Paramore, Ed Sheeran Slug It Out In Musical March Madness’ South

Voting is open in all first-round Musical March Madness matchups, and we take a look at the action in the South Region.

The first round of MTV’s Musical March Madness tournament heads into the weekend with no shortage of super-tight matchups or accusations of rampant voter fraud (both of which are MMM traditions).

When the tourney tipped off on Monday, 64 bands were in the running to knock off Tokio Hotel and claim the big gold trophy for themselves … but after this weekend, only 32 will remain. And given the sheer strength of the bands currently battling it out in the South Region, well, there’s a good chance one of them could be the band to win it all.

And with first-round voting wrapping up in all Musical March Madness matchups — polls close on Monday, March 25 at noon ET — we here at tournament HQ are breaking down the full field of bands competing for the title. We’ve already broken down the action in the Midwest , the West and the East Regions and today, we’re closing out the week by heading down South, where the strongest challengers to Tokio Hotel’s title may lie.

Let’s start with the band at the top of the bracket, #1 seed Paramore, who entered this year’s MMM tournament proclaiming that, after years of frustration , 2013 was their time … and so far, they’re backing up that claim, pasting #16 Portugal. The Man and all but punching their ticket to the second round, where they’ll likely face #9 Metallica, who are currently way ahead of #8 Alabama Shakes. If they can get past Hetfield & Co., Paramore’s path back to the championship game has but one roadblock: #7 Evanescence, who rolled to the Final Four last year, and are hanging on to their lead against #10 Ke$ha in their first-round tilt. These two bands engaged in an epic battle in the 2012 Elite 8, and appear poised for a rematch in 2013.

That’s not to say the South is a foregone conclusion; after all, #2 Phillip Phillips has barely broken a sweat in his opening-round blowout of #15 Jim James, and if #3 Ed Sheeran can survive his first-round test from #14 Guns N’ Roses (he’s currently ahead by the slimmest of margins), well, he could make a deep run in the region. And you can’t overlook #6 Muse, who have always performed well in MMM — highlighted by a trip to the Final Four in 2010 — or perennial powerhouses Linkin Park. Both bands lead their first-round opponents by large margins, and could pose the biggest threat to Paramore and Evanescence.

And then, there was everyone’s dark-horse pick, #5 Imagine Dragons, who came into MMM with tons of momentum (and a sizeable chip on their shoulder ), but are currently locked in a tight battle with #12 Modest Mouse, a band that have yet to make it past the round of 32 in their three previous tries. Could this be the year they finally put it together and make a run at the crown, or will the Dragons rally the troops and keep their championship dreams alive? We’ll find out on Monday … so until then, keep the voting coming, and the cheating at a minimum (yeah, right).

MTV’s Musical March Madness tournament is back! Voting is now open in all first-round matchups and polls close Monday, March 25 at noon ET, at which point we’ll move on to the second round of action. All winners are determined by your votes, so if your favorite act made the cut, it’ll be up to you to guide them to glory! You can spread the word on Twitter using the hashtag #MMM — but get ready, it’s gonna be a war.