The Kentucky Wildcats blew through the regular season undefeated and are the unquestioned national championship favorites. Can anyone stand in their way? Here's a game-by-game breakdown of the first-round games in the Midwest Region:
**Click team name for extended team breakdown**
It doesn't really matter if Hampton or Manhattan wins their First Four matchup - they're essentially playing for the right to lose to Kentucky. The Wildcats are too big and too talented to be the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed, and I think Kentucky will storm through the tournament and win the national title.
(8 ) Cincinnati Bearcats
Cincinnati is one of the best defensive teams in the country, but they really struggle to score the ball. Purdue's biggest problem this season has been their consistency, and the Bearcats' defense can take even the best teams out of their rhythm. This game is a toss up, but Cincinnati's defense will ultimately be the difference.
(5) West Virginia Mountaineers
(12) Buffalo Bulls
The 5-12 matchup is the most common upset in the NCAA Tournament, and this seems like the most likely of those games this year. West Virginia loves to press, but it can be broken by teams with good guards that always play under control. Buffalo starts a three-guard lineup – meaning more ball-handlers on the court – that’s young but productive, and they should have no problems handling the press.
On the other side of the ball, the Mountaineers have trouble scoring if they can’t force turnovers and get out in transition, and Buffalo head coach Bobby Hurley will pack the paint and force WVU to shoot a lot of jump shots.
(13) Valparaiso Crusaders
Maryland is one of best all-around teams in the country, as they have the ability to drive to the basket effectively and make shots from long range. Valpo is a good team, but they simply don't have the athletes or talent to really compete with Maryland.
(6) Butler Bulldogs
(11) Texas Longhorns
Texas surprised many people by simply getting into the tournament, but they got a great matchup for them. The Longhorns have the size to dominate a small Butler team and disrupt their shooters, giving them the advantage in this one even though they're the lower seed.
(14) Northeastern Huskies
Notre Dame won the ACC with a guard heavy attack that spaces out opposing defenses, creating driving lanes and open shooters for the Irish. Northeastern likes to work in the post, but they don't have the skill or talent to truly pose a threat to Notre Dame.
(10) Indiana Hoosiers
Both teams play "small ball" with a focus on guard play, but Wichita State has more talented players and runs the system better than the Hoosiers. Indiana can win if they make their three's, but they're not good at all on the defensive end, which will really hurt them.
(2) Kansas Jayhawks
Kansas will win this one easily because of the massive talent gap between the two sides, but don't be surprised if the Jayhawks lose in the next round. KU really struggles to shoot anything that's not a layup or dunk, and their defense can be questionable.
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