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2023 NCAA Midwest Region Tournament Preview

YOUR Xavier Musketeers land in a region chock full of teams that have aspirations of making it to Houston by beating Houston.

NCAA Basketball: Missouri Valley Conference Tournament Finals - Bradley vs Drake Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

After four months of winnowing, the greatest single-elimination contest is sports is set to begin. From 363 D1 basketball programs, 68 have been chosen to spend three weekends playing for the sport’s national title. Each of the four regions will battle to send one representative to the Final Four. Joel did the East, Brad did the South, now it’s time for the Midwest.

This region is headlined by a pair of metrics darlings with fresh legitimate injury concerns followed by two teams with legitimate injury concerns that they have had time to adjust to. Populating the non protected seeds are one of the most popular second weekend upset picks in Texas A&M, one of the hottest teams in the country in Penn State, and two of the trendiest first round upset picks in Drake and Kent State.

The Favorites (besides Xavier)

The #2 overall seed in the tournament resides here in the form of Houston, who racked up a gawdy 31-2 record with AAC Player of the Year Marcus Sasser leading the way and 0-1 without him. That last bit of information is pertinent as the game he missed was their AAC Tournament championship game loss to Memphis after Sasser was ruled out with a groin injury. His status going forward is going to be crucial for a team hoping to play in a Final Four in their hometown.

Texas won the Big 12 Tournament without the help of third leading scorer Timmy Allen, who also may or may not be back for the big dance. The Longhorns hold a pair of comfortable wins over Kansas and are one of the most dangerous teams in the tournament because of their ability to turn over their opponents and take advantage.

Indiana have the claim to having the best player in this region in First Team All-American Trayce Jackson-Davis. The Hoosiers started 1-4 in the Big Ten before getting scalding hot in January and have ability to lock down the interior against anyone in the country, which is how they beat Purdue twice.

Who Springs the Big Upset?

Miami (FL) staggered through most of January before winning 8 of 9, only two of which were over tournament teams, and managed to lose to a truly horrendous Florida State team. They will also likely be without Norchad Omier, who is the best rim protector on a team that allowed opponents to shoot 51.8% from two. The Canes are primed for an upset and their opponents, Drake, are exactly the kind of mid-major 12 seed that is prone to becoming the talk of the first weekend. Tucker DeVries plays for his dad and averaged 19 points on .457/.387/.848 shooting. He leads a Bulldogs squad that keeps opponents from getting second chances, takes care of the ball, scores well from all three levels, and makes their free throws. The 12 over 5 is always a popular pick and this one should be for a reason.

Also, Pitt should be able to give Iowa State a game.

Best First Round Matchup

#7 Texas A&M has been a top 10 team in the country since the turn of the year, a span of time in which they have gone 7-4 against tournament teams. They draw Penn State, who comes into the tournament 8-2 in their last 10 and having run through a trio of fellow tournament teams on their way to the Big Ten Tournament final. The Nitanny Lions are led by Second Team All-American Jalen Pickett and will be tasked with trying to slow down First Team All-American Wade Taylor IV to see which of these scorching hot teams with second weekend ambitions take on Texas in the second round.

Sweet Sixteen Picks

#1 Houston, #4 Indiana, #3 Xavier, #7 Texas A&M

Regional Final Prediction

#3 Xavier over #4 Indiana

It’s a theory, it’s probably wrong.