NCAA Tournament: Midwest Region Preview


The Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament bracket offers a very intriguing possibility in the regional finals.  One that would pit North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Roy Williams against his former team the Kansas Jayhawks who hold the #2 seed in the region.   UNC also could end up having a rematch of the 1993 championship game with Michigan in the third round (thanks again Chris Webber your swell).   The Heels are joined by one other fellow ACC team in the region as NC State drew the #11 seed.

Every year I like to rank the regions in terms of which side of the bracket I think has the best teams.  This year I ranked the Midwest second behind the South but it was very close.  Most years I hate the way the selection committee divides the regions (not to mention how they pick the field) this year I have to admit I was pleased, I think the committee did a nice job of keeping things close.   The South gets the slight advantage because I can see five or six teams making some noise.  Kentucky obviously, if John Henson doesn’t play or cannot be effective with his injured left wrist, the Wildcats become my favorite to win the national title hands down.  I like Baylor a lot at the #3 seed, so much so I have them beating #2 seed Duke in the semifinals.  Indiana in my opinion got a tough break with the #4 seed.  Led by Cody Zeller this is a tough Hoosiers team that can beat anybody in the country.  If anybody can upset Kentucky before the final 4, it’s Indiana.  And finally UNLV who nobody expected to do much this year.  An upset of UNC and a very strong regular season changed that preseason inaccuracy completely.

In the Midwest the only teams I really believe could do some damage are UNC and Kansas who both have to be considered national title contenders.  I like #4 seed Michigan a whole lot more than #3 seed Georgetown who I don’t think is built for a long run.  The only lower seeded team I can imagine upsetting anyone is #11 seed NC State.  State’s record this season had them on the bubble until a strong showing in the ACC Tournament.  I’ve contented all season that State is a better team than their records says they are and I think they will prove that at least somewhat in the big dance.  San Diego State is a good basketball team and they earned the #6 seed which might have actually been a little low for them.  Don’t be surprised if NC State not only beats them but does it in a convincing manner.  SDSU can be vulnerable inside to talented, athletic big men like CJ Leslie, if State can get the inside out game going and somebody like Scott Wood starts hitting from outside they could have the advantage.

Best Potential Match Ups: The #1 vs #2 usually is the best potential match up and it’s no different here.  A North Carolina vs Kansas Regional Finals game would be a dream.  Not just because it’s Roy Williams’ old team, don’t get me wrong, that has a whole lot to do with it, but that’s not the only reason.  The Jayhawks, along with Michigan State were the beneficiaries of the national hate and unfair criticism UNC took this season.  Both teams carried more losses than did Carolina for the entire season.  Yet, even as Carolina had an undefeated record against unranked teams (teams that spent the majority of the year NR, UNLV was not ranked when they beat UNC but were ranked for the majority of the year) and a better overall record, somehow they were ranked ahead for much of the season.  Now that’s certainly not the faults of Michigan State or Kansas, but that doesn’t make me want to beat the crap out of them to prove everyone wrong any less.

Other potential great match ups include the opening round game with NC State and SDSU.  SDSU drew the unluckiest #6 seed in the tournament facing NC State who I have think could beat a ton of teams seeded ahead of them this year.  I have State winning a close one on my bracket, either way, this is going to be a slug fest and a heck of a game to watch.

Creighton and Alabama are two pretty evenly matched teams and could provide another opening round thriller.  I like Creighton a lot and have them winning but Alabama has a lot of talent on their roster.  I actually believe that Michigan will handle Temple easily in the third round and give a lot of Tar Heel fans anxiety going into their semi-finals match up.  The Heels-Michigan game will be a lot closer than most might expect.  The Wolverines are a good team this year after a long drought from being contenders, they present the biggest threat to Carolina before the Regional Finals.

Predicting the Biggest Upset: Unless you just skimmed the rest of the article, I gave it away here.  NC State will upset San Diego State University in the opening round of the tourney.  That’s my crystal ball prediction and I’m sticking to it.

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