Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sportz Assassin's Midwest Region Preview

TEAM TO BEAT: Kansas. The Jayhawks are back on their perch. Ho-hum. However, this Kansas team isn't as talented as usual and suffered three home losses on the year. Still, they have national player of the year candidate Devonte Graham and former one-and-done prospect (and transfer) Malik Newman. 

TEAM THAT WILL WIN THE REGION: Duke. The Blue Devils are the most talented team in the nation. They aren't the best team, meaning the sum of its parts isn't greater than the individual parts. Their switch to the zone late in the year has been a boon for Duke and allows guys like Marvin Bagley III and Wendell Carter to stay out of foul trouble and rests them offensively. Grayson Allen is still around and his play ... and behavior ... will be key to how well Duke does.

TEAM TO WATCH FOR (LESS THAN A NO. 3 SEED): Clemson. The Tigers have had their best season in quite some time. The injury to Donte Grantham has forced them to pivot to a more defensive minded team and a less efficient offensive one. If they can get by New Mexico State (a big if) then they could get hot and make an Elite 8 run.  

YOUR CINDERELLA: New Mexico State. Now forget what I just said. Clemson is banged up and have lost 4 of 6 so they are ripe for an upset. New Mexico State is tournament tested and are one of the best rebounding teams in the nation. Wing player Jemeriro Jones is second nationally in rebounding and will attempt to pound the glass against Clemson. This is a good, hungry team.   

WORST SEEDING ERROR: Oklahoma. I don't think Syracuse should even be in the tournament, but their spot in the First Four is appropriate. Oklahoma is another bubble team that many felt didn't play well enough down the stretch to deserve a bid. Not only did they get in, but they didn't even have to play in the First Four.    

HOME COURT ADVANTAGE: Kansas. First weekend in state in Wichita then the next week in Omaha? Huge home court advantage.

MUST WATCH GAME: Seton Hall vs NC State. The Wolfpack are talented. They have great guards and a big man in Omer Yurtseven that's a load to deal with. Seton Hall also has a talented big man in Angel Delgado and good guards. This should be a great, great game.

MUST WATCH (POTENTIAL) SECOND ROUND GAME: Duke vs Oklahoma.  Duke would most likely bury the Sooners if this happened. Still, Trae Young against all those NBA prospects at Duke? Young against Grayson Allen? Young against that make shift zone defense? This would have the star power that most second round games don't.

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