The Midwest region is the last region for me to break down. If everything goes according to plan, North Carolina should advance to the Final Four. But everyone will be coming for them. There is no better feeling than knocking off a #1 seed early in the tournament (just ask Northern Iowa when they shocked Kansas). Let’s break down this region.
*Round of 64*
San Diego State v. North Carolina State – Despite what experts say, this is the only first round game that excites me. At this moment, I am torn between these two teams. On one hand, you have a San Diego State team that made it to the Sweet 16 last season losing to Connecticut and are back for more. This team is led by Jamaal Franklin, Chase Tapley, and Xavier Thames. All three of those players averaged double-figures in scoring this season for the Aztecs. They play tough defense (63 ppg), the main reason that they finished 26-7. One thing that worries me is they lost their conference championship to New Mexico. I know New Mexico is in the tournament, but I am just unsure about this San Diego team as oppose to last year’s San Diego team. On the other hand, you have North Carolina State, a program looking to restore consistency. While they didn’t fare well against the ACC’s best teams in the regular season, they got screwed in the ACC Tournament against North Carolina. The referees missed a charging call on UNC point guard Kendall Marshall and a foul on the game’s final shot that should have been called. But I am not making excuses for NC State. I like their balance on offense (they have five guys averaging double-figures). Sophomore C.J. Leslie can flat-out play basketball, but being a sophomore might be his and NC State’s downfall. Young teams usually struggle in the tournament so that’s why I like San Diego State. Oh, sorry, San Diego State is also young. Sorry, I like NC State by 10.
*Round of 32*
Temple v. Michigan – This will be the closer of the second round games in the Midwest region. Both teams have great guards. Michigan’s Trey Burke and Tim Hardaway have the ability to carry the Wolverines to the Sweet 16. Temples Juan Fernandez, Ramone Moore, and Khalif Wyatt will have something to say about that. Both teams love to shoot the three and I am excited to see how the freshman (Burke) responds in his first tournament game after playing terribly in a loss Saturday to Ohio State. Ultimately I think this game will come down to the wire and whoever has the ball last and executes, will win this game. I think Fernandez makes the play, like he has in the past, and Temples advances to the Sweet 16. Temple by five.
Georgetown v. Kansas – Not a lot of people, me included, thought Kansas would have had this good of a season. After losing the Morris twins, people thought the Jayhawks would be “rebuilding”. No, that’s not what the Jayhawks did. They went 27-6, winning the Big 12 conference regular season title. Thomas Robinson is an animal in the middle and Tyshawn Taylor runs the show. Other than those two players, Kansas will need someone else to step up in big spots. I think Elijah Johnson will have to be that guy. He had a big game against Texas A&M this past Thursday, a game in which he scored 26 points on 8 of 11 from the field including five three-pointers. He needs to be that third guy if Kansas wants a shot at beating Georgetown. Despite what Georgetown has done in past NCAA tournaments (not much), I think they will make a deep run in this year’s tournament. Hollis Thompson, Henry Sims, and Jason Clark will need to play big for the Hoyas. As usual, the Hoyas play stifling defense (allowing 59.2 ppg). I hope that John Thompson III has his team to play come tournament time. I think he will and I think the Hoyas edge Rock Chalk.
North Carolina v. Georgetown – North Carolina might be the safest bet to make it to the Final Four. Whether John Henson is healthy or not (hopefully he is), James Michael-McAdoo will step up to help the Tar Heels. The Heels are talented (Harrison Barnes, Tyler Zeller, John Henson), deep (Michael-McAdoo, P.J. Hairston, Reggie Bullock), and are poised to make a run at the championship. They made it to the Elite Eight last year, losing to Kentucky by seven points. This is the reason Barnes, Henson, and Zeller came back though, to win a championship. I expect them to beat Georgetown, although it won’t be easy (see reasons what I wrote about Georgetown above). North Carolina advances to the Final Four, beating G-town by 10.