2015 NCAA Tournament Predictions: Midwest Region

March 16, 2015

We start with the region with the tournament’s top overall seed.

The question for many isn’t whether Kentucky is going to make the Final Four, but who is going to even challenge the Wildcats on their quest for Indianapolis?

Here is my breakdown of the Midwest Region.

Second Round Games to Watch

#5 West Virginia vs. #12 Buffalo (Friday, approximately 2:10 PM ET)

The classic 5 vs. 12 matchup is one of the best second round games in the Midwest region, primarily because many pundits and casual fans alike seem to like Buffalo to upset the higher seeded Mountaineers. West Virginia stumbled to close the regular season, dropping three of its final four games, twice to Baylor. But look a little closer at the Mountaineers’ final eight games and you will find that six of them came against teams that were ranked at the time. Additionally, West Virginia’s two senior guards, Juwan Staten and Gary Browne, missed the entirety of the final three games and Browne played all of three minutes against Baylor on February 28. Suddenly the slip doesn’t seem so egregious.

Buffalo is a solid team that is already a fan favorite because of head coach Bobby Hurley, and chances are they will give the Mountaineers trouble. Justin Moss is a terrific player down low and has the ability to give West Virginia fits, just as Baylor’s bigs were able to both at the end of the regular season and in the Big 12 tournament. However, as likable a guy as Hurley has become, he doesn’t have nearly the tournament coaching experience as the guy on the other bench. Bob Huggins knows how to win in the Big Dance and only three times in 20 appearances have his teams lost in its first tournament game. Assuming that Staten and Browne can return to form quickly, West Virginia will look like a different team than the one we’ve seen over the past few weeks.

#6 Butler vs. #11 Texas (Thursday, approximately 2:45 PM ET)

To some fans Texas was a surprise inclusion into the NCAA Tournament, as the Longhorns went just 2-10 against Top 25 competition and finished the season an underwhelming 6-6. But this is also a team that was very competitive in all of those games, losing the six by a total of 25 points. As much as it has been a season of close calls for the Longhorns, there is still a lot of talent on this squad that makes them one of the most dangerous low seeds in the tournament. Rebounding is a particular strength and will be the way that the Longhorns keep this game interesting. Butler is as gritty as they come and won’t let the Texas guards score many easy baskets, though, which is one of the few ways the Longhorns have been able to score as of late.

The Bulldogs are not going to be completely overmatched against the Longhorns, despite the fact that Texas has a slight edge in the athleticism department. What really makes this a tough game to call, however, is that no one quite knows which Texas squad will show up. We’ve been exposed to the team that can be explosive offensively and hang with the best the Big 12 has to offer. But more often we see a team that has trouble moving the basketball and looks stunted on the offensive end. Butler’s brand of defense is too strong for the latter Texas team to survive, but chances are the Longhorns will be out to prove something.

Team That Could Make a Run

Wichita State

The Shockers have a more difficult road to Indianapolis than they probably thought they would have after finishing the regular season 28-4. But Gregg Marshall’s team is still good enough to make it there thanks to a capable backcourt and a chip on their shoulder that could carry the team past its most difficult tests. The guard tandem of Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker is as good as any in the country and both can shoot well from outside. They’re unselfish offensively and force mistakes on defense which allows them the ability to make runs that can devastate opponents. This is one of the few complete teams outside of the Power 5 conferences.

The chip on the shoulder aspect stems from a few different things. The first is the apparent snub that the Shockers experienced by receiving a seven seed in the tournament. The second is the potential matchup with Kansas, which has been road blocked by the Jayhawks with the argument that the Big 12 school wouldn’t gain anything from playing a Missouri Valley school. Lastly, a potential tournament rematch with Kentucky, and a chance to hand the Wildcats their first loss of the season, would be payback in its sweetest form. It would be a shocker (pun intended), but Wichita State has the chops to do it.

My Picks

Second Round

#1 Kentucky over #16 Manhattan/Hampton

#9 Purdue over #8 Cincinnati

#5 West Virginia over #12 Buffalo

#4 Maryland over #13 Valparaiso

#6 Butler over #11 Texas

#3 Notre Dame over #14 Northeastern

#7 Wichita State over #10 Indiana

#2 Kansas over #15 New Mexico State

Third Round

#1 Kentucky over #9 Purdue

#5 West Virginia over #4 Maryland

#3 Notre Dame over #6 Butler

#7 Wichita State over #2 Kansas (upset alert)

Sweet 16

#1 Kentucky over #5 West Virginia

#7 Wichita State over #3 Notre Dame (upset alert)

Elite 8

#1 Kentucky over #7 Wichita State

– K. Becks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *