizable lead here and are locks to move on. Again though, Paramore await in the Sweet 16.
#7 Cage the Elephant vs. #10 Ke$ha: A surprisingly competitive 7/10 battle unfolding here, as Cage crept to the early advantage, then watched as Ke$ha — and her Kegels — roared all the way back to take the lead. This one's still too close to call, though perhaps this is finally the year Ke$ha advances to round two.
#8 My Morning Jacket vs. #9 Dave Matthews Band: This potential Birkenstock-burner has basically been a snoozer (our lowest-voted opening-round matchup), which may have something to do with MMJ and DMB fans being too, uh, sleepy to vote. It's the DMB by a bong rip so far, though given that the winner of this contest gets Evanescence next, well, does it really matter who wins?
MTV's 2012 Musical March Madness Tournament is under way! Voting in the first round runs until midnight ET on Sunday, March 18, and winners are determined by fan votes, so if your favorite act made the cut, it'll be up to you to guide them to glory. You can rally the troops on Twitter using the hashtag #MMM or by downloading one of our custom badges — but get ready, it's gonna be a war!