Monday, March 12, 2012
Midwest Region breakdown
By Jason King
As they do every season, plenty of coaches will whine over the next few days about being placed in the "toughest region" or about having "the most difficult path to the Final Four."
Roy Williams and Bill Self won't be among them.
Of the four regions, the Midwest is the one in which the Nos. 1 and 2 seeds -- in this case North Carolina and Kansas -- seem destined to meet in the Elite Eight. The Tar Heels and Jayhawks are simply that much better than the other 14 teams, none of which do much for the excite-o-meter.
Here's a breakdown of what to look for in the Midwest:
|Ray McCallum Jr. averaged 18.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists a game in 2013.|
Ten First Impressions
1. I'm all for a North Carolina-Kansas showdown in the Elite Eight. But if it happens, do we really have to revisit the whole "Roy leaving Kansas" issue? That's so 2008.
2. Creighton coach Greg McDermott is peeved his team received a No. 8 seed, and I don't blame him. Going 28-5 and winning the Missouri Valley Conference tournament should've been good for at least a No. 6 or 7.
3. Not many players will be as motivated as Purdue's Robbie Hummel, who will be playing in his first NCAA tournament game since 2009. Knee injuries prevented Hummel from participating the past two seasons.
4. Detroit has one thing that opponent Kansas does not: a McDonald's All-American. Sophomore point guard Ray McCallum earned the prestigious honor in 2010. The Jayhawks, meanwhile, don't have a single McDonald's guy on their entire roster.
5. Belmont may be seeded No. 14, but the Bruins are more than capable of knocking off No. 3 Georgetown. Remember, this is the same Belmont team that came within a point of upsetting Duke in the season opener at Cameron Indoor Stadium.
6. I wonder what seed the committee would've given North Carolina State if the Wolfpack hadn't been hosed by the officials at the end of Saturday's loss to North Carolina. If NC State would've won that game, would it have been a No. 9 or 10? Hey, at least the Wolfpack didn't have to open the tournament in Dayton. Or not open it at all.
7. This Saint Mary's team is better than the Gaels squad that made the Sweet 16 in 2010. But I can't see Randy Bennett's squad getting past Kansas in its second game.
8. Three ESPN.com first-team All-Americans are in this regional: Kansas' Thomas Robinson, North Carolina's Tyler Zeller and Creighton's Doug McDermott.
9. Alabama seems a bit over-seeded at No. 9. I'm surprised the fifth-place team in the SEC was given so much respect. Maybe the committee feels bad about snubbing Anthony Grant's squad last season.
10. Two of the game's best X's and O's coaches could face off in the second round if Mike Montgomery's Cal squad beats South Florida and advances to play Temple, which is coached by Fran Dunphy.
Five Players To Watch
1. Thomas Robinson, Kansas: ESPN.com's national player of the year is hoping to lead the Jayhawks to their first Final Four since 2008. He averages 17.9 points and ranks second in the nation with 11.8 rebounds.
2. Kendall Marshall, North Carolina: The most irreplaceable piece of the Tar Heels' lineup ranks second in the country in assists with 9.7 per game.
3. Doug McDermott, Creighton: Not many players in America are as fundamentally sound as the 6-foot-7 McDermott, who averages 23.2 points and shoots 61 percent from the field.
4. Ray McCallum, Detroit: The son of head coach Ray McCallum Sr. turned down offers from schools such as UCLA and Kansas to play for his father at Detroit, where he's averaging 15.6 points and 3.9 assists.
5. Matthew Dellavedova, Saint Mary's: The Australian point guard is tough to defend at 6-foot-4. He leads the Gaels in points (15.6) and assists (6.4).
Three Second-Round Games To Watch
Creighton vs. Alabama: Creighton has had the better season, but the Bluejays have difficulty defending quick, athletic teams with guards that like to attack the paint. Alabama has had an up-and-down season but is peaking at just the right time.
Georgetown vs. Belmont: The pressure is on the Hoyas, who have dropped their first NCAA tournament game in each of the last two seasons. Belmont is more than capable of pulling the upset. The three of the Bruins' seven losses came by one point.
Kansas vs. Detroit: The Titans might be the most talented No. 15 seed in the history of the NCAA tournament. Along with McCallum Jr. at point guard, Detroit also has a 6-foot-10 center (Eli Holman) who began his career at Indiana. Asked Sunday evening about stopping KU's Thomas Robinson, Holman told the Detroit News: "Robinson? I can handle Robinson. He has to handle me."
Three Future Possibilities
Creighton vs. North Carolina: Creighton's Doug McDermott and North Carolina's Harrison Barnes were high school teammates in Ames, Iowa. Even though Barnes is the more highly-touted player, McDermott is the one who is enjoying an All-American-caliber season.
Georgetown vs. San Diego State: This could be one of the more intriguing matchups in a region that's extremely weak beyond North Carolina and Kansas. The Hoyas and Aztecs have surpassed preseason expectations, mainly because each team is so well-coached.
Kansas vs. Saint Mary's: The matchup would pit two of the nation's top point guards -- Tyshawn Taylor and Matthew Dellavedova -- against one another. But would the Gaels have an answer for KU's Robinson and Jeff Withey in the paint?
Belmont and Detroit are both good enough to get to the Sweet 16 if they pull upsets in their opening games. Belmont is extremely well-coached, and Detroit is one of the better No. 15 seeds you'll ever see in terms of pure talent. The question is whether the Titans -- who lost seven of their 13 game while Holman was suspended -- can put everything together and play team basketball and not get rattled against Kansas.
Jason King covers college basketball for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @JasonKingESPN.