Midwest Region Breakdown

  1. North Carolina
  2. Kentucky
  3. Houston
  4. Kansas

Sleeper team to win: Houston Cougars

Houston enters the Midwest region as the #3 seed but seems to be overlooked in a region full of bluebloods Kansas, North Carolina and Kentucky. Houston losing to Cincinnati in the American Conference Championship game is the last thought we have of the Cougars, but this team is legit.  Winning their conference regular season championship while also having non-conference victories over Utah State, LSU and Oregon (with Bol Bol).  Houston has a legit star in Corey Davis Jr. and a veteran coach in Kelvin Sampson.  They are also very deep, playing 9 players over 20 minutes per game.   A potential third round matchup with the offensive minded Iowa State and Kentucky will make their road difficult but being a upperclassman lead team will put them in great shape to make a run.

Potential first round upset: New Mexico State over Auburn

Auburn is riding high after their dominate victory over Tennessee in the SEC Championship game.  They now have to face a New Mexico State team that has quietly been playing some of the best basketball in the country. New Mexico State has not lost since January 3rd and ran through their conference tournament dominating Grand Canyon in the final 89-57. 

Auburn has great talent but they rely a lot on the three ball, they will also be traveling to Salt Lake City which will force them to deal with the elevation change. New Mexico State has experience playing in that atmosphere.  Bruce Pearl’s team cannot look past the Aggies, if they do they will be ripe for the upset.

Who will win: Kentucky

A fully healthy Kentucky team has shown what they can do on the national scene. The Wildcats have a strong leader in Reid Travis and have seen great development from Ashton Hagans and Tyler Herro. The potential matchup with North Carolina would be an epic battle between two teams that can easily see themselves winning it all.  The advantage I see for the Wildcats is their depth.  This bracket is the most competitive and will feature some great matchups.

Second Round Picks:

North Carolina

Utah State

New Mexico State

Kansas

Iowa State

Houston

Seton Hall

Kentuck

Sweet 16 Picks: Part 3

5 Kentucky Wildcats(-6) vs. 9 Kansas St. Wildcats (-6)

The Wildcat region has its second Wildcat matchup of the region, just not the one we thought we would get.  Kentucky sits as the favorite remaining in the bracket,  a team full of freshman is now the favorites. While they sit as the favorites they can’t loo past a battle tested Big 12  Kansas State team.

Kansas State played the role of midnight on the Cinderella of the tournament UMBC thanks to a Bryce Brown and Xavier Sneed.  Leading scorer Dean Wade had to watch as his teammates pulled out a grinding victory over the upstart Retrievers. Kansas State’s perimeter defense will have to repeat its performance of the first round holding down a offensive heavy Creighton team.  The purple Wildcats will look to keep the more athletic Kentucky team out of the lane.  Their 20th ranked defense will have to play at that level, especially if All-Big12 Selection Dean Wade is still not able to play, Kansas State will be challenged on the offensive end.

The biggest individual reason for Kentucky’s surge has been the rise to prominence of freshman Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.  SGA has been a swiss army knife for the young Kentucky squad  averaging 18 points 5 rebounds and 4 assists per game during their current win streak. The scary part about this Kentucky team is that he may not even be the best player on the floor, freshman Kevin Knox, a potential lottery pick still has the ability to take over a game at any point.

Kentucky opens this game as a 6 point favorite, with their current hot streak and the potential injury problem for Wade this number makes sense.  Wade has come out recently saying barring any setbacks he will play in the Sweet 16.  If Wade plays the entire game changes.  If he plays I see K-Sate covering the 6 points and even winning outright over a young Kentucky team that has limited range.

 Kansas State +6 (Lean Kentucky if Wade can’t play)