Good news and bad news, guys.
Good news: We are going to the NCAA Tournament again. For the 20th straight season the boy from East Lansing will be dancing and on top of that we were given a 9 seed from the selection committee.
Bad news: Unless the Spartans play better this upcoming weekend in Tulsa than they have all season, there is not a great road ahead to be a second weekend team. So that bing said, let’s break down the region the Spartans are in: The Mid West.
Number 1: Kansas 28-4, Big 12 Regular Season Champion
KenPom: No. 3
Best Wins: Kentucky, Duke, Baylor (x2)
Worst Losses: Indiana, TCU
The Details: Kansas has not lost in over a month (until their early exit in the Big 12 Tourney to TCU). That was not a complete representation of KU’s skills however. Josh Jackson (yes, THAT Josh Jackson) was not playing due to a one game suspension he was serving for backing into a parked car, driving away, and never telling Coach Self. Well, even without Jackson, Kansas has National player of the Year front runner: Frank Mason III. This is a title team who just had an extra few days of rest. Watch out, Mid West.
Number 2: Louisville 24-8, ACC
Ken Pom: No. 6
Best Wins: Kentucky, Duke, Purdue
Worst Losses: Wake Forest
The Details: Looking at the bracket, I was a little surprised to see Louisville given a 2 seed. Not saying they are not good, but I thought teams like Oregon would supplant a team like Louisville but looking and their losses (outside of the loss to Wake Forest), not a single loss came to a team below a RPI of 23. Donovan Mitchell and Quentin Snider both averaging over 12 points a game and shooting 35% or more from beyond the arc. Louisville is a team that is tough to match up with and can beat some of the best teams in the nation on any given night.
Number 3: Oregon 29-5, Pac-12
KenPom: No. 16
Best Wins: Arizona, UCLA, USC (x2)
Worst Losses: Georgetown, Colorado
The Details: So, Oregon was my dark horse team to win the entire tournament until this weekend. They were long, they could stretch the floor and had the ability to go center-of-the-sun hot at any given time. That was until big man Chris Boucher went down with an ACL injury. While I am bummed for the chance to see this team play at full strength, they are still crazy dangerous. They took Arizona down to the wire in the Pac-12 Championship game on Saturday night and Dillion Brooks is the type of guy that can catch fire and carry a team to the elite eight or beyond. Not a fun match-up for anyone.
Number 4: Purdue 25-7, Big Ten Regular Season Champion
KenPom: No. 15
Best Wins: Norte Dame, Wisconsin, Maryland
Worst Losses: Nebraska, Iowa
The Details: We know EVERYTHING there is to know about this team. The biggest surprise of the Big Ten Tournament came on Friday when Michigan just railroaded Purdue but we now see that it was because UM was playing inspired “we just got in a play crash and have to play in practice jersey” basketball and Purdue could not catch-up. This team lives and breathes with Caleb Swanigan and his performance. If he is able to stay out of foul trouble, he is a nightmare matchup for just about any team in the country.
Number 5: Iowa State, 23-10, Big 12 Tourney Champions
KenPom: No. 17
Best Wins: Kansas, Baylor, West Virginia
Worst Losses: Texas, Iowa, TCU
The Details: This is the Iowa State team you should be scared about. They are playing some insane basketball right now and just find ways to win games. They are the team that broke Bill Self’s streak of consecutive wins at Allen Fieldhouse and the team deep enough to beat just about everyone in the Big 12. Monte Morris is a player that will 100% be getting minutes in the NBA and this team knows how to take care of the ball as they averaged the least about of assists in the Big 12 on the year. This is not a 5/12 matchup you want to touch this year.
Number 6: Creighton 25-9, Big East
KenPom: No. 27
Best Wins: Butler (x2), Wisconsin, Xavier (x2)
Worst Losses: Georgetown, Marquette (x2), Providence
The Details: While they only finished 3rd in the Big East this year this team has some serious upside to it. Marcus Foster transferred to the Blue Jays from Kansas State and now leads the team with 18.3 points per game, a career high, to go with over 2 boards and assists per game. While they just lost pretty handedly in the Big East Title game, it was to the number one overall seed Villanova. Given the matchup with Dan Hurley’s Rhode Island squad, this could be an early exit for the Blue Jays.
Number 7: Michigan 24-11, Big Ten Tournament Champion
KenPom: No. 21
Best Wins: SMU, Purdue (x2), Minnesota
Worst Losses: Ohio State, Iowa, Illinois
The Details: Michigan winning the Big Ten Tourney is proof that all that REALLY matters in the college game is peaking at the right time and by god, UM is doing just that. Over the course of the last month, there is not a team playing better in the Big Ten thank Michigan. To go along with that, Derrick Walton Jr has been the best PG in the conference for the last month of play. If Zac Irvin and DJ Wilson play next weekend like they did this weekend, it would not be a surprise to see our rivals from Ann Arbor celebrating a sweet sixteen birth. My hope is that the whole “plane crash” narrative calms down a bit but you know Disney probably already bought the rights to the inspirational movie entitled “The Takeoff”. Good money on Tom Hanks playing the pilot.
