The Madness is in full effect, and the Midwest Region has been a major part of it. Three double-digit seeds are in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, while we still have all of the top-four seeds. Opportunities for a Cinderella await, while the top programs will look to continue to rise, let’s dive into these games.
1.Illinois vs. 8.Loyola-Chicago
12:10 PM ET on CBS
The Big Ten has been less than great early on but Illinois is still the best team from the league and they are a legitimate title contender. Ayo Dosumnu continues to do it all, as he’s been fantastic scoring and passing the ball all season long. Kofi Cockburn will of course dominate the interior, while André Curbello and Trent Frazier provide a good guard presence. As for Loyola-Chicago, they will look to slow the tempo and play inside-out. Cameron Krutwig has been a long-term great low-post presence for the Ramblers. The Ramblers surround him with shooters Lucas Williamson, Braden Norris, and Keith Clemons. For the Ramblers to pull off the upset, I think they will need to try to attack Kofi Cockburn and get him in foul trouble, as Cockburn can dominate the interior. I think this game will come down to the wire with Illinois ultimately closing this game out.
Prediction: Illinois 73 Loyola-Chicago 67
3.West Virginia vs. 11.Syracuse
5:15 PM ET on CBS
Bob Huggins has reached the 900 win mark thanks to a dominant win against Morehead State but his Mountaineers are in for a tougher matchup this time around. Miles McBride leads this team, his shooting and scoring ability are next level, while Derek Culver mans the inside. Taz Sherman, Sean McNeil, Jalen Bridges, and Emmitt Matthews add shooting to a loaded shooting team. For Syracuse, they are once again proving to be a tough out as a double-digit seed, where have we seen this before? Jim Boeheim’s son, Buddy lit up San Diego State in the previous game, while Alan Griffin, Quincy Guerrier lead a solid core around him. The key to this game will be West Virginia’s offensive execution, as it’s really not hard to beat the zone. If the Mountaineers can get into the middle of the zone and move the zone around, they should win handily. I am going to say that West Virginia does execute and advances to the second round.
Prediction: West Virginia 78 Syracuse 72
2.Houston vs. 10.Rutgers
7:10 PM ET on TBS
The Cougars are back in the NCAA Tournament and are looking to go to a second straight Sweet 16. Quentin Grimes is playing the way he was thought to have, when he entered College a Top-10 prospect, while Marcus Sasser, Tramon Mark, and Dejon Jarreau make up a solid shooting core. The Cougars dominate their opponents on the glass where they crash the glass better than anyone. For Rutgers, the team has had a rollercoaster season but they are peaking just in time for the NCAA Tournament. Jacob Young is an energizer bunny, Ron Harper Jr and Geo Baker make up the shooting and the team is solid upfront with Myles Johnson. I don’t think Houston will necessarily be able to dominate Rutgers on the boards the way they usually do, meaning this game will come down to guard play. In the end, I think the Cougars just have an advantage at the guard spot but don’t be surprised if this game is close, and Rutgers certainly has a chance if they can hit 15 threes.
Prediction: Houston 70 Rutgers 63
4.Oklahoma State vs. 12.Oregon State
9:40 PM ET on TBS
Who is the real OSU? We will find out based on the result of this game. Cade Cunningham leads a great Oklahoma State team, his ability to do everything, play within himself and take over late is the stuff you see out of NBA greats. This team isn’t just him, Avery Anderson and Isaac Likekele are great guards capable of taking over games, while Kalib Boone and Rondel Walker lead a great core of role players. For Oregon State, they win games defensively and toughness-wise. Ethan Thompson is a do-everything guard, Jarod Lucas is a good shooter and the rest of the core has been really good. This is a game that is most likely going to be decided in the final few minutes. At the end of the day, I think Cade Cunningham and Oklahoma State are just built for these types of games, give me the Cowboys to win a tight one and advance to the Sweet 16.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 74 Oregon State 70