Filling out a March Madness bracket can be stressful endeavor because it’s hard to pick the surprise results and the real contenders out of the large field. The best way to ease the stress is to have a method to the madness of your selections.
The Midwest region will likely be an easier section to fill out for most, simply because Kentucky (34-0) is the No. 1 seed and the overwhelming favorite to win the region and entire tournament. Other notable squads in the region included No. 2 Kansas, No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 4 Maryland.
The Maryland Terrapins (27-6) might feel robbed by the relatively low seeding after being projected as a No. 3 seed. Mark Turgeon's squad finished No. 8 in the nation, while seventh-ranked Gonzaga earned a No. 2 seed in the South region.
The Midwest also features recent surprise team Wichita State and big names that barely made the field like No. 10 Indiana and No. 11 Texas. For most pundits, anything other than Kentucky advancing to the Final Four would be a major surprise.
Here’s a look at the important things to know for the region before filling out a bracket.
Player to Watch: Karl-Anthony Towns, PF, Kentucky
Towns is considered one of the best prospects in the country, a seven-footer with a strong defensive game and seemingly endless potential. He averages 9.7 points and 6.7 rebound and completely controls the post for the Wildcats. Over the last five games he has averaged 12.2 points, 7.6 rebounds and an amazing 2.6 blocks. If he makes the jump to the NBA, the freshman is almost guaranteed to be one of the top picks in the draft.
Favorite: Kentucky Wildcats
Could it be anyone else? The Wildcats are the clear favorites, entering the tournament with a 34-0 record after beating Arkansas to win the SEC championship. Their depth of talent is unmatched and they have defeated nearly all of their opponents in convincing fashion. Head coach John Calipari’s squad has strong inside and outside play, and is very tough on defense.
If you’re not going with Kentucky, No. 3 Notre Dame has the next-best odds to win the region at 9/1 and No. 2 Kansas has 10/1 odds, according to bovada.lv. Notre Dame has beaten some good teams, including Duke, North Carolina and Louisville, so they're an especially tempting choice.
Upset Pick: Wichita State Shockers
Don’t be stunned if the seventh-seeded Shockers make a deep run, perhaps to the Elite Eight to face Kentucky. They have the third-best chance to win the region at 9/1 odds. Gregg Marshall's squad has lost just four games all year, twice to ranked teams, and Marshall has a history of doing well in the tournament. The Shockers advanced to the Final Four in 2013 as a No. 9 seed, and made the tournament in 2012 and 2014. Wichita State was a No. 1 seed in 2014, but lost to Kentucky in the third round by two points. The Wildcats would go on to reach the Final.
For an individual game upset pick, perhaps consider No. 12 Buffalo over No. 5 West Virginia. Buffalo had a half-time lead at Kentucky early this season in November and play a fast-paced offense designed by coach Bobby Hurley that is tough to stop.
Conclusion: Just pick Kentucky. The Wildcats haven’t lost all year and breezed through the SEC tournament to lead into March Madness. They’re a safe bet at 4/11 to win the region and 6/5 odds to win the National Championship.
As for the rest of the Midwest, it's not a bad move to take a chance with upset picks like Buffalo and Wichita State.