March Madness is finally upon us as the field is set with plenty of teams dreaming of championship glory. Not every team has such aspirations as they are just hoping to make it past the first weekend.
Here’s how the Midwest Region breaks down:
Dominant all season, the Heels earned a top seed in this region. This should come to no surprise as UNC finished third in ACC conference play while sustaining a top 10 seed in the APA poll all throughout the regular season.
It is important to take into account the impact of coaching within the tournament structure. During his tenure at North Carolina, Roy Williams has been in three Elite Eight appearances, two Final Four appearances, and has cut down three basketball nets while leading the Tar-heels to basketball immortality.
North Carolina will be facing off against Iona in their first game. Although UMBC proved last year that they can steal the limelight from a #1 seed, don’t expect Iona to deliver on that unrealistic expectation. With the leadership from senior Cam Johnson, and freshmen talent from Cody White and Nassir Little, the Tar Heels are ready to get this weekend started.
As the #2 seed in the region, the bluegrass kingdom is prepared for tournament time. The prestigious John Calipari leads Wildcats. They have missed the Sweet 16 twice in his eight seasons at Kentucky.
Personnel wise, the Wildcats roster has taken a big loss losing PJ Washington to a foot injury. Nevertheless, Kentucky has depth.
Keldon Johnson and Ashton Hagans have proven to be solid players within the Kentucky system. Tyler Herro is more than capable of hitting big shots too.
It is important to note that Kentucky has a relatively easy schedule. With a weak #15 seeded Abilene Christian and either a middle of the road team in Seton Hall or an unproven Wofford squad, the Wildcats have arguably the easiest path to the Sweet 16. Expect coach Cal to be seven for nine in Sweet 16 appearances.
New Mexico St.
The Aggies of New Mexico St. are back in the NCAA tournament for the third straight year. This is their second time under Chris Jans.
New Mexico St. has been dominating the WAC for the past three seasons as reigning conference champions. However, early exits have plagued them the past two seasons.
Coincidentally, the Aggies for the second straight year are the #12 seed facing off against a #5 ranked SEC team. This year is a little bit different however, as the Aggies finished the regular season with a school record 30 wins. New Mexico St. has the capability to run the table this March. Auburn is mercurial as is Kansas while Northeastern is unproven. The Aggies have to like their odds.
The Pirates of Seton Hall have had a season to remember. Seton Hall had a very surprising season finishing third in Big East conference play and runner up in the Big East tournament. Led by junior, Myles Powell, Seton Hall can very well upset an unproven and untested Wofford squad. Powell is averaging 23 points per contest.
Powell is the type of guard who can take over games with his ability to handle and shoot the rock from distance at a very high clip. The Seton Hall Pirates can become a very dangerous team to beat if Powell catches fire. Beware of the Pirates, they are ready to shoot their canons at any team in their way.
An unproven squad, Wofford is a team that not a lot of people knew coming into selection sunday. Champions of the Southern Conference, Wofford has won 20 straight games and have caught fire at just the right time.
Wofford is led by senior Fletcher Magee who is averaging over 20 points a game. They can either be a pleasant surprise or eliminated early.
#7 seeded Wofford plays against #10 seeded Seton Hall which will be a true test for Wofford and an opportunity to show the nation that they can be a forced to be reckoned with.
The Tigers of Auburn are a very mysterious team to say the least. A middle of the road team in the SEC, Auburn is ranked #5 in the region. After finishing #5 in SEC conference play, Auburn caught fire this past weekend in the SEC tournament. They have won their past three games including the conference championship.
Despite mentioning Auburn losing out to New Mexico St in the Round of 64, the Tigers are still underestimated team that should not be taken lightly in the tournament. Don’t be surprised to see Auburn make a run at the Sweet 16.
Wrapping it Up
This region is loaded with teams capable of getting hot and going on a run, but the two blue bloods seem to be on a collision course. Of course, upsets can happen because it’s March.
Let the madness commence.