The field of 65 has been picked, the regional brackets are set, and all the teams have been seeded so let the madness begin. Starting on Tuesday with the play-in game between Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Winthrop, the march to this year’s Final Four in Indianapolis gets underway.
With 64 games to go before we crown a new National Champion, there are bound to be some ugly blowouts, close calls, and shocking upsets before we find out which two teams will play for the title on April 5. Here is a brief preview of some of the teams to watch coming out of the Midwest Regional, along with their current odds to win it all.
Final Four Favorites
It is no surprise that No. 1 seed Kansas is the odds-on-favorite to win the National Championship after the season they have had. The Jayhawks have been ranked in the top three all season long and are currently a consensus No. 1. They are 32-2 overall, 15-1 in conference play, and won the Big 12 Tournament in convincing fashion by beating No. 7 Kansas State for the third time this season by a score of 72-64.
Kansas is led by senior G Sherron Collins, who is averaging 15.6 points per game. His supporting cast includes freshman G Xavier Henry (13.6 points and 4.6 rebounds), sophomore F Marcus Morris (12.3 points and 6.1 rebounds), and junior C Cole Aldrich (11.2 points and 9.9 rebounds) to form one of the most formidable lineups in the tournament. They should coast to Final Four before the competition heats up.
No. 2 seed Ohio Sate comes into this tournament with a full head of steam, having won 13 of their last 14 games including the Big Ten Tournament championship with a 90-61 drubbing of Minnesota. They finished with an overall record of 27-7 and were tied with Purdue and Michigan State with a 14-4 record in the conference.
With one of the best players in the game, junior G-F Evan Turner, the Buckeyes are a threat to beat whoever they face. Turner is averaging 20.3 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 5.9 assists a game. Sophomore G William Buford (14.5 points), junior G Jon Diebler (12.8), and junior G-F David Lighty (12.7 points) round out a solid starting five. A possible stumbling block for the Buckeyes could be getting by a potential match up with Georgetown in the Sweet 16.
After losing three straight conference games in early February, Michigan St. all but disappeared from the Big 10 title talk, let alone the NCAA’s. By winning five out of their last six including a big 53-44 win over Purdue and two wins in the conference tournament, the Spartans finished with an overall record of 24-8 and drew the No. 5 seed in the region.
Michigan St. is led by junior G Kalin Lucas, who is averaging 14.9 points per game, and senior F Raymar Morgan, who is averaging 11.5 points and 6.2 rebounds a game. If the Spartans can regain the form they showed earlier in the year when they won 10 straight, they might be able to give Kansas a battle in the Sweet 16.
If you are looking for long odds in this tournament, then the Aztecs may be your team. As one of the four teams out of the highly competitive Mountain West Conference, they just might be the best.
After finishing the regular season in third place at 22-8, they rolled through the conference tournament by beating 10th ranked New Mexico, 72-69, and UNLV, 55-45, to win it all.
San Diego State has a great chance of upsetting Tennessee and will most likely face Georgetown to get to the Sweet 16. If they can get by the Hoyas, I like their chances to go all the way to the region finals.