The 2015 NCAA Tournament Midwest region is stacked with the Kentucky Wildcats on the top line which should have everyone a little scared as they look at their draw. But the Wildcats potentially have to contend with Notre Dame, Wichita State, Kansas, or famed giant-killer Butler.
Can the Wildcats make it all the way to Indianapolis?
Favorite: Kentucky Wildcats
If you haven't been paying attention, the Kentucky Wildcats enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated at 34-0. They have been pushed hard maybe three times this season, an overtime win against Mississippi, a double overtime win against Texas A&M, and a shocking late season game against Georgia. But they also ran through an SEC that while landing five teams in the NCAA Tournament, only had the Wildcats on the top four lines. Get ready to head a lot about Willie Cauley-Stein, and his 7-0 frame, and strong work on the glass. He is a block machine and he forces his opponents into mistakes against him. He is vulnerable at the free throw line, but that won't matter when the Wildcats are up by 20. Kentucky doesn't have the easiest path to the tournament, but they should still be considered the top pick to cut down the nets in Cleveland.
Darkhorse: Wichita State Shockers
Don't count out Wichita State despite their tough 7-seed draw. They still have one of the most fearful backcourts in the country with Fred Van Vleet, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton. The defensive ability of those three plus Darius Carter in the middle make it possible that on any night, they could hold a team down and shoot their way past them. The biggest challenge for the Shockers will be keeping Carter on the floor. Despite work during the Missouri Valley Conference season to extend their bench, they haven't quite gotten everything as perfect as they would probably have wanted before the tournament. If Carter can stay out of foul trouble, Wichita State might get the rematch that they have to be itching for.
Best First Round Upset: Buffalo Bulls
Here is your 12-5 upset (along with all of the 12-5 matchups this season it seems). Buffalo at times had seemed like a team that could actually earn itself an at-large bid, and other times like they didn't have a chance to win the MAC. You might not remember that Buffalo led against Kentucky early in the season before running out of gas in the second half. That was back in November though. Justin Moss will get most of the attention when Buffalo squares up against West Virginia, but its success will rely on the play of the rest of rotation like Xavier Ford and Rodell Wigginton. Plus they are led by a coach who has a little bit of experience with the NCAA Tournament, Dan Hurley. Don't think the whole Hurley clan won't be called on for game planning help against the West Virginia Mountaineers.
Player to Know: Scott Eatherton, Northeastern Huskies
Northeastern's leader gained 15 pounds between his junior season and now, and it has helped improve what was already a strong inside game for the 6-8 senior. Offensively, he has been asked to do a lot more this season and delivered. He has also had more help from Quincy Ford to rebound and so hasn't been asked to do so much that he is drained at the end of the game. Combined with Ford inside, the duo provides a difficult matchup for teams that aren't used to seeing two 6-8 frames inside. Notre Dame has some size but does not excel on the glass. Eatherton could provide the spark that leads to an upset.