March Madness: Midwest Region First Round Predictions

Now that I’ve profiled all 68 teams in the field and previewed each region, it’s time to go game-by-game and look at the matchups. I will also reveal my picks to win each game before posting my full predictions later this week.

Here’s a look at the first round matchups in the Midwest region.

Midwest Region Info

Midwest Region First Round Game Predictions

#1 North Carolina vs. #16 Lamar / #16 Vermont

Few people would have expected Lamar to be in this position after Pat Knight’s post-game rip-job on his team a few weeks ago, but the team responded by running the table, inlcuding the Southland Championship.  I’m going with the Cardinals in the first four game, but UNC should have no trouble with either one.

Predicted Winner: North Carolina

roy-williams-midwest-region-predictions

Roy Williams and the Tar Heels should have no problem with whichever #16 seed wins in the First Four.

#2 Kansas vs. #15 Detroit

Admittedly, Detroit has more high-level talent than many 15 seeds, but they simply don’t shoot the ball well enough to score against a stingy Kansas defense.

This game features a couple terrific shot-blockers in Eli Holman and Jeff Withey, and the backcourt matchup of Ray McCallum Jr. and Tyshawn Taylor should be a good one as well.

In the end, Thomas Robinson and the Jayhawks will be too much for the Titans to handle, but this one could be too close for comfort for some KU fans.

Predicted Winner: Kansas

#3 Georgetown vs. #14 Belmont

I nearly picked this as my upset in the region but couldn’t pull the trigger.

The key to this game will be the tempo, because if Belmont can get the Hoyas into an up-and-down game, some of Georgetown’s defensive advantages will be neutralized.  If it turns into a halfcourt game though, Georgetown’s top-ranked three-point defense will be problematic for the Bruins, who take nearly 40 percent of their shots from long range.

Look for Hoya freshman Otto Porter to play a key role in this game based on his ability to block shots and hit the offensive glass.  Georgetown big man Henry Sims is another tough matchup for Belmont, but it will be tough for them to double-team him in the post based on his passing ability.

Predicted Winner: Georgetown

#4 Michigan vs. #13 Ohio

The matchup to watch in this game is between point guards Trey Burke of Michigan and D.J. Cooper of OU.

The Wolverines need to attack the basket, because the Bobcats are far better defensively against three-pointers than they are against shots inside the arc.  For as many threes as Michigan takes, they actually rank eighth in two-point shooting.  Obviously Michigan isn’t going to stop shooting three-pointers since that is such a big part of their offense, but they need to be prepared to adjust if shots aren’t falling.

On the other end of the floor, the Bobcats aren’t particularly efficient offensively, and their numbers suggest they won’t be able to take advantage of Michigan’s defensive shortcomings.

Predicted Winner: Michigan

#5 Temple vs. #12 California / #12 South Florida

In the first four game, I’m going with Cal even though I’m not sure either team truly deserved a bid.  South Florida is almost unwatchable on the offensive end, and I think Cal’s strong guard play will be the difference.

Regardless of who wins the first four game between the Bears and the Bulls, I don’t see either of them beating Temple (though this guy disagrees).

The Owls have a trio of strong guards, which would make for a great matchup with Cal.  Strong backcourt play is always critical for success in March, and I’ll take my chances with the likes of Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt, and Juan Fernandez.  While Temple hasn’t posted particularly impressive defensive numbers this season, the stats have improved since Micheal Eric returned from a knee injury, and neither Cal nor USF have beaten enough quality teams for me to think they’ll spring the upset.

Predicted Winner: Temple

#6 San Diego State vs. #11 North Carolina State

While I’m still not convinced the Wolfpack actually deserve to be in the tournament, I do like their first round matchup.  Sophomore C.J. Leslie has been fantastic down the stretch, and the Aztecs have very little size inside, which could mean guys like Leslie and Richard Howell could wreak havoc on the glass. SDSU also struggles to defend the three-point line, while NC State sharpshooter Scott Wood is among the nation’s best long-range snipers.

On the other end of the floor, the Aztecs haven’t posted gaudy offensive efficiency numbers, which is definitely a concern.  However, I am admittedly hesitant to pick against Jamaal Franklin, who has been phenomenal for Steve Fisher’s team this year.

Predicted Winner: North Carolina State

#7 Saint Mary’s vs. #10 Purdue

Look for plenty of offense in this one, as both teams rank in the Top 25 in adjusted offensive efficiency and both rank right around 100th on the defensive end.  Both teams have solid point guards in Matthew Dellavedova and Lewis Jackson and do-it-all forwards in Rob Jones and Robbie Hummel.

