NCAA Tournament Predictions: Midwest Region

By: Kels Dayton

Having trouble filling out your bracket? You’ve come to the right place. Roundball‘s college basketball expert Kels Dayton will take you region by region, outlining what’s possible and what’s not, so that you can make informed decisions. Because making informed decisions is the key to winning your pool. And winning your pool is the key to using the prize money to buy a giant, gold-plated sculpture of yourself that hangs triumphantly over your desk and proclaims your bracket domination over everyone in the office.


Moving Temple on to the third round is a safe bet. (Getty Images)

8-9 GAME:  Creighton should handle Alabama. The Bluejays are one of the nation’s most explosive offensive teams, averaging  80 points per game, which is 7th-best in the nation. They also rank 1st in the country in field goal percentage (.509), and are 2nd in assists per game (17.9). Alabama can’t score, (they’re 245th in points per game) and won’t be able to hang with Creighton.

5-12 PLAY IN GAME:  California has a chance to defeat Temple if it can get past South Florida in the play-in game on Wednesday. The Golden Bears a balanced team with four players who average in double figures in scoring, led by sophomore forward Allen Crabbe (15.3 ppg, 5.7 rpg). Senior guard Jorge Gutierrez (13.1 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 4.1 apg) is one of the nation’s better floor generals. But South Florida, which plays impeccable defense, has a real shot to knock off the Golden Bears and little chance to topple Temple in the 5-12 matchup. The Bulls don’t match up well with the Owls because Temple is a good offensive team (33rd in the nation in field goal percentage) and USF doesn’t have a single player who can match the explosiveness of Temple’s Juan Fernandez, Ramone Moore, and Khalif Wyatt. Advance Temple to the second round here.


  Ohio shocked Georgetown as a 13-seed in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, and has a nice young point guard in junior D.J. Cooper. Still, the Wolverines should have enough firepower to get past the Bobcats.

Belmont nearly took down Duke in 2008. (Getty Images)

 NC State is a smart upset pick because the Wolfpack have an excellent front line in C.J. Leslie and Scott Wood, and the Wolfpack are playing their best basketball of the season after almost taking out North Carolina in the ACC Tournament.

 Belmont has reached the tournament five times since 2006 and are 4th in the nation in points per game (81.5), 5th in assists (17.4), and 17th in field goal percentage (.484). The Bruins nearly upset Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium in November, falling 77-76 in a heartbreaker that was reminiscent of when the Bruins lost by two as a 15-seed to 2nd-seeded Duke in the 2008 NCAA Tournament. It wouldn’t be stunning to see Belmont knock out Georgetown, which hasn’t won an NCAA Tournament game since 2008.

SECOND-ROUND UPSETS: Remember 2010, when No. 9 Northern Iowa stunned top-seeded Kansas?

All of the ingredients for that type of an upset are here in Round 2, when Creighton matches up with North Carolina. Like the 2010 Panthers, the Bluejays are an undervalued team from the Missouri Valley. Like Kansas in ’10, Carolina is young, inexperienced team that might have occasion to take the Missouri Valley champs lightly. If you’re going for a big splash in the Midwest, this is the pick to make.

If Georgetown survives Belmont in Round 1, it should be able to take care of N.C. State. The Hoyas have too much size and skill on the perimeter for the Wolfpack, and their Princeton-style offense is tough to prepare for in just one day. So don’t put the Wolfpack in the Sweet 16 unless you’re brave enough to pick Belmont over the Hoyas.

Doug McDermott and Creighton have what it takes to pull a stunner over North Carolina in Round 2. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam)

 San Diego State could advance to St. Louis if they survive Round 1, but Saint Mary’s and Purdue don’t stand much of a chance of knocking out second-seeded Kansas because of the Jayhawks’ reliance on a power game inside with National Player of the Year candidate Thomas Robinson and the emergence of center Jeff Withey.

CINDERELLA RUNS: Beware of Creighton, which could pull a VCU or Butler and get to the Final Four if it can find a way to knock off North Carolina. Sain’t Mary’s has an outside shot to reach the Elite Eight because they must go through Kansas, which is not a very rosy proposition for the Gaels.

FINAL FOUR PICKS: Either North Carolina and Kansas will almost certainly come out of this region. If you want to go outside the box, take Creighton. But don’t bet on Michigan, Temple or Georgetown. Those teams are too inconsistent.




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