Breaking Down the Brackets: Midwest Region
1 Kansas Jayhawks:
Kansas is the best team in the country and my pick to win the entire tournament. They have a good balance of veteran players like Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich (who also make up a great point guard-center combo) with young studs like Xavier Henry and Tyshawn Taylor. They can score from the inside and outside and do an excellent job on the defensive end. Kansas is also a very deep team, the Morris brothers give them size inside and Morningstar and Reed give them depth on the perimeter.
The Jawhawks have been close for a number of years now, but this could be the year they go all the way. They have a tough overall bracket to get through, but have the size and talent to do so. In an ironic twist, the Jayhawks lost only two games all season, and both of those teams (Tennessee and Oklahoma State) are somehow in their region. Kansas will have no trouble in Round 1 and easily knock off 16 Leigh.
2 Ohio State:
The Buckeyes have the best player in the nation in G-F Evan Turner, and he should lead them on good tournament run. Turner reminds me a lot of Dwyane Wade, and will need to carry Ohio State on his back like Wade did for Marquette in 2003. Ohio State has some good secondary pieces around Turner, in guards Buford, Lighty, and Diebler, but none of them can take over a game to take the pressure off Turner. If another team can find a way to slow down Turner, than Ohio State is in trouble. If Turner can be a weapon, then he sets up everyone else and makes them all better.
Ohio State’s biggest problem is their lack of size. While their guards have excellent size for guards they are all really guards, with ET being the lone exception. Turner can play just about anything, he leads the team in points, rebounds, assists and steals, and is the 2nd leading shot blocker. That lack of size and interior presence will present problems for Ohio State as the tournament progresses. Right now though they are an easy favorite over UC Santa Barbra.
Rest of the Match-ups:
3 Georgetown over 14 Ohio: Georgetown lost some head scratchers this season, but also won some big games. Talent is never the Hoyas problem, staying in their game and playing consistent basketball is. Hoyas should have no problems knocking off Ohio and head into the 2nd round.
4 Maryland over 13 Houston: Maryland might not have played in as dominate of a conference as the ACC has been in the past, but they were easily the 2nd best team and faced their share of high level competition. While the Terps lack the overall team to go deep into this tournament, they will win this game easily.
5 Michigan State over New Mexico State: Usually the 5-12 match up is one where we see some upsets, but don’t look for it in this region. The Spartans were last year’s runner-up and have the experience and talent to do some damage in the first few rounds. Michigan State usually plays their best basketball come March, and I’d expect the same thing this year.
6 Tennessee over 11 San Diego State: This game is an upset favorite for a lot of people out there, but I think Tennessee can win this game. It will be a tough match-up, but I like the Volunteers. Tennessee is a team that beat not only Kansas this year, but Kentucky as well, so you know they have the talent to play with anyone. I also don’t see Bruce Pearl losing in the first round of the Tournament, he’s too good of a coach and gets the most out of his players.
7 Oklahoma State over 10 Georgia Tech: This is another game people are looking at for an upset, but I like the Cowboys over the Yellow Jackets in this one. Georgia Tech has some great talent on their roster, including a few guys who will be playing in the NBA next season, but they don’t play well enough as a team for me to give them the nod in this game. Tech is far too inconsistent and gives up way too many points from the perimeter. That 2nd issue will come back to haunt them in this game because OK State lives on the 3-point line. James Anderson is one of the most underrated players in the country and a fantastic scorer. He will give the Jackets more than they can handle and send the Cowboys into the 2nd round.
8 UNLV over 9 Northern Iowa: Yes, that’s right, I don’t believe a single low seed will advance past the first round. UNLV isn’t a great team, but they have enough to hold off a fun Northern Iowa squad. I look for this game to be close, but UNLV to have too much size and strength for Northern Iowa to handle.