There could be some surprises when the Midwest region takes shape in Chicago.
There are several teams in which you can convince yourself to advance deep into support. If Big Ten Player of the Year Johnny Davis is right, Wisconsin’s No. 3 is a major threat. Providence, the Big East regular season champion, is also the fourth seed. The winner of the Big Ten Iowa tournament, the fifth seed, is hot. Sixth-seeded LSU still has a lot of talent left, and perhaps the firing of coach Will Wade will remove a dark cloud that followed this program. An Elite Eight matchup between No. 1 Kansas and second-seeded Auburn is far from a certainty. Let’s call this the dormant region.
Support Buster: No. 9 Creighton
Greg McDermott’s Bluejays were just games away from winning their first Big East tournament, but in those three days at the Garden they showed an ability to make some noise in March. If 7-foot-1 center Ryan Kalkbrenner can keep playing at the elite level and Creighton gets hot like he did in the first two games in New York, Kansas is beatable in the second round.
Shows upset in the first round
South Dakota State #13 on Providence #4
Was it a bad day, the Friars’ nasty 27-point loss to Creighton in the Big East Tournament, or a sign that this team had played above its head by winning 25 of its first 29 games? Most likely it was somewhere in between. That said, Providence gets a live underdog here in the Jackrabbits, the nation’s top 3-point shooting team at 44.9% who have won 21 straight games.
Best First Round Match
No. 6 LSU vs. No. 11 Iowa State
Intrigue surrounds LSU after it parted ways with struggling Wade on Saturday, and made assistant Kevin Nickelberry his interim replacement. The Tigers, despite their recent struggles, losing four of their last seven games, still boast top-notch talent and some of the best defense in the nation. Iowa State, which has nine Quad 1 wins, can make a similar claim. Consistency eluded both teams.
Betting on March Madness 2022?
Unsung Player: G Izaiah Brockington, Iowa State
Selected to finish last in the Big 12, the Cyclones were one of the biggest surprises of the year in coach TJ Otzelberger’s first season, a nod to how the transfer portal can work if used correctly. Brockington, the former Penn State guard, made it happen, posting career highs in points, rebounds, field goal percentage and steals.
Player to watch: F Jabari Smith, Auburn
In some circles, the 6-foot-10 Smith is still considered the nation’s top NBA prospect. There’s nothing this multi-talented winger/forward can’t do, as he showed with an average of 17.1 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.2 steals and 1 .0 blocks this year.
Job choice: Iowa
It’s the dormant region, after all, and Iowa isn’t playing like a top-five seed right now. He is coming off a Big Ten Tournament crown in which he overwhelmed Purdue in the Finals and his only loss since Feb. 17 was a two-point loss at Illinois. Creighton does the Hawkeyes a favor by ousting Kansas in the second round, clearing the way for Keegan Murray and Co. to enter a Big Ten Elite Eight clash with Wisconsin, which upsets Auburn in the Sweet 16. There, Iowa and Murray revenge for a loss on January 6 in Madison against Davis and the Badgers.
New York Post