Why 1 seed Purdue Advances:

The end to Purdue’s season last year was nothing short of tragic. They busted millions of brackets by losing to 16 seeded Fairleigh Dickinson in the first round. Though it seemed unfathomable at the time, it might have been a blessing in disguise. The Boilermaker’s regular season looked like a revenge tour and earned them the one seed in the Midwest. This allowed them to avoid teams like Tennessee, Creighton and Oregon before the Elite 8. Don’t be mistaken, they still have a tough path ahead with a Bill Self led Kansas squad knocking on the door and two of the top three-point shooting teams in the country on their heels, but with consistent guard play and an ever improving Goliath in Zach Edey leading the way, a Final Four appearance is a real possibility.

Why 1 seed Purdue Gets Eliminated:

The loss to Fairleigh Dickinson last year is all the evidence you need when it comes to how the Boilermakers could be bounced early from the Big Dance. There are times when they play down to their opponents ability, and the FDU blueprint showed how it can be done. They found a way to neutralize Zach Edey, which is crazy, because he still had 21 points and 15 rebounds. Purdue shot 19.2% from three and 35.8% from the field. A mix of defense and luck can spoil this team’s season. Deep teams like Tennessee and Creighton loom in the second weekend.

Sweet 16 Sleeper:

Gonzaga Bulldogs

25-7 is clearly a down year for the Zags. but they are potentially back in the form of sleeper team in the Midwest. Is it true that they look beatable? Yes. Is it true that they had a 3-6 record against Quad 1 opponents? Yes. They still managed to beat Saint Mary’s by 13 and Kentucky by 4 which doesn’t seem that impressive but it means that they possess the capability of beating quality opponents. Coach Mark Few has been here before and even with a roster that has less talent than years prior, they outscored opponents by 15 points per game during the regular season. I’m not saying they can get past Purdue but a Sweet Sixteen appearance isn’t out of the cards.

Final Four Sleeper:

Creighton Bluejays

The Bluejays averaged the sixth most made threes per game in the NCAA and at the end of the day, getting hot from deep can take you far in March. But what takes a team even further is their experience and Creighton has plenty of it. Combo guard Trey Alexander is the key to their success. The rotation consists of a core six guys and four of them are seniors. Center Ryan Kalkbrenner is having a great year and forward Baylor Scheierman can impact the game at any moment. Kalkbrenner brings an interesting dynamic to this squad because if they end up meeting Zach Edey and Purdue in the Elite 8, he will be the X-factor. No one can shut down Edey, but Creighton’s chance relies on his ability to try and neutralize him like FDU did last year. Their depth is a bit scary; having less than eight guys who play consistent minutes can be the downfall for any team. If this veteran squad plays consistent defense, stays healthy and hits threes, they can 100% beat Purdue and make it to the Final Four.

Top First Round Matchup:

2 Tennessee vs. 15 St. Peters

The aforementioned upset potential the Midwest holds by itself is unlike anything we’ve seen in the past couple of years so let’s talk about some of them. St. Peters versus Tennessee might be the most picked upset in the entire bracket. People want to believe in the Peacocks because two years ago, they had one of the most unlikely runs in March Madness history. They were the first and only 15 seed to ever reach the Elite 8 and they did it because of team chemistry (and Doug Edert’s mustache). But when it comes to picking a winner in this matchup, you should probably leave the past where it is. St. Peters is one of slowest paced teams in the NCAA which isn’t a terrible thing on its own but Tennessee is relatively high paced. Along with a high paced offense, the Volunteers rank top 15 in assist to turnover ratio which means they move fast and put themselves in scoring position. The pace is what really matters when it comes to this matchup and it seems to favor the Tennessee Volunteers.

Top Potential Player Matchup:

Zach Edey and Hunter Dickinson; Sweet 16

Through 31 games this year, the jayhawk averaged 18 points and 11 rebounds per game on 55% shooting from the field. This doesn’t really compare to the year Edey had but when it comes to guys in the Midwest that can give him a run for his money, Dickinson is right up there. If both teams win two games this tournament, we’ll be getting a great big man matchup.

Top Under the Radar Matchup

Utah State versus TCU is one of those games where it’s pretty much a pick ’em’, despite not being the most star-studded. On one side you have Coach Danny Sprinkle, who’s in his first year with Utah State, and on the other you have Jamie Dixon, the long-time leader of the Pittsburgh Panthers and someone who’s helped turn TCU into a tournament regular (selected each of the last three seasons). While TCU gets it done on both ends of the floor, the best player in this matchup is junior forward Great Osobor of Utah State. He averaged 18 points and 9 rebounds per contest while shooting 58% from the field and blocking 1.5 shots per game. Both aren’t the greatest three-point shooting teams so overall, I’d give the matchup advantage to Utah State. They have the best player in the game and they make nearly 50% of their field goals as a team.

Top 5 NBA Prospects In the Region

1. Dalton Knecht (Tennessee)

Knecht was in the running for National Player of the Year, with a number of huge performances to cap off a breakout season. He’s the top prospect in this bracket, a potential top 3-5 pick in June and appears ready to make a March Madness run. He averages 21 points per game and even though he shoots six threes a night, he connects on 40% of them. His shot form is concise and you can tell he knows how to step up in crunch time.

2. Johnny Furphy (Kansas)

There perks to being a 6’8”, 19-year-old freshman at one of the biggest basketball programs in the nation. The numbers don’t jump off the page with Furphy, who’s averaging 9 points and 5 rebounds per game in 24 minutes of play. But what does is the efficiency, where he shoots 48% from the field and 35% from three. His ability to play like a guard at his size and protect the ball (only .7 turnovers per game) has him projected in the mid to late first round.

3. Trey Alexander (Creighton}

The Blue Jays versatile lead guard is the straw that stirs the drink for them. They will go as far as he takes them as he is their most talented player but does not always play to his capabilities. From an NBA prospect perspective, he is a smooth combo guard that lacks a great first step but shows excellent potential with his ability to facilitate and handle the ball with excellent size. Adding more strength and toughness will be the key.

4. Zach Edey (Purdue)

This guy has been mentioned more times than I can count in this review so I’ll make it quick. He’s one of the most dominant college basketball players of the modern era and he’s 7’4”, 300 lbs. He cannot be moved in the paint and while there are obvious defensive limitations with his ability to guard in space, the potential to be a Boban type of contributor to a team could get him some looks in the early second round.

5. Baylor Scheierman (Creighton)

He’s 6’7”, has good size for a wing and can shoot the lights out. His 87% from the free-throw line gives him intrigue as a shooter. While there are real speed concerns, he can do a little bit of everything on the court and he’s a guy to look for as a late flyer in the second round.


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