Men's Basketball 2015 NCAA Tournament Midwest Regional Overview

Kentucky Men's College Basketball

Midwest Regional Overview

The Midwest Region, not surprisingly, is once again a very tough region. The top four seeds in the region: Kentucky, Kansas, Notre Dame and Maryland were all AP Top 10 teams at one point this season. Throw in some elite defensive teams like Cincinnati (8 Seed), West Virginia (5 Seed), and New Mexico State (15 Seed), and the winner of this region could very well win the entire tournament.



#1 Kentucky, #2 Kansas, #3 Notre Dame, #4 Maryland, #5 West Virginia, #6 Butler, #7 Wichita State, #8 Cincinnati, #9 Purdue, #10 Indiana, #11 Texas, #12 Buffalo, #13 Valparaiso, #14 Northeastern, #15 New Mexico State, #16 Hampton, #16 Manhattan


Who Can Win?

34-0. That’s 34 wins and 0 losses for those of you who don’t know. That’s the record that the #1 Kentucky Wildcats finished with in the regular season plus the SEC Tournament. Of course, the team didn’t beat any of the other one seeds (Duke, Wisconsin, and Villanova) during the regular season. Still, wins against Kansas, Arkansas (3 Times), Texas, UNC and Louisville isn’t bad. With nine McDonald’s All-Americans, it’s not surprising that a lot of people are going to end up taking these Cats to the championship game. Notre Dame, the 3 seed in the bracket, is another team that could really make some noise in the Midwest. To be honest, I wasn’t particularly high on this club going into the ACC Tournament. I knew they had a great upperclassmen leader in Jerian Grant and a few other solid pieces (Pat Connaughton, Zach Auguste), but I thought they were going to lose to the 2 seed Duke Blue Devils for sure. I was wrong. The Fighting Irish hit outside shots, pounded teams down low (even with their lack of size), and defended expertly against some of the best bigs in the country (Jahlil Okafor, Brice Johnson, Kennedy Meeks). Needless to say, this team knows how to win. It’s that simple. Kentucky should be the favorite to win, but they would be extremely ill advised to sleep on the Fighting Irish come Elite 8 time.


Who Can Surprise?

When I look at the bracket, I see two teams that could really “surprise” in the upcoming weeks. I define “surprise” not as one simple win, but at least two wins over higher seeds in the bracket. Those two teams are the #7 seed Wichita State Shockers, and the #11 seed Texas Longhorns. Starting with Wichita State, the facts are pretty straightforward. This team went undefeated last season in the Missouri Valley, earning them a number one seed in the tournament. In the round of 32, they met up with a really underrated 8 seed, the Kentucky Wildcats. They lost their best scorer from last year’s team, Cleanthony Early (NBA), but that was their only tough graduation. This team still has one of the top point guards in the country in Fred VanVleet, and a nice “three and D” guy in Ron Baker. High flying Indiana is a tough first round matchup, but look out if they are able to fight by the Hoosiers. The other team is the 11 seed Texas Longhorns. Their inability to close out games is scary, I get that, but any team with a lottery pick (Myles Taylor), a flat-out playmaker (Isaiah Taylor), and a great coach (Rich Barnes), is always dangerous in my book. I personally think the #6 seed Butler Bulldogs are an overrated crew, and a first round matchup against the Big 12 school is certainly not an easy task.


Who’s Hot?

Well, it’s hard to get any hotter than the Kentucky Wildcats. The last time this team lost was just under a year ago, when they faced UConn in the finals of the 2014 NCAA Tournament. In fact, this team hasn’t even gone into Overtime since January 10th, when they were nearly knocked off by Texas A&M on the road. To put it in simpler terms: this team is on fire. Two other “warm” teams, per say, are the #3 seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish (won 8 of their last 9) and the #4 seed Maryland Terrapins (9 of their last 11).


Who’s Cold?

Not a lot of teams are cold heading into the Midwest region. Of course, not all of them are on fire, either. One of the teams that has really struggled in the past couple months is the 10 seed Indiana Hoosiers. Early on in Big Ten play, this team seemed destined for a top five seed in one of the regions. They started out 5-1 with wins over Ohio State, Illinois, and Maryland, three of the better teams in the conference. However, they quickly lost steam, and lost three of their next four in late January-early February against some beatable teams like Purdue and Ohio State. After righting the ship in mid-February, this team once again went into a tailspin to end the season, dropping five of their last seven. It should be noted that one of those losses was against the Northwestern Wildcats. The other team that is a little on the colder side would be the #9 seed, the Purdue Boilermakers. Coincidentally, this squad is also from the Big Ten, one of the toughest conferences in all of college basketball. Unlike Indiana, however, the Boilermakers started off cold in the regular season, dropping three early games against Wisconsin, Maryland, and Indiana. However, they then turned it up big time in the month of February, going 9-1 from January 24th-February 26th. They dropped three games recently, but none of them were bad losses. The first was a road loss against Ohio State, followed by another road loss at Michigan State. It should be noted that both of those games were lost by six points or less. The other loss was a 20 point beatdown by the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers just a few days back. Obviously, this isn’t a horrible loss considering the Badgers are a one seed in the tournament, but it would have been nice to see them put up a little better effort.


