NCAA Tournament 2018 Preview: No. 1 seed Kansas dealt two powerful foes in Midwest

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It has been 4 years and counting since a staff emerged from the Midwest Region to seize the nationwide championship. Will the Midwest’s No. 1 seed Kansas finish the drought? The bracket units up favorably for the Jayhawks out of the gate, however with Duke and Michigan State lurking in the identical area, there may very well be an equal likelihood of any of the three rising from the ashes to make their option to San Antonio for the Final Four.

So which staff do you have to decide to emerge out of the Midwest Region? Which staff is the darkhorse? Let’s have a look and run down the matchups and gamers to observe.

Three preliminary ideas

1. Kansas has the simplest path to the Elite Eight amongst No. 1 seeds. The Jayhawks’ hardest competitors in attending to the Elite Eight, assuming outcomes all fell chalk, can be No. four seed Auburn, a staff that has misplaced 4 of six going into the NCAA Tournament. The bracket does steadiness itself out, although, as a result of having each Duke and Michigan State in the identical area because the Nos. 2 and three is a brutal draw. But it seems that the trail for KU to make a 3rd straight Elite Eight appears fairly easy.

2. Michigan State’s draw — and its seed — may work out effectively. The Spartans did not have an A-plus resume due to the shortage of alternative to internet high quality wins within the Big Ten Conference. But them dropping to a No. Three seed may truly work of their favor. Should they win their first two, they’d seemingly face No. 2 seed Duke — a staff the Spartans narrowly misplaced to earlier within the season — earlier than bouncing into the Elite Eight the place they might face No. 1 seed Kansas. I believe all of the matchups they might face work out of their favor to get to San Antonio, even when the seed is not fascinating.

Three. Oklahoma’s draw is brutal. I do not assume the Sooners, who’ve received solely twice since February began, will win a recreation within the NCAA Tournament. In reality, I am not satisfied this staff was deserving of a bid. Even if it sneaks previous No. 7 seed Rhode Island within the first spherical, OU nonetheless has No. 2 seed Duke seemingly ready on it within the Round of 32. Which means the Trae Young present could also be a quickie.

Bold prediction

New Mexico State will advance to the Sweet 16 and push Kansas to the brink. Yes, No. 12 seed New Mexico State.

The 28-5 Aggies had been head and shoulders above the competitors within the WAC this season, and senior Zach Lofton is a warmth test ready to occur. They’ve received a strong, well-balanced staff predicated on protection that can give Clemson greater than it needs to deal with within the first spherical.

Best potential matchup

The matchup I am licking my lips fascinated by is a possible Michigan State-Duke showdown within the Sweet 16. Should it occur, it could be a recreation between two groups which have lingered across the prime 5 of the rankings all seasons. So it could primarily be a Final Four recreation within the Sweet 16. Bad for general bracket steadiness, however nice for TV.

Upsets to observe for

1. No. 13 seed Charleston over No. four seed Auburn will probably be one to trace. The Cougars enter the postseason having received 14 of their final 15 video games — versus Auburn having misplaced three of its final 4 — and so they’ve received a two-headed monster in Grant Riller and Joe Chealey that may mild groups up on offense.

2. Syracuse over anybody. Remember 2016, when the Orange needed to play their manner in to the Big Dance, then they made a run all the way in which to the Final Four? This season has an analogous really feel. Syracuse performs Arizona State within the play-in recreation, and is as soon as once more a little bit of a wild card. Jim Boeheim is a Hall of Fame coach for a motive.

Three. Penn vs. Kansas. You do not should be reminded 16 seed has by no means crushed a No. 1 seed. So Penn beating Kansas can be the longest of lengthy pictures. However, the Quakers have the No. 2 Three-point protection in all of school basketball — a stat that can completely play an element in opposition to a Kansas staff that ranks 13th this season in Three-point share.

Six finest gamers

1. Marvin Bagley, Duke. Bagley may very well be the No. 1 NBA Draft decide in a couple of months due to his capacity to get up and get 20 factors and 10 rebounds with such ease. Bagley, arguably the ACC’s finest expertise, is averaging 21.1 factors and 11.5 rebounds per recreation for the Blue Devils this season. And he continues to get higher, which is why Duke could be thought of the favourite to win the area.

2. Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State. Jackson is not the very best scorer and even best participant on the glass for the Spartans, however he is a complete X-factor as a result of his upside is so, so excessive. He’s a 6-11 large man who alters pictures, has the power to run the ground, and might physique up large males. He may even step exterior and drain Three-pointers for those who depart him open, giving Sparty an added weapon on offense.

Three. Miles Bridges, Michigan State. If it is expertise you need, look no additional than Miles Bridges. The 6-7 sophomore from Flint is Michigan State’s main scorer, second main rebounder, and most essential asset Tom Izzo must unlock one other nationwide title.

four. Trae Young, Oklahoma. The Sooners star is averaging extra factors and assists per recreation than any participant in faculty basketball this season. He’s drawn comparisons to Stephen Curry for his capacity to hit Three-pointers, and his imaginative and prescient as a ball distributor is excellent.

5. Grayson Allen, Duke. Grayson Allen is Grayson Allen: He’s an excellent shooter, can play on the ball and run the offense, and he is a hustle-hard who impacts the sport in a mess of the way for Duke.

6. Devonte’ Graham, Kansas. Devonte’ Graham is a big-time scorer with a clutch gene in contrast to any participant within the discipline. His Three-point stroke is easy as silk, too, and it might not even be the perfect on his personal staff. Which is why KU is such a harmful staff within the NCAA Tournament.

Who I am choosing

Give me Michigan State not solely to return out atop the area, however to win the entire thing. The mixture of Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson — two NBA caliber gamers — will probably be an excessive amount of for groups to beat. And Sparty’s guard play will, I believe, give them the slight edge in opposition to groups like Duke or Kansas.

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