To me, this bracket features the strongest team in the country (Michigan State) and potentially the weakest #1 seed. In college basketball, defense does not win championships and that is my problem with Virginia. Sure, they have Brogdon this year and he can score, but the question is: Can anyone else score when they need them to? This team has players that can score, but if Brogdon gets taken away, how will they fare on their own? We should find out on Saturday. In the first round, the most interesting matchup will be Iowa State-Iona. This game will be played at a frenetic pace and it could easily be a game of “whoever has the ball last will win.”
Players to watch in the Midwest Regional: Malcolm Brogdon (Virginia), Roosevelt Jones (Butler), Kelan Martin (Butler), AJ Hammons (Purdue), Caleb Swanigan (Purdue), Georges Niang (Iowa State), AJ English (Iona), Isaiah Whitehead (Seton Hall), Kyle Wiltjer (Gonzaga), Jakob Poetl (Utah), Marvelle Harris (Fresno State), Scoochie Smith (Dayton), Denzel Valentine (Michigan State), Bryn Forbes (Michigan State).
Bold prediction of the region: Butler will make the Sweet Sixteen.
Regional Champion Prediction: Michigan State
Click Read More to see my analysis for each game. All times are eastern.
1 VIRGINIA vs. 16 Hampton, Thursday 3:10pm on TruTV – Again, I really just don’t see a 16 seed knocking off a 1 seed this season. In fact, I am not sure I will ever make that bold of a prediction.
8 Texas Tech vs. 9 BUTLER, Thursday 12:40pm on TruTV – Butler is fundamentally sound program and while Texas Tech’s greatest strength is free throw shooting, I feel as though the Bulldogs will limit their attempts. Along with that, I think the play of Roosevelt Jones can allow Butler to play at their pace and take the victory.
5 PURDUE vs. 12 Arkansas-Little Rock, Thursday 4:30pm on TBS – Little Rock has prided themselves on their defense all season, but the front line of the Boilermakers is something to be afraid of. Take AJ Hammons, Isaac Haas, and Caleb Swanigan all together, and it is just going to be a victory for Purdue.
4 IOWA STATE vs. 13 Iona, Thursday 2:00pm on TBS – Before you just move Iowa State to the second round, at least take a peak at AJ English. The 6’4″ guard for Iona is an absolute machine, getting almost 25ppg to go along with his steady shooting teammates. Georges Niang has never made it past the Sweet Sixteen in his first three years, and I don’t think he makes it out of the first round this year either. First round though, he’ll get the W.
6 SETON HALL vs. 11 Gonzaga, Thursday 9:57pm on TruTV – Gotta love this matchup. It’s just a tremendous battle with two of the best players in the country. Isaiah Whitehead quite easily be the best player in the Big East and Kyle Wiltjer is a true talent for Gonzaga. Sure, the Zags took some tough losses and slid into the tournament off a conference championship, but they are a scary team. They could easily win, but I’m taking SH.
3 UTAH vs. 14 Fresno State, Thursday 7:27pm on TruTV – If you haven’t stayed up late enough to watch Jakob Poetl play yet this season, you might want to tune in. This guy is a next level talent with tremendous skills. Marvelle Harris might get 20 a game for the Bulldogs, but it will not be enough to stop the Utes.
7 Dayton vs. 10 SYRACUSE, Friday 12:15pm on CBS – Neither of these teams is playing well right now. Both have faltered down the stretch, but because of this, we should see a good matchup. The #1 matchup will be Dayton’s guard Scoochie Smith against the tough zone from Syracuse. I love Scoochie, but I think the zone will be too much.
2 MICHIGAN STATE vs. 15 Middle Tennessee, Friday 2:45 on CBS – Flat out just the better team. Like Oklahoma and Buddy Hield, good luck beating Denzel Valentine this early.
And that’s all I have for now, so this is me…signing off. -Lukas.