Your Guide To The 2019 NCAA Men’s Tournament: Midwest region

Best seed outlook: On paper, the Midwest appears to be the most open of those four regions, but we still provide No. 1 North Carolina the greatest chances, using a 35 percent probability of reaching the Final Four and an 18 percent likelihood of appearing in the national championship match. Those chances are at least 8 percentage points lower compared to every other No. 1 team in the area, however, and for good reason: North Carolina’s crime is dependent on turning each play right into a quick break. The Tar Heels fight to get into the free-throw line and give up a ton of shots along the perimeter, and that, at a slowed-down, half-court matchup, can be rather problematic.
After getting chased by Duke to start the season, No. 2 Kentucky has caught fire in recent months while discovering equilibrium on both ends of the ground and mostly abstaining from the 3-point line. No. 3 Houston, meanwhile, is in the midst of its very best season since Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon were revolutionizing school basketball, and they boast a defense that ranks among the top together and in the perimeter.
Sneaky Final Four pick: No. 5 Auburn. Whenever the Tigers steamrolled Tennessee 84-64 in Sunday’s SEC title game, it likely got the attention of a lot of bracket-pickers. That was not a one-off — Auburn also conquer Tennessee eight days earlier, part of a string of eight consecutive wins for the Tigers, and 10 in their past 11 games. With an explosive offense (No. 8 in KenPom efficacy ) that got more of its points from downtown than every other group in the NCAA field, Auburn can heat up in a hurry. We provide the Tigers nearly a coin-flip’s odds of making the Sweet 16 — and a very strong 37 percent likelihood of beating top-seeded North Carolina when the Tar Heels are awaiting Auburn there. The sole kryptonite might be a hypothetical regional-final matchup with No. 2 seed Kentucky, which defeat the Tigers by 27 in late February to sweep their season collection.
Don’t wager on: No. 4 Kansas. The Jayhawks went into the season ranked No. 1 in the AP’s preseason poll, and they seemed to validate the choice by starting the season 10-0. However a 15-9 record (and a few critical injuries) since then have cast doubt on Kansas’s NCAA Tournament potential. This really is a well-balanced team, but to say it does not shoot well from the exterior is an understatement — see KU’s 3-for-18 functionality from deep into Saturday’s Big 12 ouster from Iowa State. Add an unfavorable draw that puts them on an expected second-round crash course with Auburn (see above), and also we provide the Jayhawks only an 8 percent chance of making from the Midwest with their championship hopes undamaged.
Cinderella see: No. 11 Ohio State. In case a Big Ten team that has made 11 Final Fours could be a Cinderella, then you’re considering it in these Buckeyes. (Hey, the committee’s rising trend to seed underwhelming power-conference colleges this manner really contrasts with the definition) OSU went just 18-13 during the regular season, was defeated its second Big Ten tournament game also has nearly twice as many losses as wins since New Year’s. So why are the Buckeyes a potential Cinderella? Regardless of the seed, this remains a dangerous team, one that ranks 27th in Pomeroy’s corrected defensive ratings and has celebrity forward Kaleb Wesson back from suspension. So maybe they will give Big 12 champ Iowa State trouble. But this tells you something about another prospective Cinderellas within this area: Seton Hall got an extremely tough first-round matchup with underseeded Wofford; none of those additional low seeds are world-beaters. That leaves the Buckeyes, a team which did all it could to play its way from the tournament, but has some mad potential regardless.
Player to watch: Cameron Johnson On a team that does not hoist a ton of shots from the perimeter, Johnson is as deadly as they come. Following an injury-riddled campaign in which he made more than one-third of his looks from beyond the arc, the grad student is canning 46.5 percent of his attempts, which ranks within the top 25 nationally.
Johnson has thrived in North Carolina’s every-possession-is-a-transition-opportunity scheme this season. He’s blossomed into one of the best scorers in the ACC, ranking between the 85th and 100th percentiles in scoring efficacy in transition, off displays and on spot-ups.
Johnson has elevated his game in conference play, boasting the ACC’s top offensive evaluation (132.5) and accurate shooting percentage (64.6). Unexpectedly, a player who was not seen as a guaranteed professional now jobs for a second-round pick.
Likeliest first-round upsets: No. 9 Washington over No. 8 Utah State (49 percent); No. 10 Seton Hall over No. 7 Wofford (37 percent); No. 11 Ohio State over No. 6 Iowa State (33 percent)
Check out our March Madness forecasts.
CORRECTION (March 18, 2019, 3:10 p.m.): A previous version of this story misstated the number of Sweet 16s created by Villanova in recent seasons. Although the Wildcats have reached the NCAA Tournament’s”third round” in four of their past five seasons, that around was the Round of 32 before 2016 because of NCAA naming conventions.

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