Today I break down the Midwest region which is home to the overall No. 1 seed in the Tournament, Louisville.
Most Intriguing Game: Ohio State vs. Siena - There are a lot of interesting games in this region but I went with the Cinderella Saints taking on the surging Buckeyes. Siena has top level talent led by Kenny Hasbrouck and Alex Franklin. They also played the toughest schedule in the nation this year. The Saints battled heavyweights Tennessee, Oklahoma State, Pitt and Kansas. However, Siena lost all of those games. The Buckeyes come in hot, winners of five of their last seven games. This game features an explosive offensive team in Siena (77.7 PPG) against a stout defensive squad in the Buckeyes (61.6 PPG). The Saints won't be afraid of OSU but whether or not they can pull the upset remains to be seen.
Potential Blowout: West Virginia over Dayton - Truth be told, it was hard for me to pick a blowout in this region. The Midwest has the best set of first round games in my opinion. But I could see this game possibly being an easy win for West Virginia. Dayton plays great defense but they are one of the most offensively inept teams in the Tournament. Because of that things could turn ugly if the Flyers have one of their long scoring droughts. This game could end up being like the UNLV/Kent matchup from a year ago when the MAC champions couldn't hit a shot in the first half and got blown off the floor. For those of you who haven't seen West Virginia play don't be surprised if they make a run in this tournament. They don't have many stars but the Mountaineers play well as a team.
Possible Upset: Cleveland State over Wake Forest - The Demon Deacons couldn't have gotten a worse draw. What a terrible matchup for a young Wake Forest team. Cleveland State is like a fly buzzing around that's impossible to kill. The Vikings slow the game down to a snail's pace and allow just 59.8 PPG. That could really frustrate a young Wake team that likes to get out and run. The Deacs have a big advantage in size down low so if Cleveland State is cold from the field, they won't get many second chance opportunities. Wake Forest is loaded with talent and may end up in the Final Four but this is a very dangerous first round draw for the Demon Deacons.
Overrated: Kansas - Bill Self did an amazing job with this young Jayhawks team. But I think they are overrated because the Big 12 was really down this year. Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich give KU a nice 1-2 scoring punch but the Jayhawks struggle at times when that third scorer doesn't step up. And while Kansas has a good defense by the numbers, they really had trouble stopping people late in the year. The Jayhawks will be an elite team once again in 2010 but this year the defending champs could be exiting the Tournament early.
Sleeper: Boston College - This isn't a homer pick, I just really the make-up of this Eagles team. I'm big on guard play and I think the combination of Tyrese Rice and Rakim Sanders can take the Eagles a long way. BC shoots the ball extremely well but they need to play better on the defensive end if they are going to make a deep run in the Tournament. The Eagles have proven they can play with elite teams by beating both North Carolina and Duke. Rice is one of those players who can put a team on his back and if BC gets by USC in the first round I think they can do some damage.
Possible Cinderella - North Dakota State: I already mentioned that Cleveland State has a shot to pull the upset but another team to watch is North Dakota State. The Bison can flat out shoot the basketball, ranking third in the country in field goal percentage and fifth in scoring. They have a star player in Ben Woodside, who scored 23 PPG during the regular season. I already stated above that Kansas has had problems stopping people late in the year. If the Jayhawks continue to allow open looks, North Dakota State has the shooters to take advantage of that and pull the upset.
Fright Night's Midwest Region Winner: Louisville - I have to go with the Cards here. Until recently they haven't gotten the respect they deserve for what they did in the Big East this year. The Cards are sound in every phase of the game and have one of the best coaches in the country. I'm going with the 'Ville to come out of this region and cut down the nets in Detroit.
I agree with you Virginia. This was the toughest region for to fill out. The more I look it at, the more I think West Virginia can do some serious damage. But soon the guessing will be over with. We tip it off tomorrow for good!
I agree about Mich State. I penciled in one bracket that had them losing to BC, but then noticed that I had them in the Final Four in an earlier bracket. And I can also see them surviving BC, but falling to WV.
Some teams (coaches?) seem to thrive in the tournament atmosphere, despite an uneven regular season, & I think MSU def. fits the bill.
The more I look at the Midwest, the more I think that L-ville could end up falling to any number of teams... Wake, WV, BC, Mich State? That corner of the bracket looks tougher to me than the West, so I feel that the winner of the West could have a slight advantage over whoever survives the Midwest.
Thanks Virginia and Simon. I appreciate it. Virginia, MSU is one of those teams I don't have a great handle on. Personally I can see them going down in Round 2 to either USC or BC. But then it wouldn't surprise me if they made the Final 4 either. I don't like the team per say but I do have a tremendous amount of respect for Tom Izzo and coaching can take you a long way this time of year.
Good stuff, FN ... looks right to me. I'm showing Wake covering, but am frankly looking for a better bet for my Friday card.
I enjoyed your analysis, although I noticed you ducked out of discussing Mich State. Looking forward to reading a post on the South side o'the bracket.