This region looks like a two-horse race between Kansas and Louisville. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be any intrigue, though. Vermont (13) against Purdue (4), Nevada (12) against Iowa State (5), Rhode Island (11) against Creighton (6), and Oklahoma State (10) against Michigan (7) are all plausible upset picks. Outside of Vermont over Purdue, none of these would be all that surprising, actually. Getting a region with 4 reasonable double-digit advancement picks makes for some first-weekend fun. Now they’ll probably all lose and this will be the chalk region.
Lots. They’ve been mentioned above. But for the really gutsy, the top seed seems pretty vulnerable. Kansas has been flirting with danger for the better part of the past 3 months now. I’m not sure betting on KU losing to either Michigan State (9) or Miami (8) is a smart use of your money, but Iowa State or Purdue? Sure – I could see that. I could also see Kansas winning. Picking these things is hard.
It’s pretty annoying that lots of people seem to be picking Rhode Island to make the Sweet 16 because that was going to be my out-on-a-limb pick here. Picking URI against Creighton is pretty easy but picking them over Oregon isn’t. Has it become so popular that it has become underrated again? I’ll go with that. I think picking URI over Louisville might be more silly than smart, though.
Who Else Can Win This?
Sure looks like this region was seeded correctly because there’s a big drop off after #5. The 3-5 seeds in the Midwest are #s 15-17 in the KenPom rankings (albeit in a slightly different order) which doesn’t mean much except that they’ve played comparable ball this year. The problem for Oregon, unfortunately, is that they’re missing Chris Boucher. I’m reasonably confident that they can survive one game in the tournament without him, but I don’t think two is more than a coin flip proposition. Three seems very unlikely, but it’s not like Dillon Brooks isn’t capable. Plus, they reportedly have 4 more guys on the court at any given time. Some of them are good, too.
Purdue and Iowa State seem like the likeliest candidates. Louisville (like Arizona in the West Region) looks like they snagged an easier route to the Elite 8 than their region’s 1 Seed. It happens. Neither Purdue nor Iowa State got any favors with their first round matchups, though. I’m not sure I’d put money on either team, but if I had to I’d pick Purdue taking down Kansas before Iowa State. Yes, Cyclones, I know they beat Kansas this year. Pipe down – it won’t happen again. Probably….
I realize at this point that it looks like I think Louisville is some great team. I don’t. They spent the end of their season slaying bums (and ND) and losing to good teams (besides ND). They got a dream draw, especially with Oregon having Boucher’s injury to deal with. If they manage to lose to Oklahoma State or Michigan in the second round I wouldn’t lose my mind or anything. To me, the bracket will come down to the winner of the top half, though. Whichever of Kansas, Purdue or Iowa State comes out of that part of the bracket will get my pick against Louisville. Since I’m doing that here, let’s go with Kansas. Yes, it’s chalky, but they may very well have the best two players in the Region. I’d like to pick Purdue – I really would – but I’ve watched them drop games I thought they should win too frequently this year. Kansas, for all of its loss flirting, hasn’t taken many losses home. They’ll find a way to win a bunch of close games here.