Last Updated Mar 17, 2022, 1:15 PM

NCAA Tournament Midwest Region Breakdown

The NCAA Tournament field of 68 is set, and we have a lot of intriguing matchups. Below, we'll look at some of the top teams in the region, some teams to avoid at all costs and players to watch.

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THREE TEAMS TO WATCH

  • Colgate (+25000 to win region)
  • Creighton (+3200)
  • South Dakota State (+12000)

Colgate won the Patriot League regular-season title and the conference tournament, and now it looks to brush up on Wisconsin in the opening round. The Raiders picked up a 100-85 win at Syracuse back on Nov. 20 as an 11.5-point underdog, while falling by just three points at Pittsburgh on Dec. 9. Colgate showed they're more than capable of hanging with the power-conference teams.

Colgate's opponent, Wisconsin, enters the NCAA Tournament with a one-and-done loss against Michigan State in the Big Ten Tournament, while losing two straight games overall, both as a favorite. In fact, Wisconsin is 1-8 ATS in the previous nine games when favored, so Colgate might be a popular play with the points in the opening round. And remember, this is an experienced team which put a scare into Arkansas last season in the Big Dance.

Creighton won 20 games, including 12 during Big East conference play, so this is a battle-tested team. The Bluejays bowed out against Villanova in the Big East Tournament championship game, losing the title by a whisker. Creighton covered all three games in the Big East tourney, however, while entering the NCAA Tournament on a 9-2 ATS run across the past 11 games overall.

South Dakota State was tremendous during Summit League play, going a perfect 18-0 in conference play, and it won three straight in the league tourney to add the tournament trophy to the regular-season title. The Jackrabbits topped George Mason, Nevada, Stephen F. Austin and Washington State, as well as fellow mid-major NCAA Tournament team Montana State. This is a dangerous team which hasn't lost since Dec. 15, a span of 21 consecutive victories.

Creighton has cashed in nine of the previous 11 games overall. (AP)

TEAMS TO AVOID

  • Iowa State (+6500)
  • Jacksonville State (+25000)
  • LSU (+1300)

Iowa State should feel lucky to have qualified for the NCAA Tournament after posting a 7-11 record in conference play. Yes, this team won 20 games this season, but they were dusted by 31 points in the opening game of the Big 12 Tournament by Texas Tech. The quality wins were few and far between, with the last notable win coming Feb. 15 at TCU, and previous to that on Jan. 15 against Texas at home. The Cyclones opened the season with some quality wins, including a 19-point win over fellow NCAA Tournament team Memphis on a neutral floor, as well as a 20-point spanking of Big Ten Tournament champ Iowa on Dec. 9. But while those teams got strong, Iowa State got arguably worse as the season went along. It's a shame for Izaiah Brockington, as he is a stud. But he is surrounded by trash.

If you were thinking about getting crazy and picking Jacksonville State, a 15-seed, for a major upset, don't do it. The Gamecocks are up against fellow Yellowhammer State team Auburn, a 2-seed, and a team which spent time at No. 1 in the rankings this season. Jacksonville State won the regular-season title in the ASUN, but probably shouldn't even be here. Jack State wouldn't even be here if not for an antiquated rule which chinced Bellarmine out of an automatic bid because they're still 'transitioning' from Division II to Division I. Well, soon, the Gamecocks will be on the couch eating popcorn with the Knights watching the rest of the Tournament at home. No upset coming here.

LSU fired head coach Will Wade this past weekend after receiving a notice of allegations which reportedly detail significant misconduct, the school announced. Remember, Wade was also suspended in 2019 for the SEC Tournament and NCAA Tournament after reports he was captured on a federal wiretap. There are just too many distractions for this Tigers team. Assistant Kevin Nickelberry will serve as the interim coach.

Iowa State and LSU face each other in an 11-6 game in the first round, so obviously one of these teams will at least make it to the Round of 32. But I don't expect to see any of these teams in the Sweet Sixteen.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

  • Ochai Agbaji, F, Kansas
  • Christian Braun, G, Kansas
  • Izaiah Brockington, G, Iowa State
  • Jonathan Davis, G, Wisconsin
  • Boogie Ellis, G, USC
  • Jack Ferguson, G, Colgate
  • Jacob Gilyard, G, Richmond
  • Ryan Kalkbrenner, C, Creighton
  • Walker Kessler, F, Auburn
  • Kameron McGusty, G, Miami-Fla.
  • Keegan Murray, F, Iowa State
  • Isaac Mushila, F, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
  • Baylor Scheierman, G, South Dakota State
  • Jabari Smith, F, Auburn
  • Nate Watson, C, Providence
Auburn enters the NCAA Tournament on a 5-4 SU and 2-8 ATS skid. (AP)

REGION WINNER

  • Kansas Jayhawks (+210)

Kansas secured a No. 1 seed with Big 12 Conference Tournament championship, topping Texas Tech 74-65 on March 12 in Kansas City, essentially a home game. The Jayhawks are one of two Big 12 teams to grab a 1-seed along with the defending national champion Baylor Bears.

Auburn looked like a team which was on course for a one earlier in the season, and it even sat atop the rankings at one point. However, the Tigers sputtered down the stretch, winning just five of the past nine games overall, which had them playing more like an 8- or 9-seed rather than a team which looks like a national title contender.

While the Midwest Region also includes Big East regular-season champ Providence and Big Ten conference tournament winner Iowa, as well as Big Ten regular-season champ Wisconsin, this looks like the region with some rather mediocre teams. Kansas is heads and tails better than most of the others in their pod, and the region. It won't exactly be a cakewalk, as Auburn and Iowa could potentially give KU trouble, but the safest and smartest play is on the Jayhawks to run this group.

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