The Midwest Regional should be one of the most hotly contested in this year’s NCAA Tournament. It will play host to the regular-season champions from the Big 12, Big Ten, SEC, and Big East. In addition to the team accomplishments, this region will have some of the best individual talents in the nation on display. Four of the top 20 prospects for this summer’s NBA Draft will be showcased in the Midwest Regional. This should be a wild ride over the next two weeks to see who reaches the Final Four from this corner of the bracket.
Midwest Regional Preview
The Kansas Jayhawks headline things as the top seed, with the Auburn Tigers sitting at two. The Big Ten is also well represented with regular-season co-champ Wisconsin and tournament champion Iowa in the fold. Providence was one of the nation’s biggest surprises this season, coming out of nowhere to win 25 games and the Big East crown. The Midwest Regional also has one of the two teams to go undefeated in conference play this season in South Dakota State. They won the Summit League with an 18-0 record.
First Round Game to Watch
(7) Southern California Trojans vs (10) Miami Hurricanes
This will be an intriguing contrast of teams, with Southern Cal’s length and size matching up with Miami’s speed and scoring on the perimeter. Each of these squads is 7-3 over their last ten games, although the Trojans have lost three of four after a six-game win streak. The Pac 12 representative is led by 6’10” junior Isaiah Mobley. The versatile forward does everything for the Trojans, leading the team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks. The guard-oriented Hurricanes will have a tough time dealing with him.
However, they have an explosive backcourt of Kameron McGusty, Isaiah Wong, and Charlie Moore to create their own match-up problems. Both teams have four players scoring in double figures, they each have the balance to combat foul trouble or defensive strategies. Miami will look to speed things up and get their guards in a free-flowing attack. Southern Cal will need to use its size and length to disrupt on defense and control the paint on offense.
Players to Watch
Johnny Davis – Guard – Wisconsin Badgers
One of the high-level NBA prospects that were referenced earlier, Davis is a scoring machine. He has just one game all season with less than 10 points. By contrast, he has 15 games with 20 or more points, including 37 in a January victory over Purdue. The 6’5” guard is a three-level scorer that also gets to the free-throw line with consistency. Having a player that can carry the offense is a big advantage in March Madness. The Badgers have a guy in Davis that can take over any game with his scoring ability.
Douglas Wilson – Forward – South Dakota State Jackrabbits
The senior forward enters the Midwest Regional as hot as any player in the nation. Over his last ten games, he is averaging 21 points a contest and has shot over 60% during that time. He teams with Baylor Scheierman to form one of the tournament’s most potent scoring duos. Wilson can stretch the floor with a solid midrange jumper, but he does most of his damage in the post or slashing to the rim. The Jackrabbits are a great passing team, and Wilson is often the recipient of their ball movement. South Dakota State is used to winning and will look to pull off some upsets. They will need Wilson playing at a high level to do so.
Ochai Agbaji – Guard – Kansas Jayhawks
The senior from Kansas City decided to stick around for his last season in Lawrence and it turned into a great idea. Not only has he improved his stock for the next level, but he has had a stellar year for the Jayhawks. He was named Player of the year in both the regular season and the Big 12 tournament. Agbaji has 18 games with 20 or more points. Much like Davis from Wisconsin, he can take over a game on offense and will his team to victory. If someone is to take down the top seed in the Midwest Regional, they will need to contain Agbaji to do so.
Jabari Smith – Forward – Auburn Tigers
Smith is the highest-rated of the NBA draft prospects in this region, likely to go in the top three picks. He has the size and ability to cause nightmares for opposing coaches. Smith is a tough shot maker at all three levels and enters the NCAA tournament on a tear. He is averaging almost 24 points a night over the last seven contests. When the Tigers run their offense through this talented freshman, they are almost impossible to beat. Their problem is when they hit stretches of game time and forget to get their best player the ball. If he remains their focal point and continues to dominate, the SEC Champions will make a long run this March.
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