Welcome to Banners’ coverage of the 2017 NCAA Tournament! Here we will give you the same info that you can get hundreds of other places on the web processed slightly differently and with our own slant as you prepare to immerse yourself in all things college basketball in the most glorious four days on the sporting calendar. We will break the bracket down region by region to get you completely prepared to pick and, more importantly, root with the best information available.
The Midwest is a fun region this year. Kansas is the top seed and will be playing close to home, but Midwest schools abound that could challenge the Jayhawks for supremacy if they can make it out of the first weekend.
Can you make a couple of quibbles here? Probably, but there’s nothing egregious. People might have a problem with Kansas on the one line after they lost at the first time of asking in their conference tournament, but they also won the Big 12 regular season and boast 8 wins within the KenPom top 25. Michigan State also might have gotten a bit of a bump, but the chance to play Kansas in the second round isn’t exactly a gift from the committee.
#10 Oklahoma State
The 20-12 record isn’t earning any plaudits, but these guys beat West Virginia at their place, lost to Kansas twice by a total of 12 points, and lost to Baylor twice by a total of 7 points. They also boast the #1 offense in the nation, which nobody can be looking forward to playing. The
Sooners Cowboys love to get out and run; if they can push the tempo, they’ll give anybody a run for their money.
Easy to Like
Since Brad’s beloved Akron Zips once again came up a game short, let me offer a store brand version to soothe his shattered heart. Akron’s offensive plan is basically to stand around taking turns chucking threes, and Nevada thinks that sounds like fun. More that 40% of their shots come from deep, and they shoot 38.5% from there as a team. They might go stone cold and lose by 20, or they might get hot and shoot themselves through a couple of rounds. Whatever happens, know that they’ll be chucking from the cheap seats all game.
Fun to watch
These guys play a really nice brand of basketball. Only three teams in the nation assist a higher percentage of their buckets. Sharing is caring, and it’s also a lot of fun for basketball fans to watch. The Boilermakers don’t have one guy dishing out a ton of assists; it’s more of a team commitment to moving the ball around. They’ve got four dudes who shoot 39.7% or better from deep and Caleb Swanigan in the middle; they do okay.
Easy to Hate
As much as I like Rick Pitino’s style of play, I hate his style of being alive. From the fact that he dresses like an alcoholic uncle trying to pull off a Colonel Sanders outfit to his various off-court indiscretions, the dude just reeks of creepiness. I wouldn’t trust him within a million feet of my mom, my wife, or my hundred-year-old grandma, and I don’t like him on my TV screen. His only redeeming attribute is how mad he makes UK fans.
#5 Iowa State
I know this isn’t a huge revelation, but Iowa State is a really good team. When they’re going well, they can beat anyone in the nation, including Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse. They never turn the ball over and they shoot over 40% from deep as a team. This is an extremely veteran team that isn’t going to fold under pressure or beat itself. If they can get some stops, they’re going a long ways.
#7 Michigan v. #10 Oklahoma State
If you were seeding just by KenPom ranking, these teams would both be 5 seeds. Both of them count on top-ten offenses to prop up mediocre defenses. OK State likes to fly to the glass to create second chances, where Michigan counts on ball security and a barrage of three-point attempts. I’ll be at work when this one tips off, but if you aren’t, you should definitely watch it.
Player to Watch
Caleb Swanigan, Purdue
He doesn’t have a song about him like Frank Mason does, but this dude is incredible. He’s a monstrous rebounder, especially on the defensive end. He gobbles up possessions without sacrificing efficiency. He can score at all three levels and shoots 79.1% from the line. And - despite being a 6’9”, 250-pound train - he plays almost 80% of the available minutes. Stud.