The top four seeds in the Midwest region were introduced by Jim Nantz on Selection Sunday in seemingly rapid fire succession. Kansas. Ohio State. Georgetown. Maryland.
Like rockets fired from Columbia Broadcasting System missile command, the names lit up the Midwest Bracket. Shit just got real.
Kansas is the consensus No. 1 team in America and top overall seed. Ohio State is one of the top two or three teams in America when the nation’s best player, Evan Turner, is in the lineup.
Third-seeded Georgetown has beaten two of the No. 1 seeds in convincing fashion, Duke and Syracuse, and they’ve maintained contact with the top 10 for most of the season.
Maryland shared a conference title with No. 1 seed Duke and the Terrapins have been an NCAA powerhouse under Gary Williams at times.
In your favorite parlor game, that’s called stacking the deck. Jerry Tarkanian’s recruiting coordinator is serving 20 years for similar offenses. Imagine what Bill Self wants to do to NCAA Selection Committee chair Dan Guerrero for loading this deck with Aces.
This one’s easy. Try the top four seeds. Each team is the best of its line seed class and it’s tough to make an argument to the contrary.
Kansas is the best team in America and has the nation’s best point guard, and arguably the nation’s best all-around pivot player.
Sherron Collins is General George Patton and Cole Aldrich is the USS Eisenhower down low. Collins can find shots for a talented supporting cast, but when the Kansas motion game is bogged down or its sets are mucked up, the talented senior guard is going to find offense off the dribble. Paraphrasing a Bill Self interview from last weekend, there may not be another player in the nation who so effectively imposes his will on his teammates. He’s a true floor general.
Aldrich mans the paint on defense in intimidating style, erasing dribble penetration with his size and tremendous timing, blocking would-be buckets. The talented post is so dominant on the glass that it allows the other Kansas players to leak out into transition early knowing the board is going to be pulled. On offense, Aldrich is a credible back to the basket player that defenses must often double to stop. Plus, his trebuchet free throw stroke is just plain fun to watch.
The second seed Ohio State Buckeyes would be a No. 1 seed as well had Player of the Year candidate Evan Turner not been injured. His absence alone cost the Buckeyes three losses.
The talented Buckeye wing is essentially a 6′7″ point guard, and he’s surrounded by three shooters and playmakers in Lighty, Buford, and Diebler. Lighty (who saw time on the Oden Final Four team) and Buford can create offense, while Diebler is automatic from range. The key for a deep Buckeye run may be 6′10″ wide body Dallas Lauderdale.
If he can avoid foul trouble and stay on the floor, the Buckeyes have the best starting five in the tournament. Sorry, Kansas, and sincere apologies to Kentucky.
The third seed is John Thompson III’s Big East juggernaut the Georgetown Hoyas. Unlike the great Hoya teams of old, Georgetown butters its bread from the outside to in. There’s no Mourning, Ewing, or Mutumbo manning the paint.
Instead, the Hoyas, at times, play without a true post, moving their own Player of the Year candidate Greg Monroe to the perimeter to facilitate offense. Call the talented sophomore a “point center” if you will. He can be Magic Johnson in the halfcourt with the way he creates.
Monroe is flanked by shooters Chris Wright and Austin Freeman as well as several more plus-athletes.
With all of this talent Georgetown is easily the best three seed in the tourney.
The fourth-seed Maryland Terrapins feature yet another POY candidate, in point guard Greivis Vasquez. He spearheads a talented three guard group that can drive it and shoot with the best teams in the country. Vanderbilt is arguably a better four seed, but if they are better, it’s not by much.
Point blank, this bracket is loaded with elite, top-line talent in every quadrant.
When you add the four killers mentioned above to the likes of Michigan State, Tennessee, and Oklahoma State, your 5-7 seeds, you have a bracket that isn’t very “sleeper” friendly. Sure, Cinderella is invited to the ball, and she’ll get to dance, but she’s surrounded by the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, and has a horse and carriage on daylight savings time.
All I can offer you is one potential upset in this bracket.
San Diego State is the one double digit seed with a solid chance to pull a significant upset or two in the region.
The Aztecs play terrific defense and they’re coached by an old tournament war horse, Steve Fisher. Inside, Kawhi Leonard is physical enough to give an undersized Volunteer club all they want. If you’re an upset addict, the 6/11 matchup is your best bet to get a fix.
All Regional Team
Evan Turner’s skills are well chronicled, and any all-region team has to begin with him. If Turner is the best player in the region, James Anderson, the Oklahoma State wing is the second best. He’s an explosive scorer that is open once he leaves the locker room.
In the paint, Georgetown’s Greg Monroe would make one hell of a power forward especially when you put him opposite our starting center Cole Aldrich.
Our guards will be Sherron Collins and Greivis Vasquez and we will mix and match these two creative players based on who we’re playing.
Give me these six guys and I’ll give you the rest of the country and the Midwest group will win nine out of 10 games. That’s how stacked this bracket is.
Kansas is the beast of the bracket, and they’ll leave the maimed bodies of Lehigh, UNLV, and Maryland in the wake of their elite eight run.
Maryland gets by a Spartan team in shambles due to injury and suspension (see this story from Adam Biggers who will soon head up the new Michigan State FanTake blog Sparty On ).
On the bottom part of the bracket Ohio State will look lethargic and bored beating Cal Santa Barbara. In the second round, the Buckeyes pull away in the last five minutes against the pesky four-guard offense of Oklahoma State led by all-world guard James Anderson.
The Buckeyes are so confounded by the Cowboy’s unique style that they unveil their 2-3 zone in an effort to protect Turner and keep the talented Cowboy guards out of the lane.
San Diego State shocks Tennessee but is no match for the Hoyas who curb stomp Fisher’s boys in the second round.
In a Sweet 16 game that’s truly Final Four-worthy, Ohio State and Georgetown battle like the two tournament titans they are. Greg Monroe and Evan Turner go mano a mano for scintillating stretches leaving even Bill Raftery without the appropriate adjective or anecdote or Allium cepa. The Buckeyes win on a buzzer beater by Evan Turner in an 86-84 instant classic.
In the regional final, a game that can’t possibly top the Buckeye vs. Hoya Sweet 16 masterpiece, Kansas and Ohio State take turns going on scoring runs. 8-0 Kansas run here. 12-2 Buckeye run there. In the last five minutes of a two-point ballgame, the pace grinds to a halt leading to a halfcourt battle to manufacture offense between Turner and Collins.
After exchanging buckets for what seems like 10 possessions, Evan Turner finds John Diebler in the corner for a three ball on a drive and kick. Xavier Henry’s desperation three to tie is short and the Buckeyes advance to Indianapolis to face Kansas State.
Rock chalk it up to a karmic deficit caused by Mario Chalmer’s 2008 championship game tying three.
Whether you’re a Jayhawk, Hoya, Buckeye, or just a fan of college basketball, this bracket will provide you with some memorable games for the ages.
I can’t wait.
Look for the South and the East regions tomorrow.
This article originally appeared on March To March
Follow Kevin Berger on Twitter: @MarchToMarch