Editor’s Picks: Midwest Region (Round of 64)
By: Dylan Elder – Editor-in-Chief.
Winner in Bold.
Round of 64:
1. Wichita State vs 16. CP/TXSO
The Shockers are a much better team this year than last when they made the Final Four, yet somehow they get rewarded with a harder path to get back there. To reach the promise land again, Wichita State needs to beat Kentucky, Louisville, and either Duke/Michigan if this part of the bracket turns to chalk. We’ll see… the only game that is a given is this first one.
8. Kentucky vs 9. Kansas St.
This is the second time in the tournament that two teams with the nickname “Wildcats” are matched up against each other. Kentucky’s version is much more talented than K-State’s. UK was rated as the best team in the country in the preseason AP polls yet could never quite find their groove during the regular season.
However, a solid run through the SEC tournament and some insanely good talent at their disposal is enough for me to pick Kentucky over Kansas State.
5. Saint Louis vs 12. NC State
When the bracket first was released, many were clamoring for Larry Brown’s SMU team over NC State. Nevertheless, the Wolfpack went on to win their play in game vs Xavier by a hefty margin and look primed for the upset against Saint Louis. NC State plays hard on every possession and while they are not great at any one thing in particular, they still can be a handful in any matchup because of their versatility. The Wolfpack have also won 5 of their last 6 games (including an upset over Syracuse) so they enter this contest scorching hot.
The Billikens on the other hand are the opposite of scorching hot right now. The team is 1-5 in their past 6 games and it doesn’t look to get any better. In fact, the losing trend might be more of a regression to the mean, listen to this: Of their 26 wins this year, 11 of them were decided by 6 points or less. That means that St Louis lives life on the edge, and their ways are finally catching up to them.
4. Louisville vs 13. Manhattan
The Cardinals are probably the most grotesquely under-seeded team in the history of the NCAA tournament, but we wont get into that. Instead, just know that they score the third most points per possession in the country (1.167) and give up the second least (.867). What’s more is that Louisville creates more possessions for themselves by forcing turnovers from opponents on 21.6% of possessions (2nd best in the nation).
No 13 seed is upsetting a team as good as the Cardinals, especially not one with as weird of a nickname as the Jaspers.
6. Massachusetts vs 11. Iowa/Tennessee
To be honest, it really doesn’t matter who wins this play in game: they are going to destroy the minutemen. UMASS only has 1 win against a ranked opponent all year long and struggles to both score and defend. That sounds like a recipe for disaster if you ask me. I’m taking either Iowa or Tennessee and I’m feeling great about it.
3. Duke vs 14. Mercer
Mercer looks like a very solid “Giant-Killer” on paper. They shoot the 3-ball extremely well, are effective at team defense, and have a starting lineup made up of 5 Seniors. However, Duke is a very tough draw for them
Jabari Parker should be able to take over this game with relative ease as he will be far and away the most talented player on the court. Even though the Blue Devils have a deficient defense (allowing 1.001 points per possession, 117th in the country) it wont come back to bite them… yet.
7. Texas vs 10. Arizona St
The Longhorns enter the tournament as one of the coldest teams from the field as they are just 3-5 in their last 8 games. If that alone doesn’t frighten you enough, take a look at where they rank among offensive and defensive efficiency in the NCAA: 136th on offense and 83rd on defense.
Those numbers don’t scare anyone, especially the Sun Devils who beat Arizona in 2 OT’s earlier this season. Led by Sophomore guard Jahili Carson (18.6 ppg, 39% 3 point shooting), Arizona State should win this game fairly easily, their 3 point shooting will be too much for Texas to overcome.
2. Michigan vs 15. Wofford
Unlike Texas, the Wolverines enter this tournament very hot having won 7 of their last 8 games. The team is an offensive juggernaut behind the lead of future pro guard Nik Stauskas. While Michigan’s defense definitely needs to shape up if they want to advance far, their firepower on offense will be more than enough to carry them for a round or two, especially against Wofford.