From the Jim Hurley Network Staff
Contributing Sportsbook Editor
Just wanted to chime in here on this topic because it has become such a big deal when the NCAA Tournament brackets are first announced. If we heard it once we heard it a thousand times on Sunday night that the Midwest region was "loaded" but hear us out for a second:
True, Louisville, Duke and Michigan State comprise the top three seeds here in this region and that's some heavy-duty firepower but delve a bit deeper and the next handful of seeded teams here are Saint Louis, Oklahoma State, Memphis, Creighton and Colorado State. Do you really think any of these guys will be still standing come Final Four time? Or Elite 8 time, for that matter?
We contend that both the East and the West Regions have better top-to-bottom balance - consider that potential sleeping giant N.C. State is a #8 seed in the East and Pitt, Wichita State and Iowa State make up the #'s 8-9-10 teams in the West Region. So, we'll rate the regions like this:
The West is the toughest, then the East, the Midwest and lastly the South where UCLA is a #6 and aforementioned San Diego State is a #7 - not great.
Finally, everyone's loading up on who will be the first-game upset winners and, boy, hasn't everyone come out of the woodwork talking up Bucknell over Butler and South Dakota State over Michigan but here's one "watch me" team in each of the four regions as they all deserve your NCAA Tournament attention:
EAST -- #10 Colorado (21-11)
The Buffaloes have a super athletic team and a top-flight tourney coach in Tad Boyle. The opening-round game against Illinois is no gimme but Colorado could win that and be a major problem for mighty Miami with those games played in Austin.
WEST -- #9 Wichita State (26-8)
The Shockers snagged an at-large bid from the better-than-you-thin Missouri Valley Conference and they play hardball from start to finish. The opener is against Pittsburgh - a team that can go on massive scoring droughts - and don't sell Wichita State short should they bang heads with Gonzaga in Salt Lake City this weekend.
MIDWEST -- #5 Oklahoma State (24-8)
No doubt everyone's singing the praise of the Atlantic-10 Tourney champs Saint Louis here in this region but might the Okie State Cowboys be the best bet from a #5-or-lower seed to get to this year's Final Four? There's three players who can get their own shots - and make 'em - and beating Oregon and than the St. Loo-New Mexico State winner is quite plausible.
SOUTH -- #10 Oklahoma (20-11)
Any team that's coached by Lon Kruger has a shot at March greatness and this Sooners crew did win 11 games in the Big 12 and three-point marksman Steve Pledger could get hot if left alone.