Commentary

Katz's Region Breakdowns: Midwest

Updated: March 16, 2009, 11:51 PM ET
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

What's to like?

This might be the most loaded regional. Three of the top four seeds -- Louisville, Michigan State and Wake Forest -- were at one point discussed as potential national champions, and Kansas was playing like one when it won the Big 12 regular-season championship late in the season. If this regional goes chalk, it could be a marquee Midwest in Indianapolis.

Here's your Sweet 16 on the Midwest regional:

Best player: Louisville's Terrence Williams is playing the best basketball of his career.

Terrence Williams
Chris McGrath/Getty Images Louisville is in good hands as Terrence Williams is playing the best basketball of his career.

He could have made a strong argument to share the Big East player of the year award with Hasheem Thabeet (Connecticut) and DeJuan Blair (Pitt). If the Big East was going to share it with two, why not go three?

Most motivation for Motown: Michigan State has a unique opportunity to play essentially at home in Ford Field for the Final Four. The Spartans' chances would certainly change if Michigan State can somehow make it to Detroit as the No. 2.

Coach of the year: Kansas' Bill Self has done a marvelous job with the Jayhawks. Kansas won the Big 12 title outright, and Self has the Jayhawks on pace to continue a run in the NCAAs. KU got bounced early in the Big 12 tournament, but Self has done a great job of getting the Jayhawks ready after a defeat.

Most talented team: If they all choose to declare, Wake Forest has three players who could go in the first round of the NBA draft in Jeff Teague, Al-Farouq Aminu and James Johnson. The Demon Deacons had moments this season (beating North Carolina and Duke) when they played as well as any team in the country. If Wake Forest can wake from its slumber, this team could get to Detroit.

Toughest first-round draw: Utah won the Mountain West conference title after sharing the regular-season championship with BYU and New Mexico. But the Utes must play Arizona, one of the most talented 12 seeds in recent memory. Arizona was one of the last teams in the field but still can boast two tough matchups in Chase Budinger at small forward and Jordan Hill at power forward.

Player who could carry his club: Da'Sean Butler of West Virginia has it in his game to go off for major numbers. He lit up Villanova for 43 points earlier in the season. If he can be a dominant player, Dayton could have a hard time chasing him.

Breakout player: Boston College's Rakim Sanders did miss the game-winning shot against Duke in the ACC quarterfinals. But he also made one against Georgia Tech and had a game-ending tip-in against Virginia Tech. Sanders' wide body and his ability to go to the offensive glass and be a complementary 3-point shooter (with Tyrese Rice) make him a tough matchup. Sanders, not Rice, could be the Eagles' leading scorer if they advance.

Home cookin': Ohio State received a bit of a pass by getting to play in Dayton in the first round. The selection committee said it protects the seeds only in the first round. So if Ohio State beats Siena and gets Louisville, the Buckeyes will be the home team.

Mid-major that was treated well: Siena fits the criteria. The Saints received a No. 9 seed after playing a strong schedule and winning the MAAC regular-season and tournament championships.

[+] EnlargeDeMar DeRozan
Dustin Snipes/Icon SMIUSC's DeMar DeRozan impressed in the Pac-10 tourney, but what will he do in the Dance?

Top freshman: Aminu of Wake Forest would have been the choice had it not been for the bust-out performance of USC's DeMar DeRozan at the Pac-10 tournament. DeRozan scored 17 points and grabbed 11 boards in a win over Cal; he had 21 and 13 in the win over UCLA, and 25 and three over Arizona State in the final.

Hardest team to figure: Dayton. The Flyers had their moments early in the season and did have the convincing win over Xavier at home in early February. But Dayton flamed out in big games down the stretch, losing at Saint Louis, getting nipped at the buzzer at Rhode Island, getting blown out at Xavier and falling by 11 to Duquesne in the A-10 tournament.

Coach with no pressure: Arizona interim coach Russ Pennell. He said he knows he's not getting the job. So Pennell can rest easy and just coach this squad. He's playing with house money since the Wildcats were one of the last teams in the field.

Most emotional coach: Cleveland State's Gary Waters. His exultation when the Vikings beat Butler to win the Horizon League may carry over in this squad's preparation. Waters was overjoyed to earn a bid after struggling during his run at Rutgers. But alas, the Vikings drew one of the more talented teams in Wake.

Best story: North Dakota State. The Bison actually may be the home team against Kansas. This could be bad karma for the Jayhawks as they meet another Bison in the NCAA tournament. The last time, they lost to Bucknell. NDSU coach Saul Phillips expects a solid crowd of Bison faithful to make the manageable drive from Fargo to the Twin Cities. If you saw the crowd in Fargo on CBS for the announcement, you can tell how much this team means to the community. This is NDSU's first eligible season in Division I; four seniors redshirted for this one tourney run, and Phillips has the quickest wit of any coach in the bracket. He loves referencing the movie "Fargo," a cult classic.

Hot low-major coach: Mike Rice of Robert Morris. In Rice's two years at the suburban Pittsburgh school, the former Pitt and Saint Joseph's assistant has won 50 games.

Committee was kind to: Alabama State and Morehead State. The opening-round game is Tuesday night in Dayton. The winner doesn't have to leave and will play Friday against top seed Louisville. The winning fans can book four nights in Dayton!

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com