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2019 NCAA Tournament Midwest Region preview

This year’s endearing dog mascot team features in a bracket loaded with Big 12 power and a Big East sleeper.

NCAA Basketball: Wofford at Kansas
The world’s sweetheart, at least until Quincy McKnight gets on him.
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Banners’ coverage of the 2019 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.

Overseeded: #9 Washington

Prior to their winning the Pac-12 championship against Oregon, consensus was that Washington was right on the bubble. If they lose that game, I think they’re sweating out Selection Sunday. Then they beat a team the committee seated as a 12 seed, and that vaults them to a 9? Based on their resume wins over Oregon, Colorado, Colorado, and Colorado a third time? I hope the Fightin’ Brady Jardines of Utah State run them off the floor.

Underseeded: #4 Kansas

Man, what a rough year for Jayhawks fans. They had to watch their team finish not-in-first in the conference for the first time in 15 years, and now they’re not a 1 or 2 seed for the first time since 2009. It’s a wonder they can even be troubled to watch. But... they played the nation’s hardest schedule according to KenPom and got through it at 25-9. If you’re a fan of schedule-based metrics, know that Bart Torvik has them as 9th in the nation in wins above bubble. Their worst loss is by one point at West Virginia. They’re sneaky good at defense and can play pretty attractive ball when things are clicking. Watch out for the ol’ Rock Chalks.

Easy to like: #13 Northeastern

Northeastern doesn’t really hurry on offense, and they almost never go to the glass. What they do is run their stuff, then shoot a three. They almost 39% from behind the arc as a team and take more than 46% of their shots from deep; both of those numbers are inside the top 25 in the nation. With four dudes in the rotation with more than 50 made threes and a better than 39% success rate, this is the kind of endearing story that March loves, especially if they get hot and methodically bomb someone of the court.

Fun to watch: #7 Wofford

Basically everything I just wrote, except they do go after offensive rebounds. They also play defense, which Northeastern eschews. They got clobbered by Kansas, but they also haven’t lost since the week before Christmas. If you want to watch a team on a roll that shoots it with a ton of confidence, the Terriers are your huckleberry.

Easy to hate: #2 Kentucky

Aside from the fact that John Calipari is slimy, I just don’t think this is a very endearing team at all. Their high-level recruiting firepower disguises the fact that theirs is just a glorified version of the offense UC uses where your best weapons are offensive rebounding and refs who like you. Their defense is excellent, particularly inside the arc, but the last thing I want to do is watch UK and their incredibly entitled fan base grind their way to the Final Four.

Danger team: #6 Iowa State

You don’t win the Big 12 tournament by getting lucky, and Iowa State hits the big dance coming off just that feat. They have a matchup nightmare in senior wing Marial Shayok, a versatile freshman scorer in Talen Horton-Tucker, and the 9th-best offense in the country. They haven’t really hit a stride yet, but there’s a reason they were a trendy pick for a deep run in the preseason. When they’re clicking, they can run with anyone.

Best matchup: Seton Hall v. Wofford

This season, Markus Howard has posted ORtgs of 88, 59, and 106 against Seton Hall. That’s interesting in this context only because he’s not entirely dissimilar to Wofford star Fletcher Magee, who everyone and his mom is picking to carry Wofford in a Wally Szczerbiakian manner this March. Magee is a bigger body than Howard, but they play the same kind of game. If Kevin Willard, the store-brand Chris Mack, can game plan Magee like he did Howard this year, the Pirates might break a lot of hearts before the weekend.

Player to watch: Myles Powell, Seton Hall

This guy is some kind of scorer. He dropped 28 on UK in a win, has scored at least 30 on 8 separate occasions this season, and has hit at least 4 threes in each of his 6 games in March. He’ll get buckets from everywhere, plays solid defense, and is nails at the line. The opponent who can’t figure out how to keep the ball out of his hands will likely be heading home early.