Kansas gained the top seed in the Midwest, while Louisville is the two seed. Known commodities who had down years such as Michigan State lurk as well as “hot” teams like Iowa State and Michigan are in this region as well. Here is my take on the Midwest.
Rhode Island: Preseason Top 25 team with some injury issues early on in the season. They are now healthy and are playing well, winners of eight straight games. Tough game in round one against Creighton.
Michigan: Talk about a team that has hit stride, 8-2 in their last ten games. They have beaten SMU, Purdue and Wisconsin twice, as well as Minnesota. John Beilein is a tournament-proven coach who has coached in a national title game. Good mix of youth and old guys.
Purdue: Really like their team with improved point guard play and Caleb Swanigan, but it troubles me that they have only one top 50 win over a non-Big 10 team. I don’t think they are sorely overvalued, but I feel that we might not have as much faith in the Boilermakers as the 4 seed would suggest.
Michigan State: 14 losses, and you are a nine seed? Again, I don’t have an issue of them being in necessarily, played a good schedule, but they did have some bad losses (Northeastern, Michigan (by 29).
Best First Round Game: Michigan vs Oklahoma State. Good matchup of guards with Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin vs Juwan Evans and Phil Forte. Oklahoma State can score averaging 85.5 points per game, they also lead the country in offensive efficiency. Michigan has two young, talented big D.J. Walton and Moritz Wagner. Can Okie State find ways to string together stops, something they have had trouble doing this season. Is Michigan “gassed” from their exciting run in the Big 10 tourney?
Player to Watch: Donovan Mitchell, Louisville. Mitchell is the key cog for the Cardinals’ offense averaging 16 points per game. The problem is he has hit a shooting slump as of late, shooting 10-38 in his last three games. Louisville lost two of those games. He needs to get his “stroke” back if the Cards are to advance far. They can beat anyone in the country if Mitchell is shooting the ball well.
Possible Upsets: Nevada over Iowa State, Iowa State is on a high after winning the Big 12 tournament, but Nevada can match the Cyclones “small-ball” philosophy with Cameron Oliver. Watch for guard Marcus Marshall as well, averaging close to 20 points per game for the Wolfpack. A lot of points possibly in this one.