Midwest Region (Kansas City, MO):
Most Vulnerable High Seed:
#3 Houston Cougars
Houston has overachieved a lot this season, obtaining a three seed after Kelvin Sampson had a lot of roster turnover from last season. Their success has a lot to do with the play of guards Armoni Brooks and Corey Davis, who have to produce if the Cougars want any chance at making a deep run in the dance. Davis and Brooks combine to average over 30 points per game while no other Cougar averages double-figures. Houston could be bounced early by a team like Iowa State if they are able to successfully make Brooks and Davis struggle, putting pressure on other Cougars to score, which has been a recipe for Houston’s three losses.
High Major Player to Know:
Seton Hall G Myles Powell
Seton Hall is definitely a team that will be fun to watch during their stay in the NCAA tournament, mostly because of how sensational this guy is. Myles Powell is one of the best scorers in the nation, and I truly mean that. He’s only 6’2, but he can pull from anywhere on the court and over anyone, and he will make it. Powell is one of only two Pirates to average in double digits, and he leads his squad with an average of 22.9 points per game. He was dominant in the Big East Tournament, and we should expect him to dominate this tournament as well. If Powell hits his shots and let’s the game come to him, the Pirates will win a few games, but if not, they’ll be headed home early.
Mid-Major Player to Know:
Utah State F Sam Merrill
With Nevada being a preseason top ten team, who would’ve guessed that Utah State would’ve ended up winning the Mountain West? At least I’ll say I didn’t. Head coach Craig Smith has the Aggies feeling confident and prepared to fight due to their consistent scoring output from junior guard Sam Merrill. Merrill, recently named the MWC Player of the Year, has had a terrific season thus far. He’s averaged 21.2 points per game, alongside grabbing 4 rebounds a game and dishing out 4.2 assists per game. He is as efficient as they come, shooting 46.5% from the field, alongside being a 37.8% marksman from deep. If the Aggies want to go far, they’ll have to ride Merrill’s coattails, and they could certainly do so.
Cinderella in the Region:
#10 Seton Hall Pirates
The Pirates were extremely hot over the last week or two of the regular season, and fell just short of the Big East Tournament crown against Villanova. Myles Powell is a superstar scorer and Kevin Willard’s group is filled with hard working guys. The big question for Seton Hall is whether or not a consistent number two option can show up alongside Powell in the tournament. That’s the difference between Seton Hall’s offensive attack being great and average. Powell will get a lot of attention from Wofford’s defense, so Willard needs guys like Myles Cale and Quincy McKnight to put up double figures, while also making it a focus for Seton Hall to avoid getting in foul trouble.
Upset Alert 🚨🚨🚨:
#13 Northeastern over #4 Kansas
Many people may gasp at the idea of Bill Self’s blue blooded Kansas Jayhawks losing to Northeastern in the Round of 64, but there’s no hiding the fact that Self’s current group isn’t the typical Kansas squad. With LaGerald Vick gone for personal issues, Udoka Azubuike lost to injury, and Silvio De Sousa being ruled ineligible, the Jayhawks have caught some awful luck this year, which feels like it’s been a long time coming. They are a young and inexperienced group that will be facing lowered expectations in March due to their struggles down the stretch. Northeastern is the opposite of this, as the Huskies come into the big dance on a seven game win streak. They’ve played some tough teams this season and have contended, which should give you confidence in this possible pick. Look for Vasa Pusica to become a household name if Northeastern can upset Kansas, as the senior guard is averaging 17.8 points per game on 40% three point shooting.
Sleeper in the Region:
#7 Wofford Terriers
Seton Hall’s Thursday night opponent, Wofford is one of the three best mid-major teams in the entire NCAA. They finished 29-4 and won the Southern Conference, both in the regular season and conference tournament. Their four losses have all been Quadrant 1 losses, and they’ve played some really tough games for a mid-major program. The Terriers have an excellent offensive attack, shooting 49.3% from the field, alongside a 41.6% clip from three point range. The Terriers run one of the most efficient offenses in all of college hoops and they will run you off the floor if you dare sleep on them. Fletcher Magee is the team’s leader, averaging 20.5 points per game while shooting 42.8% from three. My advice to you this March: Do not sleep on Wofford!
#1 North Carolina over #16 Iona
#9 Washington over #8 Utah State
#5 Auburn over #12 New Mexico State
#4 Kansas over #13 Northeastern
#6 Iowa State over #11 Ohio State
#3 Houston over #14 Georgia State
#7 Wofford over #10 Seton Hall
#2 Kentucky over #15 Abilene Christian
#1 North Carolina over #9 Washington
#5 Auburn over #4 Kansas
#6 Iowa State over #3 Houston
#2 Kentucky over #7 Wofford
#1 North Carolina over #5 Auburn
#2 Kentucky over #6 Iowa State
#1 North Carolina over #2 Kentucky