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The Midwest Region is absolutely stacked, which could be considered unfair since the overall No.1 seed is in the region. The region features the Big 12 champ (Kansas), the Big Ten champion (Ohio State), the runner-up in the Big East tournament (Georgetown), the second-place team in the ACC regular-season (Maryland) and conference tournament (Georgia Tech), the only teams to beat Kansas (Tennessee, Oklahoma State), the Missouri Valley champ (Northern Iowa), and both Mountain West finalists (San Diego State, UNLV). This will not be a cakewalk by any stretch for Kansas.
Favorite: Kansas. The Jayhawks are the favorites to win the whole tournament, so they are clearly the favorite here. They lost just twice all season, on the road at Tennessee and Oklahoma State. Kansas is fantastic on both sides of the ball, with the ability to score inside and outside, while also defending two-pointers better than anyone in the country. Sherron Collins is an All-American, while Cole Aldrich is one of the top centers in the country. Xavier Henry and Marcus Morris have stepped up to become viable offensive options, and Tyshawn Taylor produces a little of everything. This team has stars, role players, X-factors (in Henry’s case, literally) – everything necessary to win it all.
Contenders: Ohio State, Georgetown. With Evan Turner healthy, Ohio State has been one of the best teams in the country. The Buckeyes bounced back from a 0-2 and 1-3 Big Ten start to win 13 of their final 14 conferences games and then the the conference tourney. They are one of the most accurate shooting teams in the country, and they are also very solid defensively. Turner is the best player in the country, bar none – he is good enough to carry OSU to the Final Four. David Lighty is the glue of this team, while Jon Diebler and William Buford are scorers. There isn’t much depth or inside scoring, but Ohio State hasn’t need either yet. Georgetown lost four of its final six and six of its last 10 league games before making a run to the Big East tournament final. The Hoyas have one of the most efficient offenses in the country, and they have the pieces to beat anyone in the country. Greg Monroe is a difficult match-up, while Austin Freeman is an absolute assassin from the perimeter. The key is Chris Wright at the point: when he is playing well, the Hoyas are that much better of a team. Like OSU, Georgetown doesn’t have a ton of depth. Maryland has shown in the ACC portion of the season that it has the chops to compete with anyone, led by Greivis Vasquez. Don't count them out.
Sleepers: Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech. Both of these teams match-up in the first round, but the winner has a chance to make a run. Oklahoma State gets up and down the court, and James Anderson is one of the best players in the country. He can put the Cowboys on his back. Keiton Page is an excellent shooter from the perimeter, while Obi Muonelo is a tough match-up for defenders. When this team is hitting its shots, look out. Georgia Tech was inconsistent throughout the season, but bounced back to make a run to the ACC Tournament final before falling to Duke. The Yellow Jackets are one of the most talented teams in the field, with two lottery picks down low in Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors. Iman Shumpert is an explosive guard, and this team has perimeter shooters to spare. Ohio State will not have an easy time with the winner of this game.
Non-BCS Teams to Watch: Northern Iowa, San Diego State. The Panthers were underseeded, receiving a No. 9 seed despite winning the Missouri Valley regular-season and conference tournament championships. They are a very solid, experienced group. The Panthers control tempo, play outstanding defense and don’t allow second chances for opponents. Offensively, they take care of the ball and knock down outside shots effectively. They do have balance, though. Forward Adam Koch and 7-0 center Jordan Eglseder form a duo up front that can battle with anyone in the country. On the perimeter, Kwadzo Ahelegbe is a solid all-around player and Ali Farokhmanesh can shoot. San Diego State made a late run, winning six of its last seven in the regular season and then winning the Mountain West tournament title. The Aztecs are primarily a half-court team that crashes the offensive glass and gets the most of its second chances. Defensively, they guard the rim and block shots. They are a balanced offensive group, with forwards Kawhi Leonard, Malcolm Thomas and Billy White all anchoring the offense. Leonard is a double-double threat every night. D.J. Gay is the main option on the perimeter.
Upset Pick: San Diego State over Tennessee. While I also have Georgia Tech beating Oklahoma State, this is the bigger upset pick. San Diego State has a host of athletic forwards that can cause problems on the glass for the Volunteers. Tennessee has been inconsistent this season, and its offense is not overly explosive outside of the occasional big game from Scotty Hopson and Wayne Chism. If the Aztecs can take care of the ball at the point, they should be able to dominate the paint and beat the Vols.
Top Five Players (only one per team):
- 1. Evan Turner, Ohio State
- 2. Greivis Vasquez, Maryland
- 3. Sherron Collins, Kansas
- 4. James Anderson, Oklahoma State
- 5. Greg Monroe, Georgetown
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