Midwest Region Bracket Breakdown: Upset Picks, Sleeper Team, and Regional Champion Prediction

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.

Related: See Andy’s other bracket breakdowns – South | East | West

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.

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Creighton's Doug McDermott

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.

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Kendall Marshall may be the key to North Carolina emerging from the Midwest region and making another Final Four appearance. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Roza Arzola via Wikimedia Commons)

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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 the Author

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