The most wonderful time of the year is finally back, and this season it’s made all the more wonderful by the fact that fans will be back in the stands for the first time since 2019. It’s going to be wall-to-wall basketball from noon Thursday to sometime late on Sunday, and we’re going to be here and on Twitter following along with you the whole time. The weekend will end with 16 teams still alive, but it starts with 68. Here’s your roadmap for how they’re getting there in the Midwest region.
Are you looking for a region where you want to pick nothing but upsets? Do you want to rage against established powers and unlikeable coaches? This is the region for you. Kansas tops the Midwest region with their relentless, borderline boring, level of success. Auburn slides in on the 2 line and brings in their top-level athletes and their incredibly annoying coach. If you read this blog as a Xavier fan (thank you) I shouldn’t need to explain why you want to see Wisconsin fail in heartbreaking fashion and Providence’s luck to finally run out. LSU jumped the gun on making things interesting by firing their head coach before the bracket was even announced. Questions will be asked of the top seeds on their path to the second weekend, but the most important question should be asking will definitively be answered: is Ed Cooley a good coach?
Upset to watch: South Dakota State
There is some bias going into this pick. The Jackrabbits are the other team I support other than Xavier, but there is a legitimate case to made here. The Jackrabbits have the 12th ranked offensive efficiency in the country while leading in EFG% and 3P%. They run a small lineup with only one guy, Douglas Wilson, who doesn’t jack 3s constantly and could be able to stretch Providence’s defense out enough to create open looks. There’s the obvious downside that their defense is absolutely appalling and their lack of size will be an issue with Nate Watson in the post. If Providence’s offense goes cold, they won’t be able to outgun South Dakota State with their bevy of shooters and playmakers. Plus, it’s March. Cheer for the Jackrabbits. They are freaking massive. Come on you Jackrabbits!
Easy to hate: Iowa
Jordan Bohannon has been in college about the same amount of time that LeBron has been in the NBA. He did perform community service in 2019 when he put UC away in the first round of the tournament but he’s outstayed his welcome at this point. Fran McCaffrey lumbers up and down the Hawkeyes sideline whining about anything imaginable; basically a less successful Jay Wright. They are also one of the hottest teams in the country and I’d absolutely love to see it come to a screeching halt, but it probably won’t.
Easy to Love: Colgate
Obvious critiques out of the way now: these guys play in a bad league, their defense is tragic and they are over-reliant on the 3. All of that makes them a great team to watch in March. They aren’t going to speed the game up for Wisconsin or throw some crazy defense at them, but they are going to keep bombing away and see how it works out. Colgate is second in the nation in 3P% and get 39% of their points from deep. They’ll either get hot and be tough to guard, or they’ll attempt 40 threes and get bounced in the first round. That level of volatility is admirable and should be fun to watch.
Player to watch: Baylor Scheierman
Everyone knows about Johnny Davis, Keegan Murray, and the other big names from the top seeds, but Baylor Scheierman has the chance to carry his team to a big upset. He’s 29th in the nation in ORtg, has a 22.6 ARate with a 14.0 TORate while also shooting 55% from inside the arc and 47% from beyond it. Scheierman gets to the line at high rate and is money when he gets there. He can facilitate, post up smaller players, go iso and also knock down shots in the flow of the offense. Scheierman was Summit POTY and has the chance here to show he can do it against a very tough Providence team.
Final Four Favorite: Kansas
Yeah, the top seed is the favorite. Kansas is loaded with offensive firepower and all-around excellence. While they aren’t incredible at any one thing, you’d be hard pressed to find a weakness. Their offense ranks 6th overall thanks to their dominant shooting number inside the arc, their defense ranks 29th thanks to their ability to contest shots. Ochai Agbaji can get his from anywhere on the floor and could very well be the guy to lead the Jayhawks to the Final Four