The Cats might not be in the NCAA Tournament, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t have a rooting interest. Over the next two days, KSR will preview each region of the bracket, helping you figure out who to cheer for, and what the least offensive result would be. We’ll get through this together. First up, the Midwest Region.
Despite being given the #1 overall seed, Louisville was also given the toughest region in the bracket. The Midwest Region has been dubbed “The Region of Death” by many analysts, with several teams capable of knocking off the Cards, including #2 Duke, #3 Michigan State and #4 St. Louis. Let’s break it down.
Cinderella in waiting: #12 Oregon
It feels weird to call a team that won their conference tournament a Cinderella, but giving Oregon a #12 seed is one of the Selection Committee’s biggest snubs. Led by a healthy Dominic Artis, Oregon is a tough draw for anyone, and especially tough now that they’re pissed off with something to prove. Helping their case even more is the fact that in 24 of the past 27 tournaments, a 12 seed has knocked off a 5 seed in the first round. Sorry, Travis Ford.
Team to adopt: #4 St. Louis
First of all, their mascot, the Billiken, looks like a Dr. Seuss character. According to the all-knowing Wikipedia, a Billiken is a charm doll created by Florence Pretz, a St. Louis art teacher and illustrator, who is said to have seen the mysterious figure in a dream. The figure represents “things as they ought to be.” If you ask me, that thing looks downright sassy, and combined with wins over Butler, VCU and a tenacious defense, they’ve got my vote. Plus, they’re playing for former coach Rick Majerus, who passed away in December. I will not only cheer, I will do it in an XXXL sweater.
1. Marcus Smart, Oklahoma State
Smart was named USBWA’s Freshman of the Year and with good reason. He averages 15.4 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.9 steals per game, and is the reason Oklahoma State is in the dance. The Cowboys live and die by Smart, and if Oregon can contain him, they’ll pull off the upset.
2. Doug McDermott, Creighton
McDermott is the nation’s second-leading scorer, averaging 23.1 points and 7.5 rebounds while shooting 56.1 percent from the field, 49.7 percent from 3-point range and 86.0 percent from the free-throw line. That just sounds pretty to watch. His father is the Creighton head coach and together, they’ve won 79 games in three seasons. Bet the house that there will be a CBS sob segment on the two at some point.
3. Dwayne Evans, St. Louis
The Billikens’ forward is averaging 13.7 points and 7.7 rebounds per game, which may not sound super flashy, but Butler’s Roosevelt Jones called him “the most physical player that I’ve ever played in my life.” Evans is only 6’5″ and 230 lbs., but he plays with the toughness of someone twice his size, and after this Kentucky season, I’m all for seeing some of that.
1. Ryan Kelly, Duke
Duke has been downright dangerous since Kelly, a former Billy Gillispie recruit, returned. But once a Poop Tooth, always a Poop Tooth.
2. The entire Louisville team
I tried to narrow it down to just one Louisville player, but it was too hard. The only good thing about Louisville playing in Rupp Arena? The fact that they won’t be allowed to use UK’s new locker room. However, I wouldn’t put it past one of them to sneak in.
3. Coach K
Best possible outcome for UK fans: Both Duke and Louisville lose their first games and we get to recreate this picture:
Worst possible outcome for UK fans: Louisville beats Duke to advance to the Final Four and Pitino hexes the shot clocks at Rupp to only work for 15 seconds.
Heart prediction: St. Louis upsets Louisville and Duke to advance to the Final Four
Head prediction: Louisville advances to the Final Four…and Kentucky kills them in December.