Welcome to my 4th and final regional preview for March Madness. Today, I’ll be taking a look at the Midwest Region. WIll UNC go far, or will someone upset them along the way? What other big upsets could happen? Keep reading to find out what I think. You can also check out the rest of my regional previews at the links below:
March Madness 2019: Regional Previews
I will be previewing the Sweet 16 next week as well!
Now let’s get started with the Midwest:
Round of 64 Preview
Columbus, OH: Games start Friday, March 22, 2019 at 6:50 PM EST on TNT
Utah State may have won the MWC after San Diego State’s take down of Nevada, but I still think Washington is the better team here. The Huskies were a bright spot in an unusually weak Pac-12. Expect them to outplay the Aggies, who struggled to keep up with Nevada in a mid-major conference, especially early on. You could argue that the Huskies didn’t win enough games outside the Pac-12, but Utah State hasn’t won many more outside their conference.
The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Washington
The Tar Heels should be able to take care of Iona. The Gaels have found a way to pull some upsets after subpar seasons. But a 16-1 upset is not happening. North Carolina will not have it easy in this tournament like they did last season. But led by longtime Tar Heel leader Luke Maye, they should be able to snuff Iona’s torch before it’s too late.
The Pick: North Carolina
Salt Lake City, UT: Games start Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 1:30 PM EST on TNT
This should be a close one, and it was one of the hardest games for me to predict. New Mexico State has a long history of pulling upsets in this tourney, and they have reigned over the WAC for at least a few years. The Tigers might not quite be on the level of the SEC’s top teams in Kentucky, Tennessee, and LSU, though they managed to win the SEC tournament. However, I don’t think Auburn will have the same luck in this game.
The Pick: UPSET ALERT: New Mexico State
#4 Kansas vs. #13 Northeastern
The Jayhawks had some bad losses this year, including losses to Arizona State, Texas, and West Virginia. But I think Kansas should be able to take care of the Huskies. Northeastern struggled to keep up with Hofstra in a relatively weak Colonial conference. There’s no way they’ll be able to defeat the Big 12 champion, even though Kansas has been inconsistent within their conference.
The Pick: Kansas
Tulsa, OK: Games start Friday, March 22, 2019 at 7:20 PM EST on TBS
The Cougars dominated the AAC this season. Their only losses? Cincinnati, UCF, and Temple. They were also undefeated outside the AAC. That gives me plenty of confidence for them in this tournament. I see them as the best mid-major team this season, and the Panthers should be a pretty easy opponent despite plenty of recent NCAA tournament experience.
The Pick: Houston
The Cyclones weren’t quite on the level of the Big 12’s top teams, but they did improve from their 2017-18 performance and will have a shot to make a run in the tourney this year. Ohio State may be inconsistent, but they have beat some elite teams like Iowa and Cincinnati. The Cyclones don’t have that kind of upside, and the Buckeyes will take advantage.
The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Ohio State
Jacksonville, FL: Games start Thursday, March 21, 2019 at 7:10 PM EST on CBS
Fun fact: this is the only Round of 64 game in which both teams have the same mascot. This is a battle of the Wildcats. Abilene Christian was able to thrive in the weak Southland conference. But they don’t have many quality victories, and Kentucky will be a very tough opponent. Expect Tyler Herro and P.J. Washington to lead Kentucky as they take care of business against ACU. But this won’t even be close to the end of Kentucky’s March Madness run.
The Pick: Kentucky
The Terriers came out on top in an unusually strong SoCon. UNC Greensboro, who came in second to them, nearly made it on an at-large bid. But Seton Hall managed to put up a respectable record in their mid-major conference despite placing behind Marquette and Villanova. The Pirates have pulled some interesting upsets in the past, and Wofford may have been consistent, but they lack quality wins outside the SoCon. Look for Seton Hall to take care of business here even though I think the committee overrated them.
The Pick: UPSET ALERT: Seton Hall
Round of 32 and Beyond
Here are my projected Round of 32 match-ups:
UNC should be able to take care of Washington. The Tar Heels had a consistent track record this year, especially within the ACC. The Huskies cannot say the same. KU may struggle against New Mexico State, who will be fresh off upsetting Auburn. Kansas lost a lot this off-season, and they may be upset prone, so Bill Self and the Jayhawks won’t be enough to end New Mexico State’s run this year. Houston should win easily over an inconsistent Ohio State squad, and Kentucky will show Seton Hall who’s boss, especially since they will have momentum in their favor after dominating against Abilene Christian.
And the Projected Midwest Winner is…
The Wildcats’ toughest game might be their Sweet 16 battle with Houston. Led by Corey Davis Jr., Houston has done very well in a competitive AAC conference, but Kentucky nearly won everything in an even stronger SEC conference that has 7 representatives in the NCAA Tournament. Despite the tough Regional Finals match-ups, Herro and Washington should lead John Calipari’s team back to the Final 4. UNC will look to stop Kentucky after putting an end to New Mexico State’s run, but even the NM State game will be a rocky ride for UNC, as NM State can really tear apart quality teams, even in games they don’t end up winning. Kentucky is the best equipped for the Final 4: they have easier match-ups, a top head coach, and a duo of leaders on the court. I even picked them to win the championship.
That’s all for this year’s March Madness regional previews. I’ll give you an update on my bracket and revise my predictions next week before the Sweet 16, so stay tuned.