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NCAA Tournament Breakdowns - Midwest, Part 1

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Mar 19, 2013


Quick analysis of every team in the NCAA tournament so you'll know what you're doing.

2013 NCAA Basketball Tourney

Midwest - Top Half


By Phil Harrison
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN

2013 NCAA Basketball Tournament Team Breakdowns
Play-In Games | South - Top Half | South - Bottom Half 
East - Top Half | East - Bottom Half
Midwest - Top Half | Midwest - Bottom Half
West - Top Half | West - Bottom Half

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we know, we're CollegeFOOTBALLNews.com, but like the rest of the world, we take a wee bit of a break for the first round of the NCAA college basketball tournament. Before you fill out your bracket - DON'T GUESS - check out the quick breakdown of each team with what you need to know to make an informed decision.

1. Louisville (29-5)
Here’s The Deal: True to the Rick Pitino templates of the past, the Cardinals have buttered their bread with in-your-face pressure defense that forces a slew of big mistakes on the way to the Big East tournament Championship. They’re talented enough on the offensive end, but when it puts an extreme emphasis on the defensive side of the ball, there aren’t too many teams that can keep their composure under heat. They’ll look to force opponents into turnovers leading to a full-court onslaught of run-outs and transition baskets. No. 1 during the season, they’ve earned the No. 1 overall seed coming in as one of the hottest teams in the country. Everything is jelling at just the right time.
Player You Need To Care About: Junior guard Russ Smith has been the most dangerous offensive threat throughout the season, using his quickness and ball handling to get open shots from deep and finish in transition. A Pitino team needs a guard to push the pace and make sound decisions to be a national factor, and Smith is the cloth all others could be cut out of. While he’s a scorer, he also keeps his supporting cast engaged by providing opportunities averaging three assists per game.
Really, How Deep Will The Run Be? Anything less than a trip to the Final Four will be a failure, but Missouri and possibly St. Louis could be spoilers well before the Cardinals get a shot at Duke.

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16. NC A&T/Liberty

8. Colorado State (25-8)
Here’s The Deal: The casual basketball fan hasn’t seen too much of the Rams, but don’t overlook just how tough an out they’ll be, owning the distinction of being the best rebounding team in the country. They won’t bomb away from the outside, but they’ll put plenty of bodies on the glass and pick up a ton of loose change on second and third chances. It’s a no-frills defensive club that’s good at forcing mistakes, and it also won’t beat itself either by throwing the ball away. The chance is there to spring an upset or two as one of the grittier teams in the tournament.
Player You Need To Care About: On a team known for rebounding, senior big man Colton Iverson does most of the heavy lifting averaging just shy on the rebound side of a double-double. The 6-10 force usually gets fed early and often on the blocks, and when he misses, he’ll body up and go after his own misfire to try and scoop up cheap points. He’s the prototypical bruiser who’ll spend the tournament setting up camp in the paint.
Really, How Deep Will The Run Be? It’ll be a dogfight to get by Missouri, and while the Rams will come up with their share of rebounds and second chance points, they won’t have the horses to advance.

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9. Missouri (23-10)
Here’s The Deal: The Tigers have been treading behind the SEC wake of Florida all year, but there’s a lot to like with a good team that might be flying under the radar. They finished 11-7 in the league getting up and down the court on offense helped by being one of the top rebounding teams in the country all year. They’re great at using their transition game to try beating opponents into submission with run-outs and easy baskets. Even with all of the positives, Missouri lacked a year-defining win all the way through mid-February, and then came the big moment with a hard-fought win over Florida at home on February 19th, showing a motivated defensive mindset that had been lacking in some games. And that’s where the ceiling will come for the Tigers. They can run with anyone, but will the defense be there each time out to do bigger things in the tournament?
Player You Need To Care About: 6-8 forward Laurence Bowers is the Superman on the roster, doing most of his damage inside 15 feet, able to both elevate while also being enough to create in space. Shooting over 55% from the field, he also has the game to step back and bury shots from three when defenders want to cheat off a bit. Now he has to learn to be a little more selfish – the coaching staff wouldn’t mind if he looked for his shot a little more.
Really, How Deep Will The Run Be? The Tigers are more than talented enough to get by a gritty Colorado State and give Louisville a run in the second round. However, they need to be able to get on the move to get by the Rams.