Number 8: Miami 21-11, ACC
KenPom: No. 32
Best Wins: North Carolina, Duke, Virginia
Worst Losses: Syracuse, Virginia Tech, Wake Forrest
The Details: Now Austin is going to be dialing up a full fledged preview of this and I am not going to step on his toes but Miami reminds me of a team that you do NOT want to face on an “on” night. Looking at their top wins, they have the skill to run with teams like Duke and UNC but on an off night they can lose by 15 points to a team that didn’t even make the tournament. The ACC this year is the powerhouse the Big Ten used to be so don’t look past Miami at all.
Number 10: Oklahoma State 20-12, Big 12
KenPom: No. 24
Best Wins: West Virginia, Arkansas, Wichita State
Worst Losses: Texas, Kansas State
The Details: I watched Oklahoma State a few times this year thanks to some late night parlays and this is a team that can RUN. As with most Big 12 schools in both football and basketball, points are easy to come by and this team can put those up and in a hurry. Oklahoma State led the Big 12 in points per game with 85.5 per contest and are never really out of the game until the final buzzer sounds. Remember the name Juwan Evans, he could be in the One Shining Moment.
Number 11: Rhode Island 24-9, A-10 Tournament Champions
KenPom: No. 37
Best Wins: Cincinnati, VCU
Worst Losses: Fordham, LaSalle
The Details: Automatic bid from the A-10, the Rams from Rhode Island suffered some early season losses due to injuries and honestly would be a single digit seed if it was not for those. The Rams are playing some inspired basketball and are one of three A-10 teams to make it to the dance (first time they made it to the tournament since 1999). They are riding a high in the last month, winning their last 8 games (most by double digits). This is going to be a fun matchup on Friday with Creighton and Rhode Island matching up in Sacramento.
Number 12: Nevada 28-6, Mountain West Regular Season and Tournament Champions
KenPom: No. 55
Best Wins: Colorado State (x2), Boise State (x2)
Worst Losses: Utah State, San Diego State, Iona
The Details: Nevada is the best team wire-to-wire in the Mountain West. That is something to be proud of. The unfortunate thing for Nevada is they are not going to be making it to the second weekend and probably not the second game. Marcus Marshall is averaging close to 20 points a game (19.8) and the Wolf Pack have not lost in almost a month so they are peaking on the right time, so there is that.
Number 13: Vermont 29-5, America East Regular Season and Tournament Champions
KenPom: No. 63
Best Wins: Yale, Sienna, New Hampshire (x3)
Worst Losses: Northeastern, Providence, Houston
The Details: Vermont has not lost a game in the year 2017. You read that correct, they have not lost a single game since the year turned from 2016 to 2017. They are feeling invincible and are face off against Purdue in the first round. They are not a big team but they are able to put up 75+ points per game and have a good shot at running with Purdue for at least half of the game Thursday. Yes, that is the same Northeastern team we lost to and yes, they ended with a higher RPI than us.
Number 14: Iona 22-12, MAAC Tournament Champions
KenPom: No. 118
Best Wins: Nevada, Ohio, Sienna (x2)
Worst Losses: Niagara, Quinnipiac, Delaware
The Details: Iona is another one of those teams I watched a LOT due to my habit of betting on games that air only on ESPN but this is a team that has a TON of grit. They have 4 players averaging over 10 points a game but they need to be shooting about a million percent behind the arc to keep up with Oregon.
Number 15: Jacksonville State 20-14, Ohio Valley Tournament Champion
KenPom: No. 158
Best Wins: Belmont, Tulsa
Worst Losses: Louisiana-Monroe, Tennessee Tech, Eastern Kentucky (x2)
The Details: Not a deep scouting report on Jacksonville State. They were the 4 seed in the OCV Tourney and surprised Belmont in the Semi-Finals to snag this 15 seed and a chance to take the floor against Louisville. They are not a particularly high flying or high scoring team (second to last in the OVC) they know how to win when they need to. Let’s see if they keep the matchup against Louisville competitive.
Number 16a: North Carolina Central 25-8, MEAC Regular Season and Tournament Champions
KenPom: No. 152
Best Wins: Northern Kentucky, LIU-Brooklyn, Norfolk State (x2)
Worst Losses: North Carolina A&T, Delaware State, Savanah State
The Details: Congrats NC Central, you might get a tournament win because of the play in game. We will see you on Tru TV.
Number 16b: UC Davis 25-8, Big West Tournament Champions
KenPom: No. 218 (lowest in the region)
Best Wins: Santa Clara, UC Irvine (x2)
Worst Losses: California Riverside, Cal Poy
The Details: Honestly, I am a little bummed UC Davis won the Big West Tournament because they beat UC Irvine and they have the Anteater as a mascot. All’s well that ends well though, UC Davis is dancing and they should be happy. Then get ready to get owned by Kansas.