NCAA Basketball

NCAA Tournament 2014 Midwest Region Preview

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wichita-stateThe Midwest region may be the most wide open region in this years tournament. Wichita St., Michigan, Louisville, and Duke, all have a legitimate shot at earning the Midwest regions final four spot. Starting with the number one seed, Wichita St. The Shockers have had a great season and are very capable of playing with the best teams in college basketball. That being said, Wichita St. hasn’t had to go up against the kind of talent they will face if they are to make it to the Final Four. That path could include going up against Kentucky, Louisville, and Duke in consecutive games, I don’t see that happening. Louisville should end Wichita St.’s dream season. I expect a hard fought close game with Louisville, but Louisville has been playing well lately and has the ability to take out the Shockers. The other two teams mentioned, Duke and Michigan, should be able to make it to the Sweet 16 without much trouble. Texas could put up a good fight against Michigan, but ultimately I see Michigan pulling it out. Duke can score and I see that posing a problem for Michigan but it would be no surprise to see Michigan pull this one out. Ultimately I am going with Duke in this one. The best games of the Midwest region will be Duke vs. Michigan, and the winner of Duke vs. Michigan against Louisville.

Arlington, Tx Bound
louisvilleI have Louisville claiming the Final Four spot out of the Midwest region over Duke. Originally I was picking Duke in this game based solely on the eye test, I have changed my mind on this. I thought Duke looked like the better team, but after looking back at the season as a whole and who each team lost too, I feel like Louisville has been the more consistent team and has the better chance to win the Midwest region. Three of Louisville’s five losses were in rivalry games against Memphis and Kentucky, I don’t put a lot of weight on rivalry games as teams can try to play outside of themselves in those atmospheres. I put more weight on bad losses, losing to a team without as much talent. Duke has a couple of those types of losses (i.e. Clemson, ND, and Wake Forest). Louisville has no bad losses. Duke has a ton of offensive talent but can disappear for stretches, and that will cost them a game somewhere in this tournament.

Dark horse
Some are calling for Kentucky to beat Wichita State in the round of 32, and saying they are their dark horse. I don’t consider Kentucky to be very dangerous, I don’t even believe they will get past Kansas St. Who I think has a chance at an upset in this region, and a true dark horse is Tennessee. Tennessee fought Florida right down to the end in the SEC Tournament and is used to playing in tough games. Tennessee has played Florida three times, Kentucky, and Wichita St. this season. Tennessee should make it to a match up with Duke if the Vols play up to their talent level, and maybe if they meet Duke on one of those nights and the threes are not falling, the Vols can pull off an upset.


Player to watch
tj_warrenThe player to watch in the Midwest Region is North Carolina St.’s T.J. Warren. Beating out Duke’s Jabari Parker for ACC player of the year, Warren has averaged 25 points and 7 rebounds this season and has led the Wolfpack to several key wins this season including wins over Tennessee, Xavier, and Syracuse. Look for Warren and N.C. State to upset St. Louis to earn a match up with Louisville.

Best game in first round
The best game in the first round will be N.C. State vs. St. Louis. The Wolfpack come into the game on a high winning five of their last six, including a win over Syracuse in the ACC tournament quarterfinals. On the other end of the court is St. Louis, who is coming into the tournament on a down note, losing four of their last five, including an opening A 10 tournament loss to St. Bonaventure. St. Louis overall has a good team this year, however they have not had to contend with a player like T.J. Warren (see above). I think Warren has the talent to lead the Wolfpack to another 12 vs. 5 upset.

Biggest storyline
The biggest and best storyline of the Midwest region is whatever Wichita State does. Will it be that they took the next step and got to the title game, or will it be that they were overrated all year and were a product of their weak schedule and conference. We all know Wichita St. is a good team, but how good? What do we have to measure them off of other than last years tournament run. That answer is going to ultimately be the biggest storyline.

About Garrick Smith

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