March Madness: Midwest Region Preview
David Hadar, Preston Shoemaker, Tommy Calpin and Trent Fye preview this year's midwest region:
The brackets are out, and it is time to see who will cut down the nets in Minneapolis as NCAA Tournament champions. Here, we dive into the Midwest Region, looking at the teams to keep an eye on for the regional final.
The Heavy Weights
The North Carolina Tar Heels headline this region, earning their record 17th No. 1 seed. They enter the tournament with a 27-6 record and have wins against fellow No. 1 seeds Duke (twice) and Gonzaga. They are led by seniors Luke Maye and Cameron Johnson, as well as freshman Coby White. They are one of the best teams in the nation and have a shot at their second championship in three seasons.
The Kentucky Wildcats, who days ago were a projected No. 1 seed, take the No. 2 seed in the region after a close loss to Tennessee in the SEC tournament. They also carry a 27-6 record to their name and will look to make a final four run for the first time since 2015. Forward P.J. Washington is a matchup disaster, standing at 6-foot-8 and having 3-point abilities. The Wildcats have the skill and coaching to make a run at the championship.
The No. 3 seed Houston Cougars have only lost three games this year and are 3-1 against the Top 25. They are a tough defensive team that has an opportunity to make a decent run in the big dance.
Fresh off of an SEC Championship, the No. 5 seed Auburn Tigers are coming in hot. They are one of the most dangerous teams from behind the arc in the tournament and will give North Carolina their biggest threat on a path to the regional final.
No. 7 seed Wofford has experience and 3-point shooting, two things that are big for a team in March. Sitting at 29-4, this Terriers team can make some noise in the tournament but get no favors with a potential bid against Kentucky in the second round.
No. 8 seed Utah State rebounds the ball well and has won 17 of its last 18 games. They are a well-coached team that will put up a fight against North Carolina in the second round.
No. 12 New Mexico State won the Western Athletic Conference with a 30-4 record. However, they lack any top-25 wins and face a hot Auburn team in the opening round. They have lots of talent, so do not be surprised if they make a cinderella run.
No. 13 seed Northeastern faces Kansas in the first round. Offense is a strong suit for the Huskies, who shoot 48 percent from the field. They are a well-coached team that could potentially upset Kansas, but it won’t be easy.
Maybe Next Year
For the first time since 2004, Kansas did not win the regular season Big 12 title. They are a four seed in this region, but overall this has been a down year for Bill Self’s squad. They will likely get by Northeastern in the first round, but that’s about as far as they should go.
No. 6 Iowa State and No. 11 Ohio State face off in the first round. Someone will win this game, but neither team should advance farther. Despite a Big 12 Championship, Iowa State had nine conference losses this season. Ohio State had a rough time in the Big Ten, finishing with an 8-12 record. Don’t expect much from these squads.
Regional Final Prediction
North Carolina vs Kentucky
These two teams are built for a championship run and should be able to navigate their paths to the Midwest Regional Final.
It is a rematch from the 2017 South Regional Final, where North Carolina’s Luke Maye hit a game-winning shot as time expired to send the Tar Heels to the Final Four.
Kentucky beat North Carolina earlier this season by a score of 80-72. This rematch will be competitive, but I expect the Tar Heels to win a close game.
Preston Shoemaker is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact, email email@example.com.