Scott Shapiro's NCAA Midwest Picks
The Midwest Region is loaded this year, including blue bloods North Carolina and Kentucky at the top.The Tar Heels and Big Blue Nation will have their work cut out for them though with teams like Houston, Auburn, and Iowa State amongst those capable of beating anyone on their best day. Even Kansas is not without a chance if they can get through their first two games since they would get to play in front of the Jayhawk faithful at the Sprint Center at Kansas City in the Regionals.
Here are round of 64 picks for the Midwest region:
#5 Auburn Tigers (-5.5) vs #12 New Mexico State AggiesAuburn underachieved through much of the season, but has really come on late. Much of that is due to limiting turnovers. The SEC tournament champions shoot the three extremely well and have excellent guards in Harper and Brown. The one concern is that they struggle to keep teams off the offensive boards an area where New Mexico State excels. I like the Tigers to get through, but it may not be easy.
NCAA Midwest Picks - New Mexico State (+5.5)
#4 Kansas Jayhawks (-6.5) vs #13Northeastern HuskiesThis is not one of Bill Self’s better squads, in large part due to being without big man Udoka Azubuike and second leading scorer Lagerald Vick. They do have the best player on the floor in forward Dedric Lawson. Lawson will present a matchup issue for Northeastern, but the Huskies will slow things down and can really shot the rock. They should give Kansas all they can handle.
NCAA Midwest Picks - Northeastern Huskies (+6.5)
#2 Kentucky Wildcats (-22) vs # 15 Abilene Christian WildcatsAbilene Christian is likely to struggle to stop the inside attack of P.J. Washington and Reid Travis, but they will attempt to slow down the tempo and hit a lot of shots from downtown. They rank 19th in the nation in three-point shooting, but the size and athleticism of Kentucky will be far too much to deal with. UK names the score.
NCAA Midwest Picks - Kentucky Wildcats (-22)
#7 Wofford Terriers vs #10 Seton Hall PiratesSeton Hall comes into the NCAA tournament after two emotional weeks of basketball. They were squarely on the bubble two weeks ago, but beat Villanova and Marquette at home to end the regular season and made a run to the Big East tournament title game before falling to the defending champions in a tight one. I question whether the Pirates will be emotionally ready to play at their best and am concerned that their subpar three-point defense will get shredded by the offensive attack of the Terriers. Wofford moves on.
NCAA Midwest Picks - Wofford Terriers
#6 Utah State Aggies (-3) vs #9 Washington HuskiesWashington clinched the Pac 12 regular season title with ease, but struggled down the stretch, including two losses to fellow NCAA tourney team Oregon. The Huskies’ 2-3 zone defense can confuse teams, but Utah State’s ability to knock down shots led by top scorer Sam Merrill (21.2 ppg) should allow the Aggies to win this one and get a chance a top seed North Carolina.
NCAA Midwest Picks - Utah State Aggies (-3)
#3 Houston Cougars (-12.5) vs #14 Georgia State PanthersHouston enters the tournament with a record of 31-3 and possess one of the nation’s best defenses. Senior guard Corey Davis leads the way averaging nearly 17 points per game, but this team is deep and really hits the offensive glass hard. I think they are capable of making a deep run in the dance, but expect Georgia State to give them a bit of trouble with their ability to make shots.
NCAA Midwest Picks - Georgia State Panthers (+12.5)
#1 North Carolina Tar Heels (-23.5) vs #16 Iona GaelsNorth Carolina may have lost to Duke in the ACC tournament, but I still think they are as good as anyone in the country. Their seniors Luke Maye and Cameron Johnson give them leaders that can be unstoppable at times and freshman point guard Coby White is as quick as anyone in the nation with the ball. I have no desire to get in their way early in this tourney.
NCAA Midwest Picks - North Carolina Tar Heels (-23.5)
#6 Iowa State Cyclones (-5.5) vs #11 Ohio State BuckeyesIowa State looked like a sure fire Sweet 16 team through much of the year, but really limped into the Big 12 tournament in large part due to horrendous defense. That is all but forgotten though after a tremendous showing in Kansas City last weekend. Ohio State is a different team with sophomore Caleb Wesson on the floor. His offense along with solid defense should allow the Buckeyes to hang in there, but the Cyclones should advance to the round of 32.
NCAA Midwest Picks - Ohio State Buckeyes (+5.5)