Sunday, March 15, 2009

A look at the 2009 NCAA Tournament Midwest Region

Midwest Region:
(1) Louisville vs (16) winner of Alabama State vs Morehead State
(8) Ohio State vs (9) Siena
(5) Utah vs (12) Arizona
(4) Wake Forest vs (13) Cleveland State
(3) Kansas vs (14) North Dakota State
(6) West Virginia vs (11) Dayton
(7) Boston College vs (10) USC
(2) Michigan State vs (15) Robert Morris

Louisville's gift for winning the big east is a fairly weak subregional. Siena is probably an 11 seed: the 8-9 and 5-12 matchups, in fact, could be flip flopped entirely. Utah and Ohio State both fit better as 7-8 seeds, while Arizona, despite their late collapse and a general consensus that they were the "last" at-large team, makes a case for a 9 due to their general resilience over a strong schedule, plus their top player, Jordan Hill, is a prime talent.

You could make an argument for Chattanooga in the play-in game instead of Morehead State, but it's a minor gripe as Morehead's probably the 3rd weakest team in the 65 team field. They will likely win Tuesday's play-in game and give Louisville next to no challenge two days later.

Siena got overseeded, and while their reward is a lower seeded opponent, Ohio State is a bad fit that will outplay them on both ends of the floor.

Wake Forest, a former #1 ranked team in 2009, is the only team Louisville will see before the Elite Eight that can give them a serious challenge.

However, the other subregion is pretty top-heavy thanks to West Virginia's underseeding at 6: they really are a 3, and the likely 2nd round matchup with Kansas (which is seeded just right as a 3) will be a close one.

As mentioned, Boston College's inclusion in this tournament was a mistake in light of San Diego State's exclusion, and they are way overseeded at 7. Ironically, their opponent, USC, was considered a non-factor that many believed would not have made the tournament had they not won the Pac 10, but their record and schedule not only makes them an 8 seed, but they are very likely to knock off BC in the 1st round, as they are far superior defensively.

But aside from that, Michigan State had an easy sub-regional, and should only run into trouble once they reach the Sweet Sixteen and have to play one of Kansas or West Virginia, as both teams have superior offensive weapons and could outplay them on a neutral floor.

Any of these three power teams, Michigan State, West Virginia or Kansas, can bring more offense than Louisville, and whether they can upend the Cardinals will come down to how well they pierce Louisville's top flight defense.

Of course, as always, all teams involved have to get there first, and anything can happen.

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