TDT’s 2017 NCAA Tournament Preview: Midwest Region
Kansas is the clear favorite, but their road to the Final Four won't be an easy one.
In case you missed it, check out the preview of the East Region in the 2017 NCAA Tournament. Next, we’ll take a look at the Midwest region, which is headlined by the overall 1-seed Kansas Jayhawks. Despite their high seed, they will still face a few tough tests if they want to make it to the Final Four. There are several other squads who can make some noise once things tip off.
Best Player: G Frank Mason III, Kansas
Frank Mason III is the frontrunner for National Player of the Year on most media lists. That comes as no surprise, as he’s been the best player on the tournament’s overall No. 1 team. He’s a great scorer and he also does a good job of getting his teammates involved. He’s an efficient shooter and is not afraid to get after it on the defensive end either. It’s safe to say Mason is the go-to-guy for the Jayhawks.
Best First-Round Matchup: No. 8 Miami (FL) vs. No. 9 Michigan St.
The Midwest region, in general, is going to bless our eyes with some great matchups, even in the Round of 64. The game that stands out the most to me is Miami-Michigan State. Both teams have had up-and-down seasons, but will need to bring their respective A-games to top their opponent. Miami is a team that is dominated by their guards, most notably Davon Reed and Ja’Quan Newton. Michigan State is led by freshman sensation Miles Bridges, who is headed straight to the NBA after this season. This is not a star-studded team, but they’re a gritty bunch, who we know will be ready because Tom Izzo is their head coach.
Sleeper Team That Can Win it All: No. 3 Oregon
Once again, that 3-seed is kind of tricky because they’re still really good, but the committee didn’t think they were good enough. That explains Oregon perfectly. Dana Altman’s team took a pretty big hit when they caught word that Chris Boucher was lost for the season with a torn ACL, but there’s still hope after all. They still have the Pac-12 Player of the Year, Dillon Brooks, and guard Payton Pritchard, who has come on really strong at the right time of the year. The Ducks are dangerous and despite the loss of Boucher, could still be quacking deep into the tourney.
Potential Cinderella: No. 11 Rhode Island
Everyone is talking about Nevada, which isn’t a bad choice here, but let’s show Rhode Island some love for once. The Rams got off to good start this season, knocking off a ranked Cincinnati team, then putting up a valiant fight against Duke. They have a talented roster, led by senior guard E.C. Matthews, who has proven all season that he’s highly capable of lighting up the scoreboard. The Atlantic-10 champs are also a strong defensive team, and if they can limit easy looks for the opposition, they could make a run.
Elite Eight Matchup: No. 1 Kansas over No. 3 Oregon
Kansas has an extremely tough road to the Elite Eight, having to survive Miami/Michigan State, Iowa State and Purdue, but they are the best team in the region. The Jayhawks are a deep team from top to bottom. They boast two talented offensive guards in Mason and Devonte’ Graham, as well as freshman phenom Josh Jackson. Oregon was my sleeper pick and I think they are good enough to get by the bottom half of the bracket, even No. 2 Louisville. This creates a showdown with Kansas. The Ducks have a lot of talent too, but the void left by Boucher will catch up to them eventually.