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The NCAA Tournament Midwest Region is loaded with perennial powers. It begins with the overall number 1-seed Kansas who will look to crush the critics' opinions that no team in this year's tournament is a shoo-in champion.
Big 10 champions Ohio State join a tough region as the 2-seed and if they escape Rounds 1 and 2 could face the likes of Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech and Georgetown.
The sexy first round upset could be San Diego State over Tennessee. The Aztecs are led by former Michigan head coach Steve Fisher and added some credibility to the Mountain West Conference.
Below is a team-by-team breakdown of the Midwest Region.
Players: C: Cole Aldrich, G: Sherron Collins, G: Xavier Henry
Analysis: Kansas enters as the tournament's prohibitive favorite, with Bill Self touting one of the most complete squads in the nation. However, Sherron Collins' inconsistent play the past month has given Jayhawk fans cause for concern.
2) Ohio State
Players: G/F: Evan Turner, G: William Buford, G: Jon Diebler
Analysis: Winning 13 of their past 14 contests, Ohio State has held opposing teams to just 61 ppg this season. The Buckeyes feature National Player of the Year candidate Evan Turner (19.9 ppg/9.1 rpg/5.9 apg), along with deadeyes Jon Diebler and William Buford. A favorite to travel to Indy, a possible roadblock for Thad Matta could be his team's lack of size and depth.
Players: G: Austin Freeman, C: Greg Monroe, G: Chris Wright
Analysis: A strong conference tournament performance has the Hoya faithful buzzing. All-Big East 1st teamer Greg Monroe has turned into an unstoppable force, averaging 16.1 ppg and 9.5 rpg. Freeman and Wright contribute on the offensive end, chipping in 16.7 ppg and 14.8 ppg, respectively.
Players: G: Greivis Vasquez, F: Landon Milbourne
Analysis: Maryland was a trendy Final Four pick candidate until their early exit in the ACC Tournament. While Gary Williams' squad is more than just Greivis Vasquez (5 players average 9 or more points per game), the Terrapins tournament hopes will ultimately rest on the play of their ACC Player of the Year.
5) Michigan State
Players: G: Kalin Lucas, F: Raymar Morgan, F: Draymond Green
Analysis: Tom Izzo and his Spartans look to duplicate last year's tournament success, which resulted in an appearance in the NCAA Finals. After logging 42 minutes in an OT loss to Minnesota, MSU fans can rest assured about the health of Kalin Lucas.
Players: G: Scotty Hopson, F/C: Wayne Chism
Analysis: Despite midseason turmoil that saw the dismal of Tyler Smith, Coach Bruce Pearl has managed to keep his team focused on another Tennessee tournament berth. An experienced and senior-laden squad has the folks in Knoxville dreaming of a deep run in March.
7) Oklahoma St
Players: G: James Anderson, G: Obi Muonelo
Analysis: When you quiet one of the big dogs during the regular season, your reputation as a giant killer bodes well come Selection Sunday. The Cowboys win over Kansas on February 27th (not to mention a win over Kansas State) couldn't have come a better time and gave them the quality win they needed to earn their at-large bid into the tournament. Big 12 leading scorer James Anderson (22.6 ppg) will be the go-to-guy for the Cowboys on offense.
Players: G: Tre'von Willis, G/F: Chase Stanback
Analysis: The Rebels come into the dance battle-tested after a season in the secretly strenuous Mountain West. Fueled by Guard Tre'von Willis (17.3 ppg), UNLV supports a resume highlighted by wins against BYU, New Mexico, and Louisville.
9) Northern Iowa
Players: C: Jordan Eglseder, F: Adam Koch
Analysis: The Panthers have lost in the first round their last four tournament appearances. NIU's last win came in 1990, but with veteran leadership at a premium in college basketball, the Panthers will have the edge when it comes to team chemistry on the court. Their defense is what got them to this point (ranked 2nd nationally in scoring defense at 54.3 ppg) and with no player on the team averaging more than 12 points-per-game, Northern Iowa will learn if defense truly does win championships.
10) Georgia Tech
Players: F: Gani Lawal, F: Derrick Favors
Analysis: Paul Hewitt's squad solidified their spot with a strong ACC tournament showing. Junior forward Lawal has been the Yellow Jackets most consistent scorer this season, but all eyes will be on ACC Rookie of the Year Derrick Favors, who averaged 17 points and 10 boards in the conference tournament.
11) San Diego St
Players: F: Kawhi Leonard, F: Malcolm Thomas
Analysis:The Aztecs took themselves off the bubble by defeating UNLV to earn the MWC automatic invitation. With four players averaging double figures (led by Kawhi Leonard at 12.8 ppg), Coach Steve Fisher has reason to believe in an upset over the Volunteers.
12) New Mexico St.
Players: G: Jahmar Young, G: Jonathan Gibson
Analysis: New Mexico State caught fire at the right time. The Aggies beat the Aggies of Utah State and for that they earned a dance ticket. New Mexico State was led by the sensational guard play of Jahmar Young, who was named WAC tournament MVP. One big loss on New Mexico St's resume is a 100-68 beat down at the hands of UCLA.
Players: G: Aubrey Coleman, F: Kendrick Washington
Analysis: Tom Penders is taking his 4th different team to the NCAA tournament after Houston shocked CUSA by snatching the championship away from UTEP. Though the Cougars enter the tournament with a woeful 19-15 record, they do possess the nation's leading scorer in Aubrey Coleman. Houston will need some of that Conference USA tournament momentum (four straight wins) to follow them to Spokane this week.
Players: G: Armon Bassett, G: D.J. Cooper
Analysis: The Bobcats personify the definition of "Cinderella." A #9 conference-seed in a relatively weak league, Ohio upset Kent State and defeated Akron in OT to punch their ticket to the dance. OU is led by MAC Freshman of the Year D.J. Cooper (13.1 ppg/6 apg) and Indiana transfer Armon Bassett (16.9 ppg).
15) UC Santa Barbara
Players: G/F: Orlando Johnson, F: James Nunnally
Analysis: The Gauchos of Santa Barbara head into the dance after conquering Long Beach State to take the Big West bid. UCSB is lead by Big West Player of the Year Orlando Johnson (17.9 ppg/5.4 rpg) and sophomore James Nunnally (15 ppg).
Players: G: C.J. McCollum, G: Marquis Hall
Analysis: The Patriot League champs have one of the nation's best freshmen in Guard C.J. McCollum, the conference Player of the Year. A possible problem for Lehigh could be their lack of depth, with Coach Brett Reed only going 7-players deep.
More Team-by-Team Breakdowns
- East Region - #1 seed - Kentucky
- West Region - #1 seed - Syracuse
- South Region - #1 seed - Duke
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