5. Oklahoma State (24-8)
Here’s The Deal: The Cowboys finished in third place in the Big 12 just behind the Kansas and Kansas State, but have the firepower to do even better in the tournament with a great combination of stingy defense and an up-tempo, opportunistic offense. They won’t hit teams with a shock and awe campaign from deep, and they tend to get most of their points going towards the bucket, but they’ll play hard and fast on both sides of the ball. Now they need to prove they can beat an elite team away from home.
Player You Need To Care About: OSU has a great guard tandem in Markel Brown and Marcus Smart, but it’s the latter of the two that’s a bit more dynamic. Smart, a 6-4 freshman from Texas, has had a great freshman campaign ranking just behind Brown in points while adding a great all-around floor game. In a rare combination for a freshman, he leads his team with over four assists and three steals per game. He’s a solid on-ball defender and has the quickness on both ends of the court to stick out on film.
Really, How Deep Will The Run Be? There’s nothing dynamic about the Cowboys to do anything but slug their way through a few rounds. However, watch out for Oregon; the Ducks might be peaking just in time.

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12. Oregon (26-8)
Here’s The Deal: The Ducks have driven their fan base absolutely mad this year, finishing third in the Pac-12 regular season with the expectation so much higher. Then, they went out and stormed the Pac-12 tournament and won the whole thing, showing just how strong they could be when everything is clicking. They won 16 of their first 20, including an upset of then No. 4 Arizona to get into the top ten, but then things began to get dicey. Starting point-guard Dominic Artis went out with a foot injury in late January and the offense struggled without his composure and ball-handling as a part of the blend. They got Artis back in late February, but the O is still trying to find its early season confidence and swagger back as he works to round into form. The team can score and isn’t horrible on defense, but the turnovers have to start to vanish.
Player You Need To Care About: Artis. He’s not even averaging in double figures, but nobody else on the team has his ability to dictate the tempo. It’s a score-by-committee group, but he’s the one who makes it all go. No player on the roster has meant more during the season, and no player will have as much of an impact on how deep Oregon can go in the tournament, needing his steady head - even as a freshman - to get things going, hang on to the ball and keep the offense moving.
Really, How Deep Will The Run Be? This could be the 5-12 upset team everyone is looking for. It’s a confident team that’s way, way underseeded, and it could show with a couple of nice early wins.

4. Saint Louis (27-6)
Here’s The Deal: Virginia Commonwealth? Butler? Not anymore. If you haven’t taken note of the Billikens, you haven’t been paying attention to the stretch run of the regular season. They finished atop the Atlantic-10 after winning 12 of their last 13 regular season games, and then topped it off by also claiming the conference tournament championship. They put guarding first by holding opponents to just over 58 points a game, and while there’s nothing fancy about how they win, they play solid defense, don’t turn the ball over, and knock down 45% of their shots. So where’s the Waterloo moment? They’ll have to find a way to win against teams with length and athleticism, evidenced by the poor effort against Kansas early in the year.
Player You Need To Care About: As expected with a team that is better than the sum of all its parts, there’s not a superhero on the roster. 6-5 junior forward Dwayne Evans is the best of the role players, averaging just over 13 points a game while also making noise as the team’s best rebounder. He’s a rare treat who seems to only take quality shots leading the team hitting 53% from the floor. While he won’t be a threat from deep, he won’t be afraid to take the big shot if needed.
Really, How Deep Will The Run Be? It’ll be an emotional run out of the first few rounds, and then will come the Louisville buzzsaw in Indianapolis.

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13. New Mexico State (24-10)
Here’s The Deal: The Aggies took advantage of a mulligan and ran all the way through the conference tournament to secure a bid that wasn’t coming without a trophy. While they might be a 13 seed, they’ll be as watched as anyone in the tournament because of Sim Bhullar, a big boy presence on the blocks who erases shots and dominates on the board. They rarely foul and will try to play solid no-frills defense in the half-court, matching up well against teams that don’t have much up front, but far too many turnovers and not enough ball-pressure could be their demise.
Player You Need To Care About: He’s not 7-5 and 355 pounds like Bhullar, but sophomore guard Daniel Mullins has a big game. Of course the scoring average of 14 points a contest stands out, but he does a little of everything with the ability to go to the boards while also averaging over two steals a game. He’ll need help though for the Aggies to make it out of the first weekend, and it could come from Bhullar, who has all the NBA scouts watching.
Really, How Deep Will The Run Be? Normally, this is the type of scary X factor team that busts up brackets, but it won’t get by a rock solid St. Louis team.

2013 NCAA Basketball Tournament Team Breakdowns
Play-In Games | South - Top Half | South - Bottom Half 
East - Top Half | East - Bottom Half
Midwest - Top Half | Midwest - Bottom Half
West - Top Half | West - Bottom Half