NCAA Tournament breakdown: Midwest Region preview
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Onto the Midwest Region:
Favorite: No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks
It probably seems weird that the favorite would be the No. 2 seed, but quite frankly there isn't much that separates No. 1 North Carolina and No. 2 Kansas. Both could have been No. 1 seeds, both lost the last games they played and both are incredibly talented. What pushes Kansas to be the favorite is that the regional is in St. Louis, which is an easy drive from Lawrence, Kan., so expect the Jayhawks to have the home-crowd advantage.
Cinderella: No. 11 North Carolina State Wolfpack
North Carolina State was one of the last teams into the NCAA Tournament, and needed a good showing in the ACC Tournament to earn that spot. The Wolfpack beat Virginia in the ACC Tournament, and nearly upset North Carolina. Given the favorable draw they got, don't be shocked to see North Carolina State in the Sweet Sixteen.
Overrated: No. 3 Georgetown Hoyas
The Hoyas aren't exactly flying into the NCAAs, given that they've lost three of their last six games, including blowout losses to Seton Hall and Marquette. I was surprised to see Georgetown on the No. 3 line when the brackets were released, and if the Hoyas reach the Sweet Sixteen, their likely opponent is Kansas, who beat Georgetown earlier this season.
Underrated: No. 8 Creighton Bluejays
The Bluejays got a tough draw with No. 9 Alabama in the second (really, the first) round and likely North Carolina in the third (second) round. I expected Creighton to have a better seed than No. 8, especially with a star like Doug McDermott, who can take over a game as well as anyone in the country.
Best second (first) round matchup: No. 8 Creighton Bluejays vs. No. 9 Alabama Crimson Tide
I think both of these teams are undervalued here and whoever wins the game could give North Carolina a run for its money in the third (second) round. McDermott can obviously light it up and Anthony Grant's Alabama squad is incredibly talented and athletic--and is battle-tested from a difficult schedule.
Best matchup down the line: No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels vs. No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks
This one isn't close. The Tar Heels and the Jayhawks are two of college basketball's most-storied programs. Oh, and in case you forgot, the Tar Heels' Roy Williams coached Kansas for 16 seasons, only to abandon ship for Carolina in 2004, leaving Kansas fans mad as hell. Bill Self has helped Jayhawk fans forget Williams, and he earned some brownie points with KU fans by wearing a Jayhawks lapel to the 2008 National Championship Game. Still, the teams have only played once since Williams' departure--in the 2008 Final Four, with the Jayhawks prevailing.
Champion prediction: No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks (I am a Kansas fan, after all).
Here are previews of the West, South and East regions.