BY CHRIS HAAS
The Midwest is top-heavy. The Cards (4th seed) and Cats (8th seed) both join 1-seed Wichita State, 2-seed Michigan, and 3-seed Duke in the toughest region in the bracket. Selection Committee Chair, John Wellman, acknowledged this himself when ESPN’s Andy Katz asked him “Is this the toughest region?” He smirked and replied, “Probably.”
Louisville’s Outlook in the Midwest Region:
Fortunately for Louisville, the Cards will not have to play all of these powerhouse teams to emerge victorious. The matchups in the first two rounds are even favorable. Louisville will overmatch Manhattan in the first round before playing one of NC State (12 seed), Xavier (12 seed), or St Louis (5 seed). St. Louis is the weakest 5 seed in the field. NC State and Xavier both snuck into the dance as one of the last few at large selections. The Cards experience and swarming defense will prove too much for their early round opposition. However, with Wichita State or Kentucky looming as a likely Sweet Sixteen matchup, the competition will get healthier quickly for the Cards.
Kentucky’s Outlook in the Midwest Region:
The Cats were outstanding in the SEC tournament. They played hard, passed well, and nearly took down Florida in the SEC Championship because of it. Florida was selected as the overall number 1 seed on Selection Sunday. Kentucky has the size, athleticism, and now chemistry to make a deep run. If Kentucky takes care of business against Kansas State in the first round, the Cats present an absolute nightmare of a matchup for Wichita State in a potential 1 vs. 8 game in the round of 32. Kentucky has more pro prospects on their bench than Wichita State has in their conference. Wichita State’s motto is to “play angry.” That shouldn’t be a problem for the Shockers after the Selection Committee handed them one of the hardest roads to the Final Four in recent memory.
If the Cats and Cards both advance to the Sweet Sixteen? Indianapolis will host the rivals in a heavy-weight matchup that I’m sure will draw more than a little interest around the state. Both teams have a long way to go before another dream game is realized. Coach Pitino and Coach Calipari will both say something along the lines of “We are only worried about “Manhattan” or “Kansas State.” And there will be some truth to that.