Monday, March 18, 2013

March Madness Breakdown: Midwest Region

Tom Izzo's MSU team is set up to go deep in this Tournament
Top Seeds 

1 – Louisville
2 – Duke
3 – Michigan State
4 – St. Louis

The Rest

5 - Oklahoma State
6 - Memphis
7 - Creighton
8 - Colorado State
9 - Missouri
10 - Cincinnati
11 - Middle Tennessee/Saint Mary's
12 - Oregon
13 - New Mexico State
14 - Valparaiso
15 - Albany
16 - North Carolina AT&T/Liberty

Louisville is playing their best basketball of the season lately having won 13 of their last 14 games with the lone slip up a three point loss at Notre Dame in five overtimes way back in February. Louisville is one of the best defensive teams in the country and excels at generating quick offense from turnovers with Peyton Siva and Ross Smith ranking second in the country as a team in forced turnovers and turnover margin. The Cardinals also won the gauntlet that is the Big East conference tournament for the second consecutive year and the past two Big East tourney champs have reached the Final Four(UCONN in 2011 and Louisville in 2012) Duke has not lost a game outside of ACC conference play and is still trying to find a comfort level with senior F Ryan Kelly returning to the lineup after missing 13 games in the middle of the season with a right foot injury. Four of the Blue Devils five losses occurred when Kelly was out of the lineup and despite having lost to Maryland in the ACC tournament, they have the talent for a deep tourney run.

Michigan State is a NCAA tournament staple advancing to the Sweet Sixteen round or further in 10 of the last 15 years. Tom Izzo has mastered the ability to survive and advance and always has his teams prepared and focused. Forwards Adrian Payne and Derrick Nix are match-up nightmares for most teams unaccustomed to their size and length. But the Spartans will go as far junior G Keith Appling takes them. In the Spartans 25 wins Appling averages nearly 15 points per game compared to just 10.5 in their eight losses.

In any other region St. Louis would be a trendy pick to make a deep tournament run. An elite defensive team, the Billikens have quietly pieced together an impressive resume this year. A decisive 14 point win over New Mexico in December along with conference wins versus Butler(three times) and VCU(twice) make St. Louis a dangerous team.

The seeding committee awarded the Louisville Cardinals the #1 overall seed in the tournament as well as the most difficult region. Coach K at Duke and Tom Izzo at Michigan State have a combined 17 Final Four appearances between them. Louisville will have their work cut out for them if they hope to advance to their second consecutive Final Four. A potential match-up against St. Louis in the Sweet Sixteen will be a knock down drag out affair, and if they survive a likely date with Michigan St or Duke. Louisville does have a chance to play close to home as the regional finals will be held a mere 115 miles from their campus in Indianapolis.

Don’t sleep on Valparaiso. Senior dominated teams(see Cornell 2010) have had success in the tournament lately with so many top players leaving after one year of college basketball to the NBA. Valpo has seven seniors playing over 15 minutes per game and are led by F Ryan Broekhoff. The Crusaders are coached by Bryce Drew who happens to have one of the most iconic buzzer beaters in NCAA tournament history.

The Picks

Sweet Sixteen: Louisville over St. Louis, Duke over Michigan St.

Elite Eight:  Duke over Louisville

Until next time, Beers, Brats, and Championships.

Neal Olson (

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