Let’s dispense of one part of the Midwest region, for all those filling college basketball picks for brackets, there is no surer choice maybe ever, than unbeaten Kentucky moving to the Final Four.
There are cases to be made with sports picks on the betting odds that the Wildcats will not go 4-0 against the sportsbooks odds, but lose before Indianapolis, that’s about as likely as Charlie Sheen having dinner with Two and a Half Men creator Chuck Lorre.
Round 2 Winners to Advance
Besides Kentucky, look for Purdue to knock off Cincinnati in a very low-scoring game. Both teams are very good defensively, but I see the Boilermakers have more way to score than the Bearcats.
On the same side of the bracket, No. 4 Maryland will have too much size and athleticism for Valparaiso, though I could imagine the Crusaders covering the spread. Of the 5 vs. 12 upset possibilities I see this region having the best chance with Buffalo over West Virginia. Though the MAC’s recent history in this tournament is poor, the Bulls can play fast and have scored 75 points a game and as we saw in winning the MAC conference title, they have finishers, which is imperative against West Virginia’s defense. With Juwan Staten not 100 percent, take Buffalo. No. 2 Kansas and No. 3 Notre Dame both move on and the Jayhawks are likely to have a very intriguing matchup with Wichita State, who has the defense on the perimeter to defeat Indiana, who was questionable to get in. Thought Butler has the higher basketball IQ, Texas has the better skill and coming out of the Big 12 should be a plus for them. I’ll lean with Longhorns to quiet the critics, at least for a game.
Round 3 Winners to Sweet 16
John Calipari’s crew polishes off Purdue and heads to Cleveland where it will feel like home games for Big Blue. Buffalo will find Maryland’s guards too tough to contain and will become Kentucky’s next victim. Kansas and Wichita State is fascinating matchup, with the Shockers finally getting chance to meet their in-state partner. (Hard to call rival since Kansas will not schedule them.) Both teams will genuinely be fired up but the NCAA Basketball odds will favor the Jayhawks who have the edge up front and move on.
When preparing my NCAA Basketball picks, I forecast Texas presenting problems for the Fighting Irish but the difference is basketball smarts and maturity. Mike Brey’s squad will spread the Horns defense out, make three’s, drive to the rim, which sends Notre Dame forward.
Who Plays for the Championship in Cleveland?
Too much of everything for Maryland to cope with Kentucky, from their immense size in the frontcourt and with how big the Harrison brothers are in the backcourt, they can negate the Terps fine guards.
Though Kansas deserves a lot of credit for having such a fine record playing the toughest schedule in the country, as a college basketball handicapper who watches a ton of games, in all of their losses, different players have disappeared in hard moments. Against a team as driven and together as Notre Dame, Jerian Grant and Pat Connaughton will get another monkey of Notre Dame’s back and move on to play Kentucky.
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And the Winner of Midwest Region is….
It would be fun (unless you are a Kentucky fan) to think the Irish could legitimately play with the Wildcats and make a game of it. And Notre Dame has characteristics that could present issues for Big Blue, namely making 3’s a high rate and beating them down the floor on fast breaks.
But seeing nobody has found the winning formula to overcome their length and talent, unless Notre Dame makes north of a dozen deep shots and shoots around 60 percent, Kentucky as presumed forges ahead (-150 odds to win NCAA Tournament from YouWager).