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NCAA Tournament Bracket Breakdown: Midwest Region

by Photo of Ross Bernhardt

Wichita State and Louisville both get short ends of the stick in this loaded region.

NCAA Tournament Bracket Breakdown: Midwest Region

While March Madness technically starts today, but the play-in games don't really count in my opinion. Things aren't official until we reach the Round of 64, the real start of the tournament. To prepare for all of the action, we're going to go through each of the four regions and get you set to pick your brackets and watch all of the excitement. Let's look at the Midwest Region.

Additional Bracket Breakdowns: South - East - West

Overview

If you want controversy, look no further than the Midwest Region. Wichita State became the first team to enter the postseason undefeated since UNLV in 1991. As a reward, they get Michigan as a two seed, Duke as a three seed, defending champions Louisville as a four seed, and a third round matchup with either Kansas State or Kentucky.

Louisville also has some points of contention. The team obviously got no respect from their championship last year, and despite their strong performances of late, they were given a four seed. UMass was over-seeded as a six, and while Kentucky didn't register many big wins, they played a very tough schedule and appear to be better than an eight seed.

So because of some wacky seeding, this region is fairly wide open. Whatever team draws more motivation from all of this will likely make its way to the Final Four.

Upset Watch

As I mentioned earlier, UMass, despite a decent resume, was clearly over-seeded as a six seed. The Minutemen will face the winner of one of the play-in games: Iowa or Tennessee. I think both of those two teams will give UMass problems. Tennessee is one of the most physical defensive teams in the country, which could pose problems for a team that's only offense is letting dynamic point guard Chaz Williams create or getting out on the break off of turnovers. Iowa isn't nearly as good defensively, but they have one of the top offenses in the country. I think either way, UMass's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1998 won't be a long one.

Juiciest Potential Matchup

The potential Sweet 16 matchups are what you might expect to see in the Final Four: Wichita State vs. Louisville and Michigan vs. Duke. Those are two astounding games. The first is a rematch from the Final Four last year. The second is a rematch from the final Four two years ago and a rematch from earlier this year. You have story lines and star power jam-packed into both of these games, and the resulting matchup would probably be of equal value as well.  

Bold Prediction

I'm tipping my hand with this one, but should both teams get there, the winner of the potential Sweet 16 matchup between Wichita State and Louisville will win the National Championship. The Shockers are wholly deserving of the one seed, and I think Louisville should have been in considerations for another one seed. They might be the most dangerous four seed the tournament has ever seen, but either way, I think the title goes through these two teams. 

12 Over 5?

St. Louis is too talented, especially defensively, for either Xavier or NC State. This is the most confident I feel about a a 12/5 matchup in the entire tournament.

Potential "Bracket Buster"

Kentucky is the true wild card. A John Calipari-coached team is not your typical eight seed. Those teams don't usually features lineups as talented and as athletic as Kentucky's. The Wildcats went through more growing pains than last year's freshman-laden squad did, but they have come together to end the season. When a team can rebound the ball like Kentucky and put that much athleticism on the floor, that's enough to make things happen. 

Kentucky's four freshman starters, Julius Randle, the Harrison twins (Andrew and Aaron), and James Young all average double-figures in scoring. Sophomores Willie Cauley-Stein and Alex Poythress are tremendous defensive players with great length. It's not a terribly deep team, but Calipari and his players have grown quite a bit over the course of the season. Kentucky could 

Player To Watch: Russ Smith, Louisville

A key member of last year's national championship team, Smith is the kind of guy that can simply take over games. This Louisville team is very similar to last year's squad, but they are missing key contributors Peyton Siva, Gorgui Dieng and Chane Behanan. Smith has to be the man now for this team, and as their leading scorer for the second straight season, he's certainly done that. Smith has the pieces around him to maneuver for another repeat, and if he is up to the challenge of leading this team to where it belongs and shutting up the selection committee, now is the time to show it.

Honorable Mention: Jabari Parker, F, Duke; Fred Van Vleet, G, Wichita State; Julius Randle, F, Kentucky; Chaz Williams, G, UMass

The Pick: Louisville

It pains me to pick agains Wichita State. I so want them to succeed, but they got the rawest end of the deal from the selection committee. Louisville is just figuring itself out at the precise right time, and when you factor in the motivation they can get from this seeding, I really don't see anyone stopping Louisville and their elite balance here. They can score, they play high-pressure defense, and they have one of the best go-to guys in the country. Sorry, Wichita State. You deserved better than this.

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