You can find all of the regional breakdowns I did for CBT here.
Specifically, the Midwest Region is here.
The NCAA Tournament prep from BIAH can be found here.
The Midwest might actually be the toughest region in the country.
At the very least, it is at the top.
UNC is the one team that just about everyone believes is capable of competing with Kentucky and Syracuse as a favorite for the national title. That's what happens when you have 15 lottery picks and 28 McDonald's all-americans on your roster. (I got those numbers right, didn't I?) The Heels are really good, and despite the loss to Florida State -- which came without John Henson, and while that isn't necessarily an excuse, it is a factor -- in the ACC Tournament finals, UNC seems to be peaking at the right time. I also think they have a fairly easy path to the Elite 8. If you are going to beat UNC, you have to outphysical them. With the exception of Alabama, who doesn't have enough scoring to be concerned about, no one in the top half of the midwest region has that kind of physicality.
At the other end of the bracket sits Kansas. We found out after the bracket was released that Kansas was actually the top ranked No. 2 seed. In other words, if Michigan State had lost in the Big Ten Tournament finals, it would have been Kansas and not Ohio State that climbed their way into the top seed line. And, like UNC, Kansas is really good when Tyshawn Taylor is playing well. I wouldn't blame you if your Elite 8 in the midwest is a bit chalky.
Five story lines to watch:
1. Robbie Hummel's return to the tournament: You gotta root for this kid. Two acl surgeries in the span of nine months, 18 months away from basketball and he comes back and leads a young Purdue team to the NCAA Tournament while winning first team all-Big Ten honors. This is one of those kids you root for even if you are an Indiana fan.
2. Lamar made the tournament?: Pat Knight unleashed on his team in a press conference with three games left in the season, calling them drug users and blaming their laziness and selfishness for the fact that his team the team was losing. I didn't like it then. I still don't love it now. But I can't argue with the fact that it worked, as Lamar won six straight games to get into the NCAA Tournament. And with a win against Vermont in the play-in game, the Cardinals will advance to face UNC. That's quite the run.
3. Can NC State prove they deserve a bid?: The Wolfpack were one of the more controversial inclusions into the NCAA Tournament, at least in my mind, because I am not sure exactly what they did this season that separates them from some of the quality mid-majors programs out there. I know that winning a game or two in the tournament doesn't mean that getting a bid was the correct decision, but it would go a long way towards making the critics forget about their complaints. Ask VCU.
4. Michigan gets Ohio in the opening round: John Beilein and Wolverines football coach Brady Hoke have made a habit of calling Ohio State "Ohio" when they discuss the Buckeyes. Now they get to play the actual Ohio.
5. The battle for Ames, IA: Harrison Barnes was the most sought after recruit in the country when he came out of high school. He was preseason Player of the Year as a freshman and has long been considered a lock to be an all-american and a potential lottery pick. His high school teammate came out with much less fanfare, but actually beat Barnes to First Team All-American honors. That would be Doug McDermott of Creighton. If the Bluejays can get by Alabama in the opening round, the two teams will face off. That should be fun.
Best first round matchups:
No. 3 Georgetown vs. No. 14 Belmont: this is the trendiest first-round upset out there right now, and I simply don't see it happening. That doesn't mean I don't think that the Bruins can play. They absolutely can. But Belmont relies on two things to win: three-point shooting and turning up the tempo with their pressure. Georgetown is the best in the country at defending the three because of their ability to switch on the perimeter with lengthy defenders. And while they are going to pressure the Hoyas, Belmont does not turn the ball over as well as they have in the past. I think the Hoyas win it.
No. 7 St. Mary's vs. No. 10 Purdue: What is great about this game is that neither St. Mary's nor Purdue enjoys defending all that much. In other words, both teams win games with their offense, which is the exact recipe for a high-octane first-round matchup. The Gaels have great guard play, but I'm not sure if Rob Jones is going to be able to matchup with Robbie Hummel.
