With three of last year’s Final Four teams, the Midwest Region is shaping up to be the toughest region in the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
Undefeated Wichita State received the No. 1 seed in the region, as expected. Some fans have criticized the Shockers’ strength of schedule this season, but if they can make it out of Indianapolis unscathed, they will have earned it. Wichita State will likely face some notable opponents on their possible path to the Final Four.
Michigan and Duke, the No. 2 and 3 seeds, respectively, both reached their conference tournament title games, and were each considered to have a shot at a No. 1 seed. Meanwhile, Louisville is the defending national champions and easily won the American Athletic Conference tournament.
Then there’s preseason No. 1 Kentucky, and their opening-round bout with Kansas State. If the Wildcats advance, Wichita State may have a battle on their hands after they likely hold off the No. 16 seed. Despite some struggles this year, John Calipari's loaded roster recently gave No. 1 overall seed Florida everything the Gators could handle in Sunday’s SEC Championship game.
No. 11 seed Tennessee (21-12) may provide the most likely chance of providing a second round upset. The Volunteers have a play-in game against an Iowa squad that enter the tournament with six losses in their last seven games. If the Vols survive, Tennessee will face No. 6 seed Massachusetts, which, despite seven top-50 wins, have also been on a skid with three losses in five games.
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Meanwhile, the Vols have just four losses since Feb. 11, two of which were to Florida, the top team in the nation. The other two came on the road by a combined eight points. Also, five of Tennessee's losses have come to three of the tournament’s No. 1 seeds -- Florida, Wichita State and Virginia.
Here’s our staff predictions for the Midwest Region:
First round predictions
No. 11 Tennessee over No. 11 Iowa
No. 12 Xavier over No. 12 North Carolina State
No. 16 Texas Southern over No. 16 Cal Poly
Second round predictions:
No. 1 Wichita State over No. 16 Texas Southern
No. 8 Kentucky over No. 9 Kansas State
No. 5 St. Louis over No. 12 Xavier
No. 4 Louisville over No. 13 Manhattan
No. 11 Tennessee over No. 6 UMass
No. 3 Duke over No. 14 Mercer
No. 7 Texas over No. 10 Arizona State
No. 2 Michigan over No. 15 Wofford
Third round predictions:
No. 8 Kentucky over No. 1 Wichita State
No. 4 Louisville over No. 5 St. Louis
No. 3 Duke over No. 11 Tennessee
No. 2 Michigan over No. 7 Texas
Sweet 16 predictions:
No. 4 Louisville over No. 8 Kentucky
No. 2 Duke over No. 3 Michigan
Elite Eight prediction:
No. 2 Duke over No. 4 Louisville