The Midwest region has some heavy hitters at the top and some mid-major powerhouses that are sprinkled in the middle. North Carolina and Kansas have been two of the top teams in the country and they have a shot at facing each other in the Elite Eight. Could a team like St. Mary’s or Temple upset the top teams and destroy some brackets? A lot of question marks in this region and the games should be pretty entertaining.
#1 North Carolina (29-5) vs. #16 Lamar/Vermont – The play-in game between Lamar and Vermont will be won by the Lamar Cardinals. I like Lamar’s Mike James and Devon Lamb against lower-level teams. Saying all of that, the Tar Heels will cruise into the second-round against either one of these teams. On paper, the Tar Heels might have the best talent in college basketball. The Tar Heels have looked bad in some games this season. The team with the best talent doesn’t usually win the NCAA Tournament. There’s some correlation between “on paper talent” & team-play that doesn’t always go together. The Ta Heels could run into issues in the later rounds.
Play-In Game Winner: Lamar Cardinals
Predicted Winner: #1 North Carolina Tar Heels
#8 Creighton (28-5) vs. #9 Alabama (21-11) – Creighton was ranked for a good portion of the season, so having #8 seed is a tad low for them. The Bluejays have played some elite talent, but have a few bad losses earlier in the season. Alabama have played elite teams all season, but failed to win many of the games against the Top 25. I like Creighton’s team lead by Doug McDermott, who averages 23.2 points per game. He is also the team leader in rebounds and Gregory Echenique is close to averaging a double-double. The Missouri Valley conference is one of the best mid-major conferences and I see Creighton advancing over Alabama.
Predicted Winner: #8 Creighton Bluejays
#5 Temple (24-7) vs. #12 California/South Florida – I like California in the play-in game against South Florida. Cal was favored to get a much higher seed before losing three games late in the season. I have liked Temple since they were one of “13 Possible Underdogs” before the tournament field was set. They have a very high RPI and have length in the backcourt, since three of their top guards are all at least 6’4. Unfortunately for Temple, Cal have tall guards as well. If those areas cancel each other out, I like the rest of the Golden Bears team. This game will be very close, but California will pull off the upset.
Play-In Game Winner – California Golden Bears
Predicted Winner – #12 California Golden Bears
#4 Michigan (24-9) vs. #13 Ohio (27-7) – As much as I want to hate Michigan, I can’t do it, I have always liked John Beilein. He coached West Virginia with Mike Gansey and Kevin Pittsnogle, who are both in the “White Boy Hall of Fame.” They went far into the NCAA Tournament that year, but this Michigan team is built very different. Beilein loves to play the 1-3-1, but he’s still recruiting guys to play in that system. Michigan will beat an Ohio team that lack size and any wins that they can hang their hat on. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Trey Burke will need to be consistent if they look to beat Cal or Temple in the second-round.
Predicted Winner – #4 Michigan Wolverines
#6 San Diego State (26-7) vs. #11 NC State (22-12) – The one glaring difference between San Diego State and N.C. State is that all of SDSU’s losses came against elite talent. N.C. State have losses against Georgia Tech and Clemson on their resumé and couldn’t beat any of the top teams in the ACC. I love San Diego State’s backcourt of Jamaal Franklin and Chas Tapley. The Aztecs take a lot of 3-point shots, but make a lot of them per game. It is a risky way to play in the NCAA Tournament, but they seem to be a team that is made to play in that system. I like San Diego State to win easily against the Wolfpack.
Predicted Winner: #6 San Diego State Aztecs
#3 Georgetown (23-8) vs. #14 Belmont (27-7) – Belmont is a scrappy team with size, but Georgetown is a powerhouse with size. Belmont have played up the level of their competition in the NCAA Tournament and nearly beat Duke in 2008. I love Georgetown’s big man duo of Hollis Thompson and Henry Sims. These guys can match up well against any other front-court in the country. The Hoyas have a shot at advancing deep into the tournament, but need maximum output from those guys.
Predicted Winner: #3 Georgetown Hoyas
#7 Saint Mary’s (27-5) vs. #10 Purdue (21-12) – Robbie Hummel has been in college for a long time. Last season, he missed his chance of being on a special team. JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore are in the NBA and this year’s Purdue roster doesn’t hold up to the 2010-11 team. The St. May’s Gaels are always an underrated team going into the NCAA Tournament. The only West Coast Conference team that the nation pays attention to is Gonzaga. St. Mary’s have a strong program and a team filled with skilled players. Rob Jones is averaging a double-double and doesn’t have trouble scoring. Purdue will have matchup problems with the Gales. This first-round game will officially be known as the end of Robbie Hummel’s collegiate career.
Predicted Winner: #7 St. Mary’s Gaels
#2 Kansas (27-6) vs. #15 Detroit (22-13) – Kansas is one of the most-talented teams in the nation and have top-notch talent. Thomas Robinson will be a lottery-pick in this year’s NBA Draft and Tyshawn Taylor should have a nice NBA career too. I don’t see them losing in the first-round and they should be there in the Elite Eight to face North Carolina. If you watch this game and it gets out of control early, keep the game on and watch Detroit’s Ray McCallum Jr., he’ll be in the NBA soon. Kansas played Duke and Kentucky early in the season, but lost both of those contests. They are a stronger team now and survived the top-heavy Big 12. I don’t see any upset in their immediate future.
Predicted Winner: #2 Kansas Jayhawks
White Boy’s 2012 NCAA Tournament Coverage
2012 NCAA Tournament: West Region Picks
2012 NCAA Tournament: South Region Picks
2012 NCAA Tournament: East Region Picks
2012 NCAA Tournament: 13 Possible Upsets
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