We are going region by region looking at the Thursday/Friday matchups and talking about some of the main storylines and what you can expect from the region as a whole.
Today we finish up with the Midwest Region.
#1 Wichita State (KP Ranks - Ovr: 5, Off: 9, Def: 10) vs #16 Cal Poly (Ovr: 166, Off: 183, Def: 169)
Friday 3/21 6:10pm CDT in St Louis, MO
Is this really worth talking about?
#8 Kentucky (Ovr: 16, Off: 19, Def: 29) vs #9 Kansas State (Ovr: 43, Off: 111, Def: 24)
Friday 3/21 approx 8:40pm CDT in St Louis, MO
I'm just going to come out and say it: I'm guaranteeing a win by the Wildcats.... This just seems like a toss up to me, since Kentucky is more talented, but is much more a hot and cold team. Ultimately, I'm taking Kentucky, but I wouldn't really be surprised by a K-State win.
#5 Saint Louis (KP Ranks - Ovr: 34, Off: 175, Def: 8) vs #12 NC State (Ovr: 53, Off: 22, Def: 123)
Thursday 3/20 6:20pm CDT in Orlando, FL
St Louis has the better and more consistent team here, but they don't have a player that can take over the game like Warren can. The numbers are close enough that I'm confident he can make the difference.
#4 Louisville (Ovr: 2, Off: 10, Def: 6) vs #13 Manhattan (Ovr: 65, Off: 143, Def: 42)
Thursday 3/20 approx 8:50pm CDT in Orlando, FL
I don't necessarily agree with how high Louisville is rated, but the talent disparity is enough here that I just can't see a win by the Jaspers.
#6 Massachusetts (KP Ranks - Ovr: 50, Off: 96, Def: 44) vs #11 Tennessee (Ovr: 11, Off: 27, Def: 14)
Friday 3/21 approx 1:45pm in Raleigh, NC
This is another case similar to Pitt. Tennessee is a really good team that didn't have a lot of chances to rack up quality wins in conference due to the unbalanced schedule, but they are actually a really solid team. Massachusetts is on the decline. All this adds up to a comfortable Tennessee win.
#3 Duke (Ovr: 6, Off: 2, Def: 98) vs #14 Mercer (Ovr: 95, Off: 109, Def: 109)
Friday 3/21 11:15am CDT in Raleigh, NC
I love picking against Duke. But I love picking correctly in my bracket even more, and I just can't pick Duke to lose to a team that is ranked so low on both aspects of the game.
#7 Texas (KP Ranks - Ovr: 37, Off: 79, Def: 37) vs #10 Arizona State (Ovr: 46, Off: 101, Def: 31)
Thursday 3/20 approx 8:40pm CDT in Milwaukee, WI
So this game pairs a fairly consistent Sun Devil team against a Texas team that just can't decide whether they want to be really good or downright awful.
That being said, Texas is the better overall team, and there won't be a huge crowd advantage for ASU, so I don't see Rick Barnes' team getting rattled, at least until they play Michigan on Saturday.
#2 Michigan (Ovr: 15, Off: 3, Def: 110) vs #15 Wofford (Ovr: 181, Off: 235, Def: 126)
Thursday 3/20 6:10pm CDT in Milwaukee, WI
Nothing to see here at all. Michigan rolls.
Most Likely First-Game Upset: #11 Tennessee over #6 Massachusetts
This just looks like a completely one-sided affair, and I'm not sure I'd call this an upset by anything other than seeding.
Low-Seeded (Outside Top 4) Runner: #11 Tennessee
Kentucky would likely be the popular pick here, but Tennessee has a dream path here. After Massachusetts, they have Duke, whose defense is pretty bad, and I see Tennessee's balance getting them to the Sweet 16. Michigan has the same sort of problem, but the run will end in the Elite 8.
Final Four Pick: Wichita State over Tennessee
The real championship game for the region will be 1 round prior against Louisville, but I see WSU having the poise and confidence needed to weather the storm against a talented Louisville team.