2013 NCAA Tournament Predictions: Midwest Region

March 20, 2013

The Midwest Region has the distinction of being (in my opinion) the toughest region to survive as a top seed. While that is a disadvantage from the perspective of trying to make it to Atlanta, it could end up being an advantage for the team that makes it through, because there will be no question that they will be battle tested.

Here is my breakdown of the uber-competitive Midwest Region.

Second Round Games to Watch

#8 Colorado State vs. #9 Missouri (Thurs, following Louisville vs. N.C. A&T game)

The 8 vs. 9 matchups are almost always a tossup, and this one should be no different. Missouri comes in as one of the SEC’s better squads, and regardless of the fact that the conference was very down this year, the Tigers are still a pretty decent team. The frontcourt has been strengthened significantly thanks to transfer Alex Oriakhi, and Phil Pressey is still a defensive menace, averaging nearly two steals per contest. Frank Haith’s team will be going up against the Colorado State Rams, which played well in the Mountain West, a was considerably stronger conference than the SEC this season.

One matchup in particular that will be interesting to watch is Oriakhi versus Colorado State’s Colton Iverson, a 6’10” senior forward that nearly averages a double-double in points and rebounds. Iverson is the leader on a team with lots of them (the Rams start five seniors) and has previous tournament experience (the team played in the 2012 tournament). While backcourt play will definitely have an impact on this game, I expect that the winner of the Oriakhi/Iverson battle will also be the team that moves on, likely to play Louisville.

#5 Oklahoma State vs. #12 Oregon (Thurs, following Saint Louis vs. New Mexico State game)

Raise your hand if you thought that Oregon got the raw end of the deal with regards to seeding this year? If your hand isn’t raised, then you probably haven’t seen the Ducks play this season. Dana Altman’s team hit a rough patch starting at the end of January that stretched all the way to the end of the regular season, but Oregon’s play during that time is not indicative of how good this team really is. Freshman guard Dominic Artis was out for much of that stretch, and after he returned to the starting lineup in the Pac-12 tournament, the Ducks looked like the team that came out of nowhere to begin the season.

Oregon’s task of proving the selection committee wrong will not be easy, however. The Ducks must go up against Oklahoma State, an athletic squad led by freshman sensation and Big 12 Player of the Year Marcus Smart. Smart does just about everything well except shoot the three, and he has fellow guard Markel Brown with him to take care of that for the Cowboys. The Cowboys might be the most focused No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament this year, because it’s hard to imagine that they haven’t heard what people are saying about Oregon. Expect both teams to come out looking strong and providing one of the most entertaining second round matchups of the entire tournament.

Team That Could Make a Run

Saint Louis

Hardly a Cinderella candidate thanks to a No. 4 seed, the Billikens are still one of the most underrated squads in the nation, and not a team that a lot of people probably have going too far. Saint Louis has plenty of upperclassmen leadership to keep them focused, the bad taste of a close defeat in last year’s tournament still on their minds (to No. 1 seed Michigan State in the third round), and one of the nation’s best defenses, which is hardly surprising due to the conference that the Billikens play in.

Figuring out how to beat the Billikens this season has proved to be very difficult as well. No other team in the nation has beaten both VCU and Butler multiple times, which is not an easy thing to do by any stretch. If Louisville and Saint Louis end up meeting in the Sweet 16, we could end up seeing a replay of the 2010 regional final between Kansas and VCU. Saint Louis has the talent to make it to Atlanta.

My Picks

Second Round

#1 Louisville over #16 N.C. A&T

#8 Colorado State over #9 Missouri

#12 Oregon over #5 Oklahoma State (upset alert)

#4 Saint Louis over #13 New Mexico State

#6 Memphis over #11 St. Mary’s

#3 Michigan State over #14 Valparaiso

#7 Creighton over #10 Cincinnati

#2 Duke over #15 Albany

Third Round

#1 Louisville over #8 Colorado State

#4 Saint Louis over #12 Oregon

#3 Michigan State over #6 Memphis

#2 Duke over #3 Michigan State

Sweet 16

#1 Louisville over #4 Saint Louis

#3 Michigan State over #2 Duke

Elite 8

#1 Louisville over #3 Michigan State

– K. Becks

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