2014 March Madness: Midwest Region Predictions

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Nov 26, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Wichita State Shockers cheerleaders entertain the crowd during the second half of the game against the Brigham Young Cougars at Sprint Center. Wichita won 75-62. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports


*I refuse to recognize the play-in games as the first round, even though that’s what CBS & the NCAA want you to believe.

(1) Wichita State Shockers vs. (16) Cal Poly Mustangs

Friday, March 21 @ 7:10 p.m. on CBS

How They Got Here: Unless you’ve been living under a shoe, you’ve probably heard at this point that the Shockers are undefeated heading into March Madness. They finished the season a perfect 34-0 (18-0) in the powerhouse conference known as the Missouri Valley Conference.

Analysis: Wichita State is hands down the most polarizing team in the country. After plowing through 101st ranked schedule in the country, the Shockers stand a 5% chance of becoming National Champions (per Nate Silver’s excellent site: fivethirtyeight.com). It would not be a surprise if they are the first #1 seed to lose, but it also wouldn’t be “shocking” (see what I did there…?) if they made it to their second consecutive Final Four. Wichita State cruises into the weekend.

(8) Kentucky Wildcats vs. (9) Kansas State Wildcats

Friday, March 21 @ 9:40 p.m. on CBS

How They Got Here: Kentucky (24-10, 12-6) failed to protect home court in the self-proclaimed “CAtlanta”, slipping falling to the Florida Gators in the SEC Championship game on Sunday. The Kansas State Wildcats finished 20-12 (10-8) in a very strong Big 12.

Analysis: I hate cats. They have zero redeeming qualities; they don’t play fetch, they aren’t excited to see you when you get home, and they are selfish. There is a reason why becoming a “cat lady” is a sad, dark, lonely destiny. Thus, in a battle between two cats (aka a “cat fight”), there is no right answer, so I will once again defer to my SEC bias and take Kentucky.

(5) St. Louis Billikens vs. (12) NC State Wolfpack

Thursday, March 20 @ 7:20 p.m. on TNT

How They Got Here: St. Louis capped off a solid regular season (26-6, 13-3) with a disappointing loss to St. Bonaventure in the Atlantic 10 quarterfinals.

Analysis: So what the hell is a Billiken? Fair question. Imagine the Grinch went off to college and put on the freshman forty by stuffing his face with Bugles and Golden Corral. Boom! You’ve got a Billiken. In reality, it’s a creepy looking fad toy from the early 1900s (think earlier generation of the Furby, Troll Dolls, Beanie Babies, or Tamagotchi), and there is no way I want that thing hanging around. More TJ Warren! Go Pack!

(4) Louisville Cardinals vs. (11) Manhattan Jaspers

Mar 1, 2014; Memphis, TN, USA; Louisville Cardinals head coach Rick Pitino reacts to a call during the game against the Memphis Tigers at FedExForum. Memphis defeated Louisville 72-66. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday, March 20 @ 9:50 p.m. on TNT

How They Got Here: Louisville, the defending national champions, defeated UConn for the inaugural AAC championship and finished 29-5 (15-3) on the year. Manhattan went 25-7 (15-5) in the MAAC, home to my father’s alma mater, Rider College.

Analysis: It’s amazing what one can learn while researching schools that make the NCAA Tournament. For instance, did you know that Manhattan College is named after Brother Jasper, the founding father of the 7th inning stretch? You’re welcome. Cardinals roll as Rick Pitino takes down one of his coaching disciples, Steve Masiello.

(6) Massachusetts Minutemen vs. (11) Tennessee Volunteers

Friday, March 21 @ 2:45 p.m. on CBS

How They Got Here: The Minutemen received an at-large bid out of the Atlantic 10 conference, finishing at 24-8 (10-6). They started the season with a 16-1 record, but went 8-7 the rest of the way, losing to George Washington in the A-10 quarterfinals.

Analysis: UMass comes out of a great Atlantic 10 conference, one of six schools to make the Dance (St. Louis, VCU, GW, St. Joe’s, and Dayton). Senior guard Chaz Williams leads the Minutemen’s up-tempo attack, averaging 15.8 points per game to go along with 7 assists. However, the Volunteers have the 16th ranked defense in the country according to kenpom.com, which could cause some issues for Williams & Co. I think Jordan McRae catches fire and leads the Vols into the weekend.

(3) Duke Blue Devils vs. (14) Mercer Bears

Friday, March 21 @ 12:15 p.m. on CBS

How They Got Here: Mercer (26-8, 14-4) earned their ticket to the Dance by defeating Florida Gulf Coast University (“Dunk City” circa 2013) in the Atlantic Sun title game. Duke lost to Virginia in the ACC title game, finishing with a  26-8 (13-5) record.

Analysis: Welcome to the fun little game that we like to call: Where The Hell Is That School? Our first contestant hails from Mercer College. If you can’t figure it out from the context clues in the previous paragraph (hint: what conference do they play in?) then I’ll give you another tidbit. The city rhymes with Bacon, Meorgia. Duke steamrolls the Bears and Coach K spends the post-game presser discussing his hair.

(7) Texas Longhorns vs. (10) Arizona State Sun Devils

Thursday, March 20 @ 9:40 p.m. on CBS

How They Got Here: Texas (23-10, 11-7) returned to basketball relevance this season after failing to make the NCAA tournament for the first time in Rick Barnes’ tenure as coach. The Longhorns fell to Baylor in the Big 12 tournament semifinals. Arizona State received an at-large bid out of the Pac-12, finishing with a 21-11 (10-8) record.

Analysis: This game is a coin flip according to Nate Silver, and Vegas has Texas favored by 1.5 points. The best tie-breaker I can think of to settle this is a game I like to call, “Who’s Hotter?” A simple “Google-off” will solve our dilemma. Type “Arizona State girls” into The Google and voila, you have your answer. Arizona State with the walk-off.

(2) Michigan Wolverines vs. (15) Wofford Terriers

Thursday, March 20 @ 7:10 p.m. on CBS

How They Got Here: Michigan was the regular season Big 10 champion, finishing with a 25-8 (15-3) record but they lost to in-state rivals Michigan State in the Big 10 conference tournament title game. Wofford is the Southern Conference champions, having beaten Western Carolina in the finals to cap off a 20-12 (11-5) season.

Analysis: Welcome to Round 2 of “Where The Hell Is That School?” Wofford is a “private liberal arts institution with nationally recognized academic programs and award-winning student housing.” It’s 1,580 students call Spartanburg, South Carolina home. A round of applause for those of you randomly remember seeing signs along I-85 on your travels from Charlotte to Atlanta. Meat-chicken wins in lopsided fashion.

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