NCAA Bracket 2010: Everything You Need to Know About the Midwest Region
It's the consensus toughest region in the 2010 NCAA Tournament, featuring eight coaches that have Final Four experiences.
Not only is top-ranked Kansas at the top of the heap, they're joined by Ohio State, Georgetown, Maryland, Michigan State and Tennessee.
A bevy of bona-fide stars will lead their teams into first-round action, including the nation's top individual player, the Buckeyes' Evan Turner.
The road to the Final Four won't be easy in the Midwest. Here are some things to watch as things get underway.
Team to Beat: Kansas
Kansas is the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, let alone the Midwest region.
It's the ninth time the Jayhawks have been a top seed since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1985. Since '85, a No. 1 seed has won the championship 11 of 25 times. Can Kansas win it all for a second time in three years?
They're loaded with talent, in Sherron Collins, Marcus and Markieff Morris, and Cole Aldrich. Bill Self is one of the elite coaches in the game today.
There are potential roadblocks along the way, including a possible tough draw in the second round and perhaps either Michigan State or Maryland in the Sweet 16.
The Jayhawks are the cream of the crop, however; unquestionably, the team to beat.
Player You're Going to Hear About: Evan Turner
As the season wore on, the bandwagon for Turner as the nation's top collegiate player gained steam with every passing day.
He didn't disappoint in the Big Ten tournament, with a dramatic game-winning shot at the buzzer that helped the Buckeyes survive a first-round scare against Michigan.
He turned on the jets in a double overtime win over Illinois on Saturday, and then led a Buckeye blitzkrieg with 31 points against Minnesota in the tournament championship.
He's on top of his game, a game that seems to rise to new heights with every passing week.
He'll need to stay there for the Buckeyes to roll through the bottom half of the Midwest Region and a potential matchup with No. 1 Kansas.
Turner has the "it" factor that sets players apart at the collegiate level, and in the pros. When he's on the floor, all eyes are drawn to him.
Keep yours on Turner; it's guaranteed to be a good show.
Upset Special: Houston over Maryland, Round One
The Cougars have momentum on their side heading into the tournament, having won four in a row, including the Conference USA tournament.
Led by the nation's leading scorer, Aubrey Coleman (25.6 ppg), the Cougars knocked off UTEP in the conference final. They've also defeated Memphis twice in recent weeks.
Maryland is led by point guard Greivis Vasquez and received the fourth seed in the region. It's assumed that they're headed for a Sweet 16 showdown with Kansas, but Houston will have other ideas.
See if Coleman can help the Cougars streak by the Terrapins before Vasquez and company know what hit them.
Best Storyline: The Chip on Tennessee's Shoulder
The 25-8 Volunteers, winners of games this year against Kansas and Kentucky, were miffed by their No. 6 seeding in the Midwest Region.
It created for them a difficult first-round matchup against San Diego State. The Aztecs, despite an identical 25-8 record, are the No. 11 seed.
Commentators like Seth Davis of CBS and Jay Bilas of ESPN predicted Sunday that SDSU would topple the Vols, predictions that sent a shockwave felt all the way back to Knoxville.
Even if they hold their ground and defeat the Aztecs, it doesn't get any easier for Tennessee. They would likely have to face No. 3 Georgetown, who faces upstart Ohio in the opening round.
Expect Bruce Pearl to counsel his players to remain poised and focused, but also to use the No. 6 seed as added incentive for the Volunteers to prove their doubters wrong.
Team Most Likely to Be Upset: Michigan State
Yes, we've already picked Houston to topple Maryland in the first round.
However, the Spartans have been an enigma all season long. Even so, they received the No. 5 seed.
Right now, Michigan State is a team that appears to be in disarray. Their chemistry has been unpredictable, and they've battled injuries to boot.
Tom Izzo has pulled magic out of his hat before, and may do so again. That might be all that keeps Michigan State from getting bumped early.
The Spartans take on No. 12 New Mexico State in the first round. The Aggies, at 22-11, are playing well. It's a tough first-round draw.
A win there takes Michigan State to a matchup with the winner of the Maryland-Houston game. The way the Spartans have been playing, they may be doing well to survive the first two rounds.
That's why we say they're the most likely to exit early. Two challenging rounds in the midst of uncertainty will make it a difficult road for Michigan State.
Player to Watch: Sherron Collins
In a region featuring the likes of Turner, Anderson, Favors, Vasquez and other stars, why Collins?
Because as Collins goes, so go the Jayhawks.
The senior guard has established a legacy as one of the best players to don a Kansas uniform. His leadership has helped the Jayhawks climb to the No. 1 ranking in the land.
However, he will need to remain consistent throughout the tournament in order for Kansas to claim its second title in three years.
He averaged better than 15 points per game this season, but shot only 43 percent from the field. That percentage dropped below 40 percent in the five games leading through the Big 12 tournament final.
Bill Self needs consistency and efficiency from his floor leader, including good shot selection and limited turnovers, in order for Kansas to make the run to Indianapolis that everyone expects of them.
Most Anticipated Game: Kansas vs. Ohio State in Regional Final
It's tempting to go with the Oklahoma State-Georgia Tech first-round matchup—which will feature a guaranteed show by James Anderson and Derrick Favors—but lets face it, this is the game everybody wants to see in the Midwest.
Kansas is ranked first in the nation and first in the NCAA Tournament. They won the Big 12's regular season and tournament titles, while Ohio State did the same thing in the Big Ten, including a dismantling of a hot Minnesota team in the tournament championship.
If the Buckeyes get past UC Santa Barbara in the first round, they have a tough second round matchup with the winner of the Oklahoma State-Georgia Tech game. If they survive that far, a potential showdown with Georgetown looms.
If the Jayhawks get through the first two rounds, which they should, they have a prospective showdown with either Maryland or Michigan State before they can think about Ohio State.
But if the Jayhawks and Buckeyes can make it through, all eyes will be on the Midwest Region final on April 3.
The Pressure's On: Tom Izzo
It's nothing Izzo can't handle.
He's one of the NCAA's best, and always seems to have his Spartans in the mix.
However, Michigan State, as strong as they are, is vulnerable. New Mexico State can taste an upset in the first round. Even if the Spartans survive that, they face the prospect of Maryland in Round Two and Kansas in the Sweet 16.
Izzo has a talented but unpredictable cast on this year's roster. If he can keep them focused and help them stay motivated, Michigan State could make another deep run this year.
If not, an early exit will cause the 2009-10 season to end in disappointment.