Commentary

Katz's Region Breakdowns: Midwest

Originally Published: March 15, 2010
By Andy Katz | ESPN.com

Sixteen points on my mind when thinking about the Midwest Regional:

1. Kansas has the toughest regional of any of the four No. 1 seeds and yet the Jayhawks were the overall No. 1 seed. Go figure. KU gets the Big Ten tournament champion (Ohio State) as a No. 2 seed; the Big East tournament finalist (Georgetown) at No. 3 and the co-ACC champion (Maryland) at No. 4. That puts some heavy company in the mix for the Jayhawks. I didn't even mention Michigan State at No. 5. The Spartans were a runaway Big Ten title team at one point this season before hitting the skids. And don't forget Missouri Valley champion Northern Iowa at No. 9, too. This is a loaded bracket.

[+] EnlargeSan Diego State
Marc Sanchez/Icon SMISan Diego State enters the tourney on the heels of an MWC title and could be trouble for Tennessee in the first round.

2. San Diego State is my favorite double-digit seed in this group. As a No. 11 seed, the Aztecs play in Providence against No. 6 Tennessee, a team that is hardly playing its best basketball right now. The Aztecs have proven to be road tough under Steve Fisher this season, winning the Mountain West Conference tournament with wins over New Mexico and host UNLV in Las Vegas. SDSU has a rebounder in Kawhi Leonard who could challenge Wayne Chism at every step.

3. If you're looking for one player who can carry his team to the Elite Eight in this bracket, it's Ohio State's Evan Turner. He's likely either the outright or co-national player of the year. Turner has made big shots throughout the season and is as versatile a player as any in the country. He's more than capable of taking the Buckeyes past UC Santa Barbara, Georgia Tech/Oklahoma State and then either San Diego State, Tennessee or Georgetown (sorry Ohio, you've got no shot against the Hoyas).

4. My future Hall of Fame coaching matchup should come in the second round when No. 5 Michigan State and Tom Izzo meet No. 4 Maryland and Gary Williams. It's a shame that one of the two won't be in the Sweet 16. Williams did a phenomenal job with the Terps this season. Izzo was noticeably frustrated at times with his lot. Both have proven to be tremendous NCAA coaches.

5. The team that may be the hardest to figure in this region is No. 3 Georgetown. The Hoyas have looked awesome at times in crushing Duke at home and getting to the Big East tournament title game, but also have fallen flat like when they lost at Rutgers. No need to worry about Greg Monroe or probably Austin Freeman. If Chris Wright is on, this squad can advance.

6. No one will enjoy the off-day news conferences more than Houston's Tom Penders. Penders was rumored to be fired or retiring -- both rumors, he said, are false -- prior to Houston's unbelievable comeback in the Conference USA final against UTEP.

7. The most defensive game in the region may turn out to be the 8-9 game between UNLV and Northern Iowa in Oklahoma City. UNLV's Lon Kruger and UNI's Ben Jacobson both stress defense and will want to keep this game under 70.

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AP Photo/Sue OgrockiFew coaches had as eventful last couple of weeks as Houston's Tom Penders.

8. Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl gets a bit of a homecoming in Providence. Pearl is from nearby Sharon, Mass., and went to school at Boston College. The Vols are smarting after getting hammered by Kentucky in the SEC tournament. Give Pearl credit for keeping this team together throughout a tumultuous season. This will swing one of two ways: Either Tennessee has maxed out after beating Kentucky and Kansas or the Vols will be everyone's upset pick against No. 11 San Diego State and will advance to the second round.

9. The one player that still isn't a household name but should be is Oklahoma State's James Anderson. He's a volume scorer. He could be one of these players that has a monster NCAA tournament game, especially facing a Georgia Tech team that tends to struggle against perimeter shooters.

10. Oklahoma State-Georgia Tech should be the best watch of all the first-round games in the Midwest. There is NBA-level talent with Anderson and Tech's Gani Lawal and Derrick Favors. This game has the potential to come down to the closing moments and with neither team having the best decision-makers at lead guard, I have a feeling it could be a wild finish.

11. If you had to pick one player to take a last shot who would you prefer? Maryland's Greivis Vasquez? Ohio State's Evan Turner? Or Kansas' Sherron Collins? It's a tough call and I would go with Turner. But know this: No other player in this bracket may be as tough a competitor when the game is on the line as Collins.

12. The one thing this bracket does have is three teams that I don't see having a shot to advance: No. 16 Lehigh, No. 15 UC Santa Barbara and No. 14 Ohio.

13. Which double-digit seed has the best chance to play in the Sweet 16? No. 11 San Diego State.

14. What's the most intriguing matchup that won't happen? No. 4 Maryland versus No. 3 Georgetown in the Elite Eight in a rematch of a Hoya smackdown from a year ago in Orlando at the Old Spice Classic. It's a rivalry that should be played every year but isn't anymore.

15. What's the best second-round game? If No. 10 Georgia Tech were to play up to its potential and meet No. 2 Ohio State in the second round in Milwaukee that matchup would feature plenty of high-level talent. The Yellow Jackets are better than their seed but didn't play well enough to earn a higher number.

16. Midwest winner: No. 1 Kansas.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Andy Katz | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com