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NCAA Tournament Bracket Breakdown: Midwest

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Louisville earned the overall number one seed but were rewarded with maybe the most difficult region.

NCAA Tournament Bracket Breakdown: Midwest

March Madness really begins tomorrow when the Round of 64 kicks off with 16 games. Before that, we have to wait through the First Four games and continue to fret over our brackets. Before the NCAA Tournament really kicks off, we'll take a look at each region of the bracket and then go through pick by pick until we find a winner. Let's start with the Midwest Region.

Overview:

Louisville earned the top overall seed in the tournament with their strong push to end the year. The Cardinals are playing some of their best basketball of the year, riding a 10-game win streak into the big dance. However, the selection committee did Louisville zero favors with their draw. Duke winds up as a two seed in this region, Michigan State ends up as a three, and red-hot Saint Louis is the four. Those are three incredibly talented teams that could all give Louisville should they meet. 

The rest of the region is littered with solid teams like Oklahoma State, Creighton, Colorado State and Saint Mary's (who won their play-in game). Even 12-seed Oregon just won the Pac-12 Tournament. Seven teams in the region occupy the top 20 of Ken Pomeroy's rankings (with two more in the top 25). This will certainly be the most difficult region a number one seed has to navigate.

Upset Lock:

I feel much better about this pick now that St. Mary's has won, but I am not a huge fan of this Memphis team. Matthew Dellavedova is a gamer and that entire St. Mary's squad, even without Jordan Page, is incredibly solid. Memphis is a very good team, don't get me wrong. I just have a funny feeling about Josh Pastner's not being able to get it done against an experienced St. Mary's squad that features many members of last year's Sweet 16 team. They are 3-3 against RPI top-50 teams, and all three of those wins came against Southern Miss. This isn't to say St. Mary's has a better resume, but I think Memphis might be a touch overrated.

Juiciest Potential Matchup:

I think that Louisville versus either of these teams would be extremely juicy, but this one is almost certainly destined to happen: Michigan State vs. Duke in the Sweet 16. Tom Izzo vs. Mike Krzyzewski that early in the tournament is a shame, but it's also something to salivate over. Izzo's teams are traditionally strong come tournament time, and even though they are still trying to figure things out with Ryan Kelly back, Duke still looks like one of the top teams in the nation. This is a Final Four-caliber matchup that we get treated to on the second weekend of the tournament. Lucky us.

Bold Prediction: 

I'm betting big on the Atlantic-10 in this year's tournament, and nowhere is that bet larger than in the Midwest. I am taking Saint Louis over Louisville in the Sweet 16. The Billikens are a team that might not be on a lot of radars even though they won the A-10 regular season and tournament titles, own three wins over Butler, two over VCU and a convincing one over New Mexico, and are as balanced a team as they come. 

Louisville looks as good as it gets right now, but in the tournament weird things happen. I think Saint Louis is a team that is incredibly well prepared to handle the ebbs and flows of these games, and they are going to pull off this stunner against the consensus favorite.

12 over 5?

You need to look out for the 12 over 5 upset every year in college basketball. It happens almost without fail and these games can sometimes make or break your bracket. Will it happen in the Midwest Region?

I say yes. Oklahoma State, with dynamic freshman point guard Marcus Smart and a solid cast, face a very difficult 12 seed in Pac-12 tournament champion Oregon. These are two teams that are almost evenly matched, and both have underrated defenses. 

Potential "Bracket Buster": 

Creighton and St. Mary's both have the firepower to shake things up. Both teams are tough, filled with veteran players, and feature star players that can make things happen. I don't foresee either making deep runs, but if a team were to pull a VCU/Butler-like run from this region, my money is on one of these two.

Player to Watch:

Creighton's Doug McDermott is a legitimate Player of the Year candidate, and there is good reason for this. He is second in the nation in scoring at 23 points a game and can do it in a wide variety of ways. McDermott can post you up, face up, take you off the dribble and stretch it out to three (49.7% on the season). McDermott is a treat to watch, and they don't come much better than him.

Honorable Mention: Ryan Kelly, Duke

The Pick: Michigan State

I've learned from my past that it's unwise to bet against Tom Izzo come when it comes to the NCAA Tournament. Just when you think the Spartans are finally going to crap out early, Izzo leads his team to the Final Four. He's got another tough squad this year that can score and defend ably on the perimeter and in the paint. Freshman Gary Harris is banged up, but his teammates should be able to pick him up. It will obviously help MSU's cause if Louisville bows out like I think they might, but this team is talented enough to get Izzo back to the Final Four again.

Don't miss out on the madness! Let CHARGED.fm get you tickets to see the 2013 NCAA Tournament!


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