This is arguably the toughest region which Louisville Cardinals fans might be upset about considering their team earned the No. 1 overall seed. The top four seeds are dangerous and the region is filled with upset potential. Here’s a brief summation of the Midwest Region before you hit submit on your bracket.
- Louisville– There was a point in the season when this Louisville team was struggling. After the nail biter loss at home against Syracuse, they proceeded to lose another two consecutive games against Villanova and Georgetown. They have returned to form and have reeled off 10 straight wins that ended with the Big East Championship. This is probably the most talented starting five in the nation. Unlike another talented starting five in Florida, Louisville plays like it. The composure the Cardinals showed in the Big East Championship rallying from 16 down to beat Syracuse proved that they have the leadership and experience to make a Final Four run.
- Duke– The Blue Devils are clearly a better team with Ryan Kelly, but their terrible outing in the ACC Tournament against Maryland made everyone skeptical about how they will fair in the tourney. The fact that Duke’s three best players are seniors definitely helps them, but the sporadic play of Mason Plumlee in big games concerns me. Unless they all can be at the top of their game, I don’t think they will have a good chance of making the Final Four.
- Michigan State– Tom Izzo always gets the most out of his teams in March and I don’t think it will be different this year. They are both strong in guard play and in the post. The Spartans are also the team that will match up the best against Louisville. The speed of the Spartans’ Keith Appling could give Peyton Siva fits and the combination of Derrick Nix and Adreian Payne could combat Gorgui Dieng.
- Saint Louis– The Billikens have secretly been really good. They dominated conference play in the Atlantic 10, losing only three games and running through the conference tournament. They also beat New Mexico in non-conference. I don’t think they have the talent to get past Louisville, but no one also thought they’d be where they are right now.
The Starting Five
- G: Peyton Siva (Louisville)- 10.0 PPG, 5.9 APG
His stats don’t do his importance justice. The way he can penetrate and dish to the open man make the Cardinals undeniably better. His leadership skills also cannot be put down of paper.
- G: Marcus Smart (Oklahoma State)- 15.4 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 4.2 APG, 2.9 SPG
Smart is hands down the Freshman of the Year and his size is something that most point guards can’t handle. He can be the sole reason that the Cowboys can make a run.
- G: Sean Kilpatrick (Cincinnati)- 16.9 PPG, 5.2 RPG
Cincinnati lives and dies with the performance of Kilpatrick. His 4 points in Georgetown’s annihilation of them in the Big East Quarterfinals is the perfect example. When he is hot though, Cincinnati is a dangerous team.
- F: Ryan Kelly (Duke)- 14.3 PPG, 5.4 RPG, .486 3P%
Kelly presence is so crucial because it helps the Blue Devils stretch the floor which leads to open threes, the lifeblood of Duke’s offense. Also whenever Seth Curry is struggling, they can rely on Kelly to knock down open shots.
- F: Doug McDermott (Creighton)- 23.1 PPG, 7.5 RPG
McDermott is one of the finalists for Player of the Year and has one of the most versatile games for a big man. He is lights out from three, shooting 50%. He also has a wide range of post moves, which makes up for his lack of athleticism.
- Saint Mary’s– The lone reason that Saint Mary’s could win their first round game is because of Matthew Dellavedova. Dellavedova has plenty of tournament experience as a senior and has even more experience by playing against Team USA in the most recent Olympics. The speed of college point guards is nothing compared to defending Russell Westbrook. Memphis relies on its athletic guards, but I think Dellavedova could be the guy to shut them down and move on.
- Oregon– The Ducks are probably frustrated with their seeding. Let’s compare them with their Pac-12 counterparts UCLA. Oregon finished 26-8, UCLA finished 25-9. Oregon’s best non-conference was UNLV (No. 5 seed), UCLA’s best non-conference win was Missouri (No. 9) in overtime. Lastly, Oregon beat UCLA pretty handedly in the Pac-12 Championship. Yet UCLA received a 6-seed while Oregon received a 12-seed. The Ducks are coming in underestimated and Oklahoma State may be game planning for a team that’s better than they think they are.
My Final Four Pick: Louisville
Louisville won the Big East last year and proceeded to the Final Four. Connecticut won the Big East the year before and they went all the way to win the Championship. There is a reason this pattern exists. Playing at least three games against teams in the best conference builds momentum heading into the tournament. Peyton Siva and Louisville will continue with the trend.