|With KC and Memphis as regional sites, have we had a better|
BBQ tournament? Why aren't North Carolina and Texas hosting too?
TEAM TO BEAT: Kansas. The Jayhawks have been great all year long. They have a national player of the year candidate in Frank Mason, one of the best backcourts in the country and a one-and-done talent in Josh Jackson.
TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Kansas. Kansas is so tough. They won a ton of close games this season and made several huge comebacks. This team won't get scared or nervous in any situation.
TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Iowa State. This goes against my usual feeling that these teams that pull off improbable conference championship runs flame out in the tournament. I like this Cyclones team. They could get Kansas in the Sweet 16 and will be ready for it (plus they'll have their own contingent in Kansas City to battle Rock Chalk).
YOUR CINDERELLA: Rhode Island. The Rams were ranked preseason but injuries derailed their lofty expectations early. But they've fought back and now look like the team we thought we would see ... especially by winning the Atlantic 10 tournament. They'll face off against a good Creighton team that's had some struggles without injured point guard Maurice Watson, Jr. They cooooould then give Oregon fits.
WORST SEEDING ERROR: Nevada. The Wolf Pack have NBA talent on the roster, dominated what is usually a competitive Mountain West and then receive a No. 12 seed. That's tough. I get it when you look at the Midwest Region teams seeded around it, but that's a tough draw for Big 12 tournament champ Iowa State off the bat and, possibly, Purdue in the following round..
HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Kansas. I mean, c'mon. The Jayhawks go south a bit to Tulsa for the first weekend and then a bit west for the second weekend in Kansas City. No one has it like that (though remember what I said about Iowa State, who is darn good in Kansas City in their own right).
MUST WATCH GAME: Michigan vs Oklahoma State. Michigan is the darling of the week after their harrowing runway experience and amazing run to the Big Ten tournament crown. They are on a role. Oklahoma State isn't too shabby, either. Jawun Evans is a beast who seemingly can get his shot at any time. This game should be great eye candy.
MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Kansas vs Michigan State. Sparty is most frightening when no one is expecting anything. Izzo's bunch is a quiet, middling No. 9 seed that is sitting there in the weeds. Kansas should beat them, but you never underestimate Michigan State in March..