For the Boilers, they simply don’t turn the ball over, and they have become increasingly reliant on the three-point shot, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in this matchup since Saint Mary’s struggles to defend on the perimeter.  However, the Gaels are better in virtually every statistical category when you compare their offense to Purdue’s defense, and the Boilers’ lack of an inside presence will be an issue for a Saint Mary’s team with a high offensive rebounding percentage and the sixth-best two-point shooting in the country.

The Gaels will also get a nice shot in the arm if third-leading scorer Stephen Holt can return from a knee injury as expected.

Predicted Winner: Saint Mary’s

matt-painter-purdue-st-marys-midwest-regiona-predictions

Matt Painter, who seemingly always wins his first round game, is not a fan of Andy's prediction.

#8 Creighton vs. #9 Alabama

This is just your classic prolific offense versus stingy defense matchup that should provide an interesting contrast in styles.

Led by sophomore Doug McDermott, the Bluejays boast one of the nation’s most efficient offenses, but Alabama ranks in the Top 10 in defensive efficiency as well. Creighton ranks in the Top Five in three-point shooting, but Alabama ranks in the Top Five in three-point defense. The difference might be Creighton’s ability to get to the free throw line, because opponents have posted a relatively high free throw rate against the Crimson Tide this year.

On the other end of the floor, Creighton’s defensive shortcomings will allow us to see just how poor Alabama’s offense really is. If Gregory Echenique can hold his own inside against JaMychal Green and Nick Jacobs, I like the Bluejays’ chances to advance.

Predicted Winner: Creighton

 

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Midwest Region Bracket, TV Schedule, Sites, Announcers, Spreads

Game Matchup Date Time Location Announcers TV Spread
  FIRST ROUND            
  Vermont def Lamar 71-59 Wed, 3/15 6:40 ET Dayton Eagle-Spanarkel truTV LAM -3
  Cal v South Florida Wed, 3/15 9:05 ET Dayon Eagle-Spanarkel truTV CAL -2.5
               
  SECOND ROUND            
1 #1 North Carolina def #16 Vermont 77-58 Fri, 3/16 4:05 ET Greensboro Nantz-Kellogg TBS TBA
2 #8 Creighton def #9 Alabama 58-57 Fri, 3/16 1:40 ET Greensboro Nantz-Kellogg TBS ALA -1.5
               
3 #13 Ohio def #4 Michigan 65-60 Fri, 3/16 7:30 ET Nashville Eagle-Spanarkel TNT MICH -6
4 #12 South Florida def #5 Temple 58-44 Fri, 3/16 9:55 ET Nashville Eagle-Spanarkel TNT TBA
               
5 #2 Kansas def #15 Detroit 65-50 Fri, 3/16 9:52 ET Omaha Albert-Kerr-Sager truTV KU -15
6 #10 Purdue def #7 St. Mary's 72-59 Fri, 3/16 7:27 ET Omaha Albert-Kerr-Sager truTV PU -2
               
7 #3 Georgetown def #14 Belmont 74-59 Fri, 3/16 3:05 ET Columbus Brando-Gminski truTV GU -3.5
8 #11 NC State def #6 San Diego State 79-65 Fri, 3/16 12:40 ET Columbus Brando-Gminski truTV NCST -1.5
               
  THIRD ROUND            
9 #1 North Carolina def #8 Creighton 87-73 Sun, 3/18 5:15 ET Greensboro Nantz-Kellogg CBS  
10 #13 Ohio def #12 South Florida 62-56 Sun, 3/18 7:10 ET Nashville Eagle-Spanarkel TBS  
               
11 #2 Kansas def #10 Purdue 63-60 Sun, 3/18 8:40 ET Omaha Albert-Kerr-Sager TNT  
12 #11 NC State def #3 Georgetown 66-63 Sun, 3/18 12:15 ET Columbus Brando-Gminski CBS  
               
  SWEET 16            
13 #1 North Carolina v #13 Ohio Fri, 3/23   St. Louis     UNC -10.5
14 #2 Kansas v #11 NC State Fri, 3/23   St. Louis     KU -8
               
  ELITE 8 - REGIONAL FINAL            
15 Game 13 Winner v Game 14 Winner Sun, 3/23   St. Louis      



About Andy Bottoms

While Andy was born and raised in Indiana, he would like to point out that he grew up shooting hoops in his driveway and not against the side of a barn like you see in all the March Madness promos or in the middle of a field like Jimmy Chitwood. Andy ranks among the top bracketologists according to the Bracket Matrix and has provided his projections to Fox Sports for the past three seasons. When not compiling excuses for missing work during the NCAA Tournament, Andy enjoys spending time with his wife and two daughters. He is a proud IU graduate and co-hosts The Assembly Call postgame show following every IU game. Twitter: @AndyBottoms

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