March Madness Picks: Midwest Region
Bryce breaks down the Round of 32 matchups in the Midwest region.
No. 1 Houston vs. No. 9 Auburn
Houston struggled with Northern Kentucky especially after leading scorer guard Marcus Sasser seemed to aggravate his groin injury. Head coach Kelvin Sampson also revealed post-game that guard Jamal Shead, the AAC Defensive Player of the Year, is dealing with a “bad knee.” This spells disaster for Houston as Auburn beat Iowa in a game where the score does not really tell the whole story. Auburn got out to a massive lead in which Iowa clawed back late but did not have enough to move on. Keep in mind that Auburn is playing in their home state in Birmingham so the home court advantage is there. If Sasser is unable to play and Shead is limited by his knee, Auburn will advance to the Sweet 16. On the reverse if Sasser can gut through it, Houston will advance.
No. 2 Texas vs. No. 10 Penn State
Coming into the tournament, Penn State is one of the hottest teams fighting all the way to the Big Ten Championship Game and earning a 10 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Right from the tip, the Nittany Lions controlled their first-round game against another hot team in Texas A&M. The Big Ten Tournament runner-ups will need another unconscious game from sharpshooter guard Andrew Funk who scored 27 points on 8-10 shooting from three-point land. Texas pulled away from Colgate in the second half leaving little doubts that they are one of the best teams in the tournament. Texas will win this game, but they will have to earn it because Penn State will not be an easy out.
No. 3 Xavier vs. No. 11 Pittsburgh
Xavier was able to stay in the tournament coming from behind to avoid the upset against Kennesaw State. There was a visible confrontation between a few Musketeer teammates, but they were able to rally to grab the victory. Pittsburgh popped off to an early 24-2 lead against Iowa State and coasted to an easy victory holding the Cyclones to 23% shooting. Pittsburgh will not be able to hold another team to 23% shooting. Xavier will push this Panthers team and look to take advantage inside with senior forward Jack Nunge. Xavier will advance behind Nunge.
No. 4 Indiana vs. No. 5 Miami
Miami pulled out a comeback win despite not having any timeouts for the last six minutes of the game. Led by transfer guard Nijel Pack, the Hurricanes struggled to hit shots against Drake, but caught fire and ended the game on a 16-1 run. Indiana, led by Trayce Jackson-Davis, ended all doubt about winning against Kent State with a dominant performance. This matchup will turn heads as both teams can light it up and can go through dry spells. This game will come down to the last possessions, but at the end of the day, Indiana has Trayce Jackson-Davis and Miami does not. Indiana advances to the Sweet 16.