Warning: I will not be responsible if you copy these brackets and are out of your NCAA Tournament pool by Sunday. However, if you do listen to my college basketball wisdom and win some money, I want 20% of the pot or at least a shout-out on your twitter or facebook page.
Louisville earned the number one overall seed in the entire tourney and is the top seed in the Midwest Regional. With Duke and Michigan State in the region as well, it won’t be an easy ride to the Final Four for the Cardinals.
Midwest Regional Overview:
Besides getting the top seed, Louisville also has a major home state advantage in the first two rounds getting to play in Lexington. How about the coaches in this regional; Rick Pitino, Mike Krzyzewski, and Tom Izzo. The one coach who deserves more credit than any of those three this season is Jim Crews of St. Louis who took over right before the season began due to Rick Majerus’ health issues. The Billikens have played incredible this season, honoring the late Coach Majerus as they swept the A-10 regular season and conference tournament titles. Memphis and Creighton are other “mid-major” teams in this bracket who won both league crowns.
Most Intriguing Midwest Regional First Round Game: #5 Oklahoma State vs. #12 Oregon
This was one of the most shocking seeds during the Selection Show when the 26-8 Ducks, who just won the Pac-12 Tournament were given a 12 seed. Their resume wasn’t great (47 RPI, 101 SOS according to CBSSports.com) but a 12 is really low and provides the Cowboys with a tough opening round match-up. The Ducks have good size and toughness inside which isn’t necessarily a strength for OK State. Freshman phenom will have to carry the Cowboys like he has all season and will cause matchup issues for Oregon’s two point guards; 6-1 Dominic Artis and 5-8 Johnathan Lloyd.
Early Midwest Regional Exit: #6 Memphis
The Tigers cruised through a very weak Conference USA, running the slate in the regular season and post-season tournament. However, with the exception of a road win at Tennessee, Josh Pastner’s team has pretty much lost every other marquee game they’ve played. Depth has been the key for Memphis this season but they will have a tough challenge in facing the winner of Tuesday’s play-in game between Middle Tennessee and St. Mary’s and if they do advance to the weekend, no way they get past Michigan State.
Midwest Regional Sleeper: #7 Creighton
It is difficult to pick a true sleeper team in a bracket that features Louisville, Duke, and Michigan State. However, we have seen it in the past where one player can carry his team through March and the Bluejay’s Doug McDermott is certainly capable of doing just that. Outside of the coach’s kid, Creighton has a ton of shooters who can stretch the floor and love to play up-tempo. They also led all Division One teams in field goal percentage throughout the season so when they are hitting shots, The Bluejays can beat anyone. It’s just a matter of whether the shots will be falling when it counts most.
Five Impact Players to Watch:
Ryan Kelly, Duke
Remember when Kelly returned from injury a couple weeks ago, went 7-9 from three, dropped 36 points on Miami in his first game back, and everyone freaked out? That was fun. Since then, Kelly has scored 34 points in Duke’s last three games while going just 2-13 from distance. Kelly doesn’t need to score 36 a night for the Blue Devils to make a run but he’ll need to shoot it better than he has and provide that stretch four ability that makes Duke such a dangerous team.
Gary Harris, Michigan State
The freshman shooting guard is on my list of “underrated national players who could really make a splash in the tournament.” (I don’t really have a list like that, it’s just fun to pretend.) Harris is a future NBA Draft lottery pick and has a quiet swagger to himself that I actually don’t mind. He is confident shooting the rock from distance but can also get to the tin.
Sean Kilpatrick, Cincinnati
On a Cincy team that often struggles to score the basketball, the sharpshooting Kilpatrick will need to get hot for Mick Cronin’s team to make any noise this March. He is a true chucker who averaged 8 three-point attempts per game and connected on just 30.7% of his triple tries this season which is part of the season the Bearcats finished just 9-9 in the Big East. When he is on though, he can carry the ‘Cats.
Phil Pressey, Missouri
The Mizzou floor general often makes the Tigers sink or swim. When he is taking care of the basketball and creating for teammates, Missouri can be a major threat and Pressey is a true treat to watch. Unfortunately, Pressey too often tries to do too much, force the issue, and take terrible shots which is frequently Mizzou’s downfall.
Matthew Dellavedova, St. Mary’s
My brother insists that Dellavedova is my doppleganger which means I look like an Australian who wears a huge mouth guard. I feel like I should be slightly offended, but I’m not. Despite going 27-6, people want to bash the Gaels’ overall resume for not be strong enough and if St. Mary’s is going to prove to people that they belong in the dance, it will all start with their senior guard who is more than capable of lighting it up from deep.
Midwest Regional Final: #1 Louisville over #3 Michigan State
First off, I have Sparty knocking off Duke and Louisville beating Oklahoma State in the Sweet 16. The Cardinals pressure defense will be too much for Keith Appling and the Spartan guards to handle while Louisville’s length and muscle inside will limit State’s physicality in the paint. As is their goal every game, the Cardinals must speed up the game, force turnovers, and get out in transition while Michigan State will try to slow the tempo down and make it a half-court game. Since suffering a bump in the road in late January, Louisville has won ten straight and things are certainly clicking at the right time which is why they earned the top overall seed and will head to Atlanta for the Final Four.
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft and the most accurate 2012 NBA Mock Draft on the internet (Yup, repeat champ… #humblebrag.)
You can follow him on Twitter at David_Kmiecik.
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