The NCAA Tournament Midwest is unquestionably the toughest of the four regions. There are three teams that advanced to the “Final Four” a season ago participating in this portion of the bracket. The Louisville Cardinals (29-5) are the defending national champion and they’re seeded 4th, which clearly indicates the depth in the Midwest. The Wichita State Shockers (34-0) are the #1 seed, and they lost to Louisville in the national semifinal a season ago. Then there’s the Big 10 regular season champ Michigan (25-8) seeded #2, and they lost in the 2013 National Championship game. The top 4 seeds are rounded out by the #3 Duke Blue Devils (26-8) who will play the first 2 rounds in Raleigh, North Carolina, which is virtually a pair of home games.
Beware of the #12 versus the #5
In a bracket that’s so top heavy, it would be hard to imagine any team other than the top 4 seeds advancing to the Final Four, but that’s why it’s called March Madness. If you have followed the NCAA Tournament over the years, then you’re aware that the #5 versus #12 first round game has produced its share of upsets. We have the potential to see the same in this season’s Midwest Regional.
St. Louis on High Alert
One of the more intriguing first round games in this region will be between the #5 seed St. Louis versus the winner of the play-in game between NC State and Xavier game. St. Louis was the regular season champion of the Atlantic 10, who by the way had 6 teams receive bids to the NCAA Tournament. They do have a stellar 26-6 record, but limp into the postseason having lost 4 of the last 5, and were beaten by St. Bonaventure in the quarterfinals of their conference tournament.
T.J. Warren is a One Man Wrecking Crew
NC State (21-13) finished the season strong by winning 4 of their last 5, with their only loss coming in the ACC Tourney semifinals to Duke in a closely contested 75-67 setback. The Wolfpack owns wins this season over NCAA Tourney teams Syracuse, Pittsburgh, and Tennessee. They’re led by the ACC Player of the Year T.J. Warren who averages 24.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Warren is capable of taking a game over, and will be a potential matchup problem for St. Louis, if the Wolfpack are fortunate enough to advance.
Musketeers Pride and Tradition
The Xavier Musketeers (21-12) have built a rich tradition of NCAA Tournament success over the last decade. Xavier has gone 18-6-2 ATS in their last 26 NCAA Tournament games. This season’s team will look to add another page in their archives of this proud basketball program. The Musketeers are shooting 47.1% from the field on the year which is good for 41st best in the country. The Musketeers own wins this season versus NCAA Tournament teams Tennessee, Cincinnati, Providence, and Creighton.
Serious Sleeper Possibility
The one team that has the potential to pull a monumental first round upset in this region is the Mercer Bears. The Bears are the winners of the Atlantic Sun regular season and conference tournament championships. In case you forgot, this is the same conference that gave us Florida Gulf Coast a season ago, and all they did was make it to the “Sweet 16”. If indeed they were able to pull the first round shocker, it certainly won’t be easy, versus a Duke Blue Devils team that will be playing in very close proximity to their campus. This is a Mercer team that owns wins this season over both Mississippi and Seton Hall, in addition to giving Texas all they can handle in Austin before losing 76-73. The Bears enter the tournament having won 21 of their last 25-games, and are a dynamic offensive team. If Duke doesn’t bring their “A-Game” they will get all they can handle from this upstart program. The game is slated for Friday in Raleigh, North Carolina with the opening tip at 12:15 PM ET. According to NCAA Tournament betting odds Duke is a 13.0 point favorite in the contest.
All the Makings of True to Form
If any of the 4 regions has a strong chance to have the top 4 seeds in the regional semifinals it’s the Midwest. The books obviously agree with the general consensus of Louisville being dropped down to a #4 seed was a bit of a mystery. According to NCAA betting odds the #4 seeded Cardinals are the favorite to win this regional at +125. The rest of the Midwest Regional Odds are listed below.
- Wichita State +400
- Michigan +650
- Duke +300
- St. Louis +2200
- Massachusetts +4000
- Texas +3800
- Kentucky +800
- Kansas State +4000
- Arizona State +5000
- Iowa +3000
- Tennessee +3000
- NC State +4500
- Xavier +7000
- The Field (Manhattan, Mercer, Wofford, Cal Poly, and Texas Southern) +5000
Ross’ Favorite: Louisville +125
Ross’ Best Value: Wichita State +400Ross’ Legitimate Long Shot: Kentucky +800