As part of the leadup to the 2018 NCAA Tournament, we’re picking/projecting each of the four regions. In this installment, we’ll be taking a look at the Midwest Region.
(1) KANSAS VS. (16) PENN
Okay... SO... I know people want to think that the Penn Quakers have a shot here. And hear me out: The fact that their win probability on KenPom is a gaudy 11 percent is eye-popping. You don’t typically see that from 16 seeds, and Penn isn’t an ordinary 16 seed. They’re probably (read: definitely) under-seeded. Nevertheless... who are we kidding here?
(8) SETON HALL VS. (9) N.C. STATE
The group of Angel Delgado, Desi Rodriguez, Khadeen Carrington and Ismael Sanogo will make their third NCAA Tourney appearance. This illustrious group is looking for their first-ever win in the NCAAs, though. Will they be able to? It’s not implausible. The N.C. State Wolfpack pack a bit of a punch offensively but are a bit weak defensively. Especially inside, which could spell trouble against Delgado. Will Kevin Willard be able to outcoach Kevin Keatts, or vice versa? I see this being a coin flip, and right now... I suspect that the Wolfpack gets the better of the Pirates.
Winner: N.C. State
(5) CLEMSON VS. (12) NEW MEXICO STATE
This could prove to be a bit of a trap. Neither Clemson nor New Mexico State have offenses that will jump off the page at you. Both of them, however, have stingy and stifling defenses. A couple off performances from the Tigers, and New Mexico State could surprise him. The same could, however, be said from the other perspective. I’m going to just play it safe here and pick the 5.
(4) AUBURN VS. (13) COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON
The Auburn Tigers have sputtered a bit. The College of Charleston Cougars, meanwhile, have lost only two games since January 11. It may not be that simple, but Auburn has shown themselves to be a bit weakened at the moment. Especially without Anfernee McLemore. This could be a prime opportunity for an upset, and I will pick the Cougars for that.
Winner: College of Charleston
(6) TCU VS. (11) SYRACUSE
A Syracuse Orange team who doesn’t really belong in the NCAA Tournament? Hmmm... where have I seen that before... in this matchup between two former Big East coaches, I’m going to side with Jim Boeheim and the Orange to pick up an upset over Jamie Dixon and the TCU Horned Frogs. If for no other reason than that Syracuse tends to pull this kind of $#@& on the yearly.
(3) MICHIGAN STATE VS. (14) BUCKNELL
I haven’t been drinking the Kool-Aid for the Michigan State Spartans all season long, so I won’t start now. Despite the fact that they have future lotto pick Jaren Jackson Jr. and Miles Bridges as well, this team hasn’t played well for about a month now. I recognize that they won the Big Ten regular season, but they didn’t exactly look impressive in doing so. That all being said... I do see them beating the Bucknell Bison. Although it would be amusing if the Bison did wind up winning.
Winner: Michigan State
(7) RHODE ISLAND VS. (10) OKLAHOMA
The Fighting Trae Youngs have been awful for going on about two months now. They’re 4-11 in their last 15 games and are playing a stingy Rhode Island Rams team. Why should I think that they’re going to suddenly pick up the pace now? I know that Trae Young is good, and he’ll likely have a good game to start the tourney. But this OU team didn’t even belong in the field. Give me URI.
Winner: Rhode Island
(2) DUKE VS. (15) IONA
(1) KANSAS VS. (9) N.C. STATE
N.C. State has the nation’s 15th-best 3-point defense, but teams only have a 3-point field goal rate (3PA/FGA) of 32.1 percent against them. That... will absolutely change against KU. 37.4 percent of the Jayhawks’ points this year come from the 3-ball. They are going to let it rain from long range, and I don’t think NC State will make enough stops to keep them from winning.
(5) CLEMSON VS. (13) COLLEGE OF CHARLESTON
Either Brad Brownell or Earl Grant will make the Sweet 16 for the first time in their careers. Although CoC pulled off the stunner in the Round of 64 against Auburn, methinks that their run will end here. I get the sense that Clemson will wear them down, and the Tigers will then be Omaha-bound.
(3) MICHIGAN STATE VS. (11) SYRACUSE
I want to pick ‘Cuse to make a run just because but... I just can’t in this instance. Even though I don’t trust MSU to make it further than the second weekend, I just don’t think the Orange have it in them this year. Remember this when they make it to San Antonio.
Winner: Michigan State
(2) DUKE VS. (7) RHODE ISLAND
Duke has Marvin Bagley III. Rhody does not.
(1) KANSAS VS. (5) CLEMSON
Remember that chat we just had about Kansas and 3-point shooting? Well... the only weakness that Clemson has this year on defense is: You guessed it, on the perimeter! If KU’s shooters are clicking, and I’m going to hazard a guess that they will, this could spell trouble. In a hurry.
(2) DUKE VS. (3) MICHIGAN STATE
Let’s consider the following:
- Tom Izzo is 1-11 against Coach K, all time.
- The only win that Michigan State has had against Duke while these two coaches have faced each other was in the 2005 Sweet 16. It’s been 13 years.
- Duke beat Sparty earlier this season, 88-81, and Marvin Bagley only played 10 minutes and scored only four points.
- Duke has Marvin Bagley III. Michigan State does not.
(1) KANSAS VS. (2) DUKE
You would be hard pressed to pit two more detestable fanbases against each other in this year’s NCAA Tournament. Alas, here we are. This game could have a variety of factors playing into it. Will Duke be able to shoot and compete with Kansas’ deft offense? Will Udoka Azubuike be healthy by this time? Is Grayson Allen going to hip check somebody again? Also, another: Duke has Marvin B—
Okay, you’ve heard that a bunch already in this article. I’m putting Duke in the Final Four.