The Midwest region of the 2013 NCAA Basketball Tournament features the toughest matchups. Overall top seed Louisville has home court advantage playing games in Lexington early on. This region also features Duke as a #2 seed, the always-tough Michigan State Spartans (#3 seed) and a surprisingly strong St. Louis as a #4 seed. Picking some of the matchups was especially difficult in the first round.
Louisville should easily be able to handle North Carolina A&T in the first round matchup. They will likely draw a tough Missouri team in the 2nd round, who should beat Colorado State.
The 5-12 matchup between Oklahoma State and Oregon is incredibly tough to pick. On one hand, you have three future NBA players in Marcus Smart, Le’Bryan Nash, and Markel Brown playing at a high level for the Cowboys, but Arsalan Kazemi and the Ducks will provide a serious test for them. Look for Oklahoma State to survive a very close game.
St. Louis draws a tough New Mexico State squad. The Billikins might be out-sized here, but they’ve shown all season how tough they are as they won the A-10 during the season. Look for St. Louis to advance past New Mexico State.
Memphis should be able to handle a short-handed St. Mary’s, playing without Jorden Page, but it should be a close game. Adonis Thomas and his pro skill set will make the difference in this one.
Michigan State will draw a tough Valparaiso team that won the Horizon League Conference Tournament to make it into the field of 64. Ryan Broekhoff will provide a solid test for the Spartans defense, but Adreian Payne is an animal in the paint, something Valparaiso doesn’t have. Look for the Spartans to advance.
In the 7-10 matchup, Creighton faces Cincinnati and their tough defense. This game will be determined by how well Doug McDermott plays against the interior defense of Cheikh Mbodj and Titus Rubles. If McDermott can control the inside, it will make it a lot easier for the Jays to advance. If Sean Kilpatrick and Cashmere Wright are hitting their 3’s, Cincinnati could make this an interesting game and pull the upset. Look for the Jays to handle the Bearcats.
Duke, fresh off their first round exit last season, should be focused and prepared to handle Albany without too much trouble. Look for the Devils to advance easily here.
This is where the matchups get interesting. Louisville – Missouri will be a fun battle to watch, as both teams like to play full court pressure defense. Louisville is excellent at forcing turnovers, so it will be a tough test for Phil Pressey. Look for the Cardinals to advance.
Oklahoma State and St. Louis provide a clash of styles. St. Louis enforces their half court style and slow tempo on the game and will look to frustrate Marcus Smart. If they can keep him on the perimeter, they will have a chance to win. If Smart can get to the basket at will, the Cowboys will prevail. I’ll take St. Louis in this matchup.
Memphis will draw Michigan State in the 2nd round, and I fully expect the Spartans to harass Adonis Thomas for 40 minutes. The Spartans toughen up around this time of the year, so they should advance past the Tigers.
Creighton and Duke would be a really exciting matchup to watch. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Doug McDermott defended by Plumlee. This game will be back and forth and hard fought, with Duke surviving a tough contest. The biggest difference in this game will be the play of Duke’s backcourt. Seth Curry and Rasheed Sulaimon have been solid all year.
Louisville will draw a tough St. Louis team that will finally meet its match. I expect this to be a close, low-scoring game with Louisville advancing to the Elite 8.
Michigan State and Duke provides a great battle between Tom Izzo and Mike Krzyzewski. These teams are both well coached, and this game will be determined by the individual play of Keith Appling and Seth Curry. If Appling plays better than Curry, Michigan State will win the game. Appling has struggled down the stretch of the season, so I’ll give the edge to Duke.
This should be a battle of heavyweights. Duke vs. Louisville. #1 vs. #2. Coach K vs. Rick Pitino. Together, they have a lot of experience and a great championship pedigree. I’ve seen Louisville play live this season, and they elevate their play when the stakes are high. They’ve been on a great run to finish the season. Gorgui Dieng changes games defensively, and the backcourt duo of Russ Smith and Peyton Siva have been consistent all year long. Louisville has a deeper, more experienced team, as they bring Luke Hancock, Kevin Ware, and Montrezl Harrell off their bench and they don’t miss a beat when those guys are playing. Have to give the edge to the Cardinals to reach the Final Four from the Midwest Region.
Players to watch
Doug McDermott – Creighton, Marcus Smart – Oklahoma State, Gorgui Dieng – Louisville, Seth Curry – Duke, Adreian Payne – Michigan State
Amit Tailor is a Scout and Correspondent for NetScouts Basketball.