Midwest Regional Breakdown

The Midwest Regional is widely regarded as one of the most difficult this NCAA Tournament season. If Oklahoma State is going to make a run, they'll need to eliminate a number of dangerous teams. With Oregon on the horizon, it's time to see who else might be ahead for the Cowboys.

We'll break the regional into five sections. The Favorites: Teams that are poised for a deep run. Contenders: Teams that have shown elite ability this season, that will look for consistency and focus in the early rounds. In the mix: Teams that deserved tournament bids. Now, it's time to show up. Sleepers: Teams that could surprise this week. Glass half-full: Teams that look outmatched on paper. But hey, its the NCAA Tournament. Anything can happen.

Here's a detailed look at the field:


No. 1 Louisville (29-5)
Conference: Big East
Conference record: 14-4
AP Rank: 4
Points per game: 73.5
Opp. Points per game: 57.9
Against Top-25: 4-3
Last 12 games: 11-1

Difference Maker: A talented backcourt
The Cardinals are led by two crafty, aggressive guards in Peyton Siva and Russ Smith. When these two, and 6-foot-11 Gorgui Dieng, are at their beSt Louisville might be the best team in the nation. That's why the Cardinals are prohibited favorites to come out of the Midwest.

No. 4 St. Louis (27-6)
Conference: A-10
Conference record: 13-3
AP Rank: 16
Points per game: 68.6
Opp. Points per game: 58.1
Against Top-25: 5-1
Last 12 games: 11-1

Difference Maker: An arsenal of weapons
The Billikens enter this year's tournament as a favorite Cinderella — a group that could make or break brackets. The hype is there because of St. Louis wide range of scoring threats (five players average at least 9 points) and recent hot streak. Its only loss in the past 12 games was an overtime heartbreaker to Xavier. Beware of the Billikens.



No. 2 Duke (27-5)
Conference: ACC
Conference record: 14-4
AP Rank: 2
Points per game: 78.2
Opp. Points per game: 65.4
Against Top-25: 6-1
Last 12 games: 9-3

Difference Maker: Ryan Kelly's return
Duke's big man with shooting range, Ryan Kelly, completely changes the makeup of this team. Since he's returned from injury on March 2, the Blue Devils have shown they can be extremely dangerous. And Coach K's team are always in contention this time of year.

No. 3 Michigan State (25-8)
Conference: Big Ten
Conference record: 13-5
AP Rank: 8
Points per game: 68.2
Opp. Points per game: 59.2
Against Top-25: 3-6
Last 12 games: 8-4

Difference Maker: Veteran frontcourt
The Spartans have one of the nation's most underrated athletic big men in Adrein Payne. He leads MSU with 7.5 rebounds per game, and he adds 10.4 points and 1.2 blocks. Tom Izzo leads another talented team. They just have that feel of a squad capable of reaching the Final Four this postseason.

No. 5 Oklahoma State (24-8)
Conference: Big 12
Conference record: 13-5
AP Rank: 14
Points per game: 72.3
Opp. Points per game: 62.8
Against Top-25: 2-4
Last 12 games: 9-3

Difference Maker: Leadership and youth
When Travis Ford's team plays at its highest ability, they're as dangerous as anyone in the field. And it starts with Marcus Smart. The Cowboys feed off his energy and success. Give Smart the spotlight in big moments. If he comes up big, OSU could do some special things this March.



No. 6 Memphis (30-4)
Conference: C-USA
Conference record: 16-0
AP Rank: 20
Points per game: 75.8
Opp. Points per game: 65.1
Against Top-25: 0-2
Last 12 games: 11-1

Difference Maker: Athleticism
Josh Pastner's got another long, athletic Memphis team that cruised through Conference USA this season. 6-foot-5 D.J. Williams can jump out of an arena, and the Tigers rank fourth in assists per game nationally (17.2). But they haven't played many top schools. We'll find out what they're made of soon.

No. 7 Creighton (27-7)
Conference: MVC
Conference record: 13-5
AP Rank: 23
Points per game: 75.3
Opp. Points per game: 63.0
Against Top-25: 0-0
Last 12 games: 8-4

Difference Maker: Accuracy
Greg McDermott has all the makeup of a mid-major superstar in the tournament. He averages more than 23 points a games, leading a lights-out shooting offensive for the Blue Jays. As a team, they shoot a nation-leading 50 percent from the field. But it won't come so easy under tournament pressure.

