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NCAA Tournament: Midwest Region Preview
By Mike Tanchevski

John Calipari

No. 1 seed Kentucky looks to come out of the Midwest Region, which features seven of the Top 25 Basketball Power Index teams. In addition to the Wildcats the region features Kansas, Notre Dame, Wichita State, West Virginia, Butler and Texas. The regions opening weekend game locations include Louisville, where UK plays, Columbus, Omaha and Pittsburg; the regional final will be played in Cleveland.

As I view this bracket I see toss ups, a few sure things and an upset.


Cincinnati, having played most of the season without head coach Mick Cronin, takes on the Purdue Boilermakers in what should be a very physical game. Purdue, last in the Big 10 last season, made the tournament on the strength of 7-foot A.J. Hammons who averaged 11.8 PPG and 6.5 RPG. Cincy's only chance is to shoot well from the outside and force mismatches on the perimeter. Take the Boilermakers.

West Virginia versus Buffalo pits two blue collar teams that reflect the personality of their coaches. The Mountaineers, led by Bob Huggins, lead the nation with 10.9 steals per game. Bobby Hurley leads the MAC champion Bulls, who are on an eight-game winning streak. Buffalo is averaging 75 PPG; WVU’s gritty defense will shut the Bulls down.

On paper Texas looks to dominate the game with their defense limiting opponents to 60.4 per game on a 36.7 field-goal percentage. Butler, led by Junior Kellen Dunham, finished third in the Big East with a 12-6 mark and finished with a 5-3 record against teams in the Top 25. The Longhorns should squeak by the Bulldogs.


Kentucky looks for perfection following a 34-0 regular season. The Wildcats’ opener is a lock. Coach Cal should have ample opportunity to showcase the entire team against Hampton. The winner of the MEAC defeated Manhattan in a First Round Game at Dayton to even their record at 17-17. The Pirates may be without leading scorer Dwight Meikle. Will the Wildcats score 100-plus?

Notre Dame is playing their best basketball of the season. The Irish, coming off an ACC Tournament victory, will overpower Northeastern who won the Colonial Athletic Association. The Huskies and Irish share three common opponents in 2014-2015; Florida State, Navy and Massachusetts. The Irish were 3-0 and Northeastern 2-1, losing to UMass. Notre Dame wins in a big way.

Kansas enters the tournament following their 11th consecutive Big 12 regular season title. The Jayhawks rank first in strength of schedule and are miffed at the NCAA selection Committee, not for the No. 2 seed, rather their placement in Kentucky’s bracket. They face New Mexico State, who outscored WAC foes by 14 PPG. This game will be close early with the Jayhawks pulling away in the second half.

Indiana, one of the nations’ best offensive teams, averages 77.5 PPG on a 46.6 field-goal shooting percentage. Wichita State, one of the nations’ best defensive teams, is allowing 55.8 PPG. The difference will be Wichita States’ talented backcourt of Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton; they average 37 PPG and are tournament seasoned. The Shockers easily defeat the overmatched Hoosiers.


Guards Dez Wells (15.1 ppg/5.4 rebounds/2.1 assists) and Melo Trimble (16.3 ppg/3.1assists) lead Number 4 seed Maryland (27-6) against 28-5 Valparaiso. The Crusaders, 10-1 in their last eleven games, allow 59.3 PPG. The Terrapins average 69.5 on a 43.8 shooting percentage. I like the Valpo defense to quiet Wells and Trimble and use their front court to oust a Maryland team I feel is overseeded based on their schedule.

Purdue will provide the first tournament test for Kentucky. The Boilermakers front court will offer a less talented foe than what the Wildcats will face in Wisconsin. Kentucky rolls.

West Virginia will burst the Valparaiso bubble as they look to stop the UK express.

Notre Dame will have no problem with in-state rival Butler.

Another in-state match-up has Wichita State and Kansas squaring off. The Shockers feel the Jayhawks have been ducking them during the regular seson and they’ll show the nation why as they drop KU on their way to the Sweet 16.

Notre Dame and Kentucky will play in a regional final for the ages, as the undefeated pressure becomes more concentrated on the Wildcats.

Midwest Regional Champions: Kentucky

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