Perennial powers North Carolina and Kansas earned the top two seeds in the Midwest region, but it may well be the easiest one of the four.
First Round Matchup I’m Looking Forward To: #8 Creighton vs. #9 Alabama
This is a classic prolific offense versus stingy defense matchup that should provide an interesting contrast in styles.
Led by 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, I like the Bluejays’ chances to advance.
Second Round Matchup I’d Like to See: #1 North Carolina vs. #8 Creighton
Look, I love great defense as much as the next guy, but I think this game would be high-scoring and wildly entertaining.
There would be a great point guard matchup between Kendall Marshall and Antoine Young, and you could add in the storyline that Harrison Barnes and Doug McDermott played on the same high school team.
What’s not to like?
First Round Upset I’m Picking: #11 North Carolina State over #6 San Diego State
I’m still not convinced the Wolfpack actually deserve to be in the tournament, but I do like their first round matchup.
C.J. Leslie has been fantastic of late, 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, although I am admittedly hesitant to pick against Jamaal Franklin.
First Round Upset I’m Avoiding: #12 California/South Florida over #5 Temple
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, and quality veteran backcourt play is always key in March. 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.
First Top Four Seed to Lose: #3 Georgetown
I wouldn’t be shocked to see all four top seeds make it through the first weekend, but I’ll throw Georgetown in this category based on a tough first round matchup against Belmont. I didn’t have the stones to list it as my upset pick above, but if the Bruins can get the game’s pace where they want it, they have a chance to spring the early upset.
The other team I considered was Michigan, who could have some trouble with Temple in round two.
Sleeper Team: #5 Temple
How was that for a segue?
In Ramone Moore, Khalif Wyatt, and Juan Fernandez, the Owls have three veteran guards, all of whom shoot well from long range. Micheal Eric gives them an imposing presence on the glass and in the lane, and none of their first few opponents would truly be able to take advantage of their relative lack of size inside. Michigan would certainly be beatable in the second round if the Wolverines aren’t hitting from long range.
Midwest Regional Champion: #1 North Carolina
I’m not saying the Tar Heels have a cakewalk to the Elite Eight, but I really don’t see anyone at the top of the bracket knocking them off. If things hold true to form they would face Kansas in the regional final, and I think the combination of Tyler Zeller and John Henson would be able to slow Thomas Robinson just enough to advance to New Orleans.
You also can’t underestimate the impact of an elite point guard, and Kendall Marshall is just that, which makes UNC the clear favorite to emerge from the Midwest.
Midwest Region Bracket, TV Schedule, Sites, Announcers, Spreads
|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|
|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|
|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|
|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|