No. 9 Missouri (23-10)
Conference: SEC
Conference record: 11-7
AP Rank: NR
Points per game: 76.2
Opp. Points per game: 66.1
Against Top-25: 2-2
Last 12 games: 7-5

Difference Maker: Finding consistency
Entering the season, Phil Pressey was widely regarded as the nation's top point guard, but he and the Tigers have lacked championship consistency this season. They're .500 in games against top-25 opponents. In an overall down SEC, they lost seven games. Now would be the perfect time for a resurgence.



No. 8 Colorado State (25-8)
Conference: MWC
Conference record: 11-5
AP Rank: NR
Points per game: 73.1
Opp. Points per game: 62.8
Against Top-25: 1-4
Last 12 games: 8-4

Difference Maker: Senior leaders
There's not a team in the nation that wouldn't love to have Colton Iverson this season. The 6-foot-10 Minnesota transfer averages a near double-double — 14.7 points and 9.8 rebounds — and is one of five starting seniors. This is the Rams' second-straight tournament appearance. Larry Eustachy took over an already talented Tim Miles squad. Watch out for them.

No. 11 St. Mary's (25-8)
Conference: WCC
Conference record: 14-2
AP Rank: NR
Points per game: 75.4
Opp. Points per game: 63.4
Against Top-25: 1-3
Last 12 games: 10-2

Difference Maker: Star power
St. Mary's has the kind of leader that's reminiscent of former mid-major bracket busters from year's past — combo guard Matthew Delladova. At a lanky 6-foot-4, Delladova has hit key shots in big games down the stretch for the Gaels. He averages 16 points and 6.4 assists. He has the feel of a guy who could break out on the national scene in the next few days.

No. 12 Oregon (26-8)
Conference: Pac-12
Conference record: 12-6
AP Rank: NR
Points per game: 71.7
Opp. Points per game: 63.6
Against Top-25: 2-0
Last 12 games: 8-4

Difference Maker: Hot streak
The Ducks should be rightfully upset with their 12-seed. The question is will it hamper their current hot streak? After the return of point guard Dominic Artis, the Ducks resurged to take the Pac-12 Tournament title. They're wildly under-seeded and will play inspired close to home. If they win Thursday, they could gain some serious momentum.



No. 10 Cincinatti (22-11)
Conference: Big East
Conference record: 9-9
AP Rank: NR
Points per game: 66.6
Opp. Points per game: 58.7
Against Top-25: 1-5
Last 12 games: 5-7

Difference Maker: Slumping
The Bearcats sport one of the weakest tournament resume's in this region. Their last seven losses came against Big East elites. And Cincy couldn't come up big in the spotlight. They're battle-tested, but lack any real momentum entering the tournament.

No. 13 New Mexico State (24-10)
Conference: WAC
Conference record: 14-4
AP Rank: NR
Points per game: 67.9
Opp. Points per game: 62.0
Against Top-25: 0-2
Last 12 games: 10-12

Difference Maker: Freshman factor
The WAC freshman of the year is an Aggie. And he brings an unique flair to New Mexico State. He's a 7-foot-5 center Sim Bhuller. He scores 10.2 points per game and grabs 6.5 rebounds. Given time to develop, he could break out on the scene. But the Aggies might be star-struck in this bracket.

No. 14 Valparaiso (26-7)
Conference: Horizon
Conference record: 13-3
AP Rank: NR
Points per game: 71.6
Opp. Points per game: 62.6
Against Top-25: 0-2
Last 12 games: 10-2

Difference Maker: Turnover town
Valpo's got a veteran team that's been on a nice streak entering the tournament, but it hasn't been pretty. The Crusaders' sport a 22 percent turnover rate. That doesn't translate well in postseason play. If they can limit mistakes, they could make some noise.

No. 15 Albany (24-10)
Conference: Am. East
Conference record: 9-7
AP Rank: NR
Points per game: 64.4
Opp. Points per game: 60.2
Against Top-25: 0-1
Last 12 games: 8-4

Difference Maker: Two-man team
Albany's success relies heavily on the hands of two players —Mike Black and Jacob Iati. If they get hot, they'll be competitive. If they don't, it will be tough going against Duke.

No. 16 NC A&T (20-16)
Conference: MEAC
Conference record: 8-8
AP Rank: NR
Points per game: 62.1
Opp. Points per game: 61.1
Against Top-25: 0-0
Last 12 games: 8-4

Difference Maker: Already Cinderellas
NC A&T should already be proud of their accomplishments. You won't find many teams playing this time of year who finished with .500 conference records. As a seven-seed in the MEAC Tournament, they suffocated opposing offenses for the unlikely title. A 16-seed has never beaten a one-seed. Don't expect them to take down Louisville.

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