Upset Alert!

Maryland got a four seed, which is great, but their first round matchup against the vastly underrated Valparaiso Crusaders is not one they should take for granted. Valparaiso or “Valpo” are the number one overall seed from the Horizon League. The Horizon League may not boast the same competition as the Big East or ACC, but it does play host to some solid programs including Green Bay, Oakland, and of course: Valparaiso. The Crusaders are a bit one dimensional on the offensive end, constantly playing through versatile forward Alec Peters. Peters can do it all for the Crusaders. He can shoot outside at an elite level (46.2% three point percentage), draw pressure inside (16.7 ppg), and is a force to be reckoned with on the glass (6.8 rebounds per game). Considering Valparaiso lost only five games on the season (four of those were on the road), the Terps would be foolish to look over the Crusaders.


What Possible Matchup is Interesting?

A lot of possible matchups from this bracket could be interesting. Cincinnati-Kentucky could be a fun round of 32 matchup and Texas-Notre Dame could draw some attention from fans as well. Overall though, one game would bring in the viewers and the college ball lovers, and that would be Wichita State-Kansas. An interstate matchup between one of the best mid-major teams in the country and one of the most highly praised programs in the nation would be a sight for the ages. Whether the headline would be Wichita State knocking off their “older brother” or Perry Ellis having to face an awkward reunion with the team he turned down, this game would have it all. Kansas would own the inside with Ellis, but if Wichita State could get the crowd involved early with some threes or dunks, this could be a monumental upset. Before any of that can happen, however, the Shockers will need to make sure to not let the energetic Hoosiers get the best of them.


Which Player Will Dominate?

This part of the bracket is superstar heavy. Karl-Anthony Towns seems like a guy that could draw attention from the media quite a bit, while others like Jerian Grant of Notre Dame and Melo Trimble/Dez Wells of Maryland could explode as well. If I had to choose one, though, it would be Perry Ellis of Kansas. The junior is averaging career highs in points (13.8), rebounds (7.0), blocks (0.7) and assists (1.3), while also starting to become more and more comfortable with his outside shot (38.6%). With less superstars and depth then Bill Self is used to, he could lean on Perry Ellis even more than usual (28.8 minutes per game). Another Kansas player, point guard Frank Mason III could show up as well, but I got Ellis as the biggest impact player.


Which System is Tough to Prepare For?

Kentucky’s offense is nearly unstoppable. Well, at least it feels that way. With four, yes four capable bigs inside, if you’re not ready to guard the interior, you may as well not show up. Problem is, if you focus on shutting out the bigs (like Arkansas tried to do), the guards will hurt you. Andrew and Aaron Harrison are both big time playmakers when they need to be, while young gun Devin Booker has proven to be a marksman from outside (43.1% three point percentage). So, if you focus too much on stopping the bigs, the guards will kill you. If you focus too much on stopping the guards, the bigs will eat you up inside. How can they be stopped? Start on the defensive end. Force Kentucky to beat you in their halfcourt offense. They are still dangerous running their sets, but not even close to as dangerous as they are when they start to get stops quickly and run in the transition. Texas A&M had the most success against the Wildcats earlier this year. With two capable bigs, the Aggies forced the guards to make shots. Aaron Harrison really struggled in the game, shooting 4-20 from the field and 2-13 from behind the arc. If it wasn’t for Devin Booker’s heroics off the bench (18 points, 4-7 from three), the Cats surely would have lost the game. To conclude, you basically have to choose what you’re defending against Kentucky. No team in the nation can stop them both down low and outside, so you have to choose which to focus on. The Cats are beatable, but I don’t see them being stopped in the Midwest.


Midwest Region Round of 64 Game Breakdowns


East Regional Overview

East Region Round of 64 Game Breakdowns


South Regional Overview

South Region Round of 64 Game Breakdowns


West Regional Overview

West Region Round of 64 Game Breakdowns


Tournament Central