Midwest Region breakdown
March 17: Tiffany Simons and John Walters break down the NCAA Tournament Midwest Region.
The Big Ten gets no respect. Wisconsin (29-4) sweeps the Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles to go with a non-conference win against Texas and doesn't get the No. 2 seed? Ouch.
True, the Badgers got to beat up on Michigan (three times), Iowa and Northwestern (twice), but such is life when you build your team around defense. That defense will be sorely tested after their first game. Either Kansas State or USC await in Omaha.
Vanderbilt. The Commodores won a school record 26 games. They have the SEC's player of the year in senior Shan Foster and a future lottery pick in freshman A.J. Ogilvy. But take them out of Memorial Stadium and Vandy is a very ordinary 7-7, not to mention 2-3 in their last five games. If first-round opponent Siena can't pull off the upset, the Villanova-Clemson winner will.
Most likely first-round upset
The 12-5 matchup of Villanova vs. Clemson is tempting. The Tigers don't have an impressive pedigree (it's their first NCAA Tournament since 1998 and just their sixth since 1981), but their defense is impressive. Just ask Duke, which Clemson smothered in the ACC Tournament, or North Carolina, which had its hands full in the tourney final. 'Nova is capable of big wins (notably Pitt, UConn and West Virginia), but all of those were at home.
All of that is a roundabout way of going with Davidson to beat Gonzaga. Yes, it's just a 10 over a 7, but Gonzaga's a balanced, talented team that will play Davidson in Raleigh, N.C., less than a 3-hour drive from the Davidson campus. Plus, there's Stephen Curry to consider.
That would be Davidson's Stephen Curry. The sophomore guard nearly shot the Wildcats past Maryland last season, and he's been even better this season (25.1 ppg while making 44 percent of his 3-point attempts). Against bigger schools like UNC, Duke, Charlotte, N.C. State and UCLA, Curry averaged 24 points a game. He's certainly the key cog for the Wildcats. Davidson hasn't lost since Dec. 21, and while it hasn't played a decent team in that span, it really hasn't been tested, either.
Gonzaga figures to be a huge challenge for Curry. The Zags aren't noted for their defense, but they have plenty of athletic players to chase him around. They'll try to wear him down and force him into rushed shots.
There may not be a better first-round matchup than No. 6 USC vs. No. 11 Kansas State. And that's all because of O.J. Mayo and Michael Beasley. (Need a funny backstory on these two? Click here.)
Mayo's supporting cast (future NBA draft picks Davon Jefferson and Taj Gibson among them) is a little better than Beasley's (though Bill Walker's no slouch), but with the game in Omaha, Neb., K-State figures to have a huge home-court advantage. Frankly, for two teams ranked among the top 25 in the Pomeroy ratings, this is a wasted first-round matchup. Expect a memorable game.
Kansas must love its regional draw. The Jayhawks (31-3) get to play their first two games in Omaha, Neb., a three-hour drive north. The Midwest Regional finals are in Detroit, still a manageable distance for a school with a die-hard fan base.
Plus, the Jayhawks are due for a Final Four breakthrough. They were stymied by second-seeded UCLA last year, and suffered first-round upsets the two seasons before that. Kansas has too much talent to fall short yet again.
Duke coach said that after winning his second gold medal in men's basketball would be his Team USA finale. That may not be the case anymore.
CBT: Turning the page on the Mike Rice scandal, Rutgers hired Louisville's Julie Hermann as athletic director on Wednesday. But, Hermann has a prior scandal of her own.
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