Temple vs. Cal: If Cal can get by South Florida in the play-in game it sets up what should be one of the most entertaining games of the first round. Both Temple and Cal are loaded in the back court. And while Temple is known for their ability to defend, this team is much more uptempo than in years past. They run and they score. This will also provide one of the best one-on-one matchups, as Jorge Gutierrez will be locked up with Ramone Moore and/or Khalif Wyatt.
Matchups you should hope happen:
No. 1 UNC vs. No. 8 Creighton: If you like offense, than this is the game you want to see. UNC is UNC. They run a high-octane fast break and score about as quickly as anyone in the country. Creighton, on the other hand, is as efficient as anyone in their half-court offense. They can get out and run when the time is right, but their bread-and-butter is execution in the half court. They shoot threes and they pound the ball inside to Doug McDermott. First to 100 wins.
No. 1 UNC vs. No. 2 Kansas: Now this would be entertainment. There may not be three teams in the country with a front line that can matchup with Tyler Zeller and John Henson, but Thomas Robinson and Jeff Withey is probably one of them. Tyshawn Taylor would have a field day going up against Kendall Marshall, but whoever was forced to guard Harrison Barnes would be at a serious disadvantage. As I said earlier, Kansas is the best two-seed in the country. This would be fun.
Upsets to watch for:
No. 15 Detroit over No. 2 Kansas: Detroit has size and athleticism up front. They have a McDonald's all-american at the point in Ray McCallum. They press and they try to force you to turn the ball over, and we all know about Tyshawn Taylor's propensity for the turnover. Do I think this happens? Probably not. There is a reason Eli Holman is no longer at Indiana, and it's not just because he threw a potted plant at Tom Crean. But Kansas but show up ready to play.
No. 13 Ohio over No. 4 Michigan: There are three reasons I think this happens: 1) Ohio is one of the best in the country at defending the three, which is something that Michigan relies heavily upon; 2) DJ Cooper, who will be matched up with Trey Burke, is a terrific on-ball defender; and 3) Ohio has been here before, upsetting Georgetown in 2010.
Upsets to avoid:
No. 11 NC State over No. 6 San Diego State: I don't get the hype of NC State right now. They weren't even close to the bubble until they beat a UVA team that hasn't done a thing since November, and even then it took a Texas win over Kansas State and Miami climbing into the RPI top 50 for the Wolfpack to really make their case. The Aztecs have their issues, but give me the team that was the co-champion of the fourth-best conference in the country. I just don't see how NC State is going to be able to matchup with SDSU's perimeter attack.
Anyone over UNC: At least not until the Elite 8. You have to be physical to knock off the Tar Heels. I think you have to be tough and physical defensively to beat the Heels. The only team that they'll face that fits that criteria before Kansas is Alabama, and Alabama just doesn't have the horses to run with UNC. Of course, saying this means that UNC will lose to Temple in the Sweet 16. Just watch.
Five players you should know:
- DJ Cooper, Ohio: He's small. He's left-handed. He plays for Ohio. And when he was a freshman, he had 23 points and eight assists against Georgetown in a first round upset. He's legit.
- Matthew Dellavedova, St. Mary's: Dellavedova is one of the least-talked about great point guards in the country. He shoots funny, he runs awkwardly and he has a big, ole' mouthguard in at all times, but if you doubt him, he'll go for 25 and 10 assists.
- Jamaal Franklin, SDSU: He was the MWC's Player of the Year, and rightfully so. A 6'5" wing, he nearly averaged a double-double in league play. And I guarantee he'll posterize someone in the tournament.
- Kerron Johnson, Belmont: If Belmont does happen to beat Georgetown, Johnson is going to play a major role. Another diminutive, lefty point guard, Johnson was actually named Alabama's Mr. Basketball in 2009, the year that Eric Bledsoe and DeMarcus Cousins graduated.
- Ray McCallum, Detroit: He was a McDonald's All-American in high school that went to Detroit to play for his father. If Detroit has any chance against Kansas, it will be because McCallum goes off.