NCAA Tournament Midwest Region Breakdown And Preview

    The NCAA Tournament's Midwest Region features a bit of a controversial No. 1 seed with Virginia edging out Michigan State. Here's a breakdown and preview of the path to Houston.

    March 14, 2016


    The NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region features a bit of a controversial No. 1 seed with Virginia edging out Michigan State. Here’s a breakdown and preview of the path to Houston.


    Virginia pulled in the top seed in the NCAA Tournament’s Midwest Region, but Michigan State could just as easily earned the top honor. The Cavaliers have been great this season, and although they lost in the ACC Tournament finals, they are playing well. UVA has lost three games by a total of eight points since mid-January, and the Cavs are out to build some respect.

    Michigan State, meanwhile, was the class of the Big Ten this season, even if they didn’t win the regular-season crown. Their only meeting with eventual Big Ten champ Indiana ended in a 19-point beating of the Hoosiers, and all signs point to these two teams meeting with the Final Four on the line in the Elite Eight.

    Toughest first-round call

    No. 8 Texas Tech has been impressive this season, knocking off the likes of Iowa State, Texas, Baylor and Oklahoma this season, and Tubby Smith was a deserving winner of the Big 12 Coach of the Year award (it should have gone to Bill Self, but we understand the Tubby argument). The Red Raiders know what it’s like to play tough teams, and they’re battle-tested. Butler, meanwhile, played in the relatively weaker Big East, but the Bulldogs could benefit from the fact Texas Tech has looked fatigued in recent weeks and isn’t the same ballclub it was in February. Butler’s Roosevelt Jones, Kellen Dunham and Kelan Martin are a tough trio who will make teams pay if they play off of them. This one should be fun.

    Best possible second-round matchup

    The notion of a Purdue-Iowa State battle in the second round sure is fun. The Boilermakers feature a pair of quality bigs in A.J. Hammons and Isaac Hass, and forward Caleb Swanigan and guard Rapheal Davis both can take over games. Meanwhile, the Cyclones lean on Georges Niang and Monte Morris, two guys with plenty of NCAA Tournament experience, to be leaders, and Iowa State puts a lot of points on the board. This one could be a fun shootout.

    Favorite

    Virginia is the No. 1 seed, but we’re going to go with Michigan State here. The Spartans are playing with a lot of swagger, they might have the best player in the country in Denzel Valentine, and, you know, Tom Izzo is pretty good this time of year. The Spartans feel like they still have a lot to prove this year and have been tested.

    Sleeper

    Utah has been tough this season, and although the Utes can suffer some offensive brownouts at times, the presence of Jakob Poeltl in the middle makes Utah a team that is a threat to win every game it plays. The Utes will have to bounce back from a shaky performance in the Pac-12 Tournament final, but that could serve as a spark for this team.

    Dark horse

    Gonzaga isn’t the team it has been in the past, but the Midwest isn’t exactly a hotbed of elite teams. Virginia and Michigan State are the class of the region, but everyone else is vulnerable. The presence of Kyle Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis gives the Bulldogs the scoring and rebounding they need to be successful, and we all know Mark Few is fantastic this time of year.

    Disappointment

    Either Virginia or Michigan State are going to be disappointed if they don’t get out of this region, but Iowa State might not get to the second weekend. Iona isn’t going to be a pushover, and the team’s lack of defense could create a lot of problems in a second-round matchup with either Purdue or UALR. ISU is fun to watch and played some good basketball this year, but issues at the free-throw line and on defense make them vulnerable.

    Our pick

    Michigan State can score inside and out, and the Spartans are healthy and hungry. They play together and never lose their poise. This very easily could be Virginia, but MSU is our pick to come out of the Midwest.

    MORE: Campus Insiders’ 2016 Interactive NCAA Tourmanent Bracket

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