If you had asked me a week ago, I would've happily told you that the No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks were a lock to take the Midwest Bracket. But a brutal showing against TCU in the Big 12 Tournament has thrown a dark shadow over this team. It's pretty much the story of Bill Self's career. He's faced many doubts heading in to March Madness before.
All of that has to do with the fact that Self and Kansas have only won a single national championship in their time together. That doesn't say so much about the Jayhawks or their coach. It says plenty about how difficult the tournament itself can be. There's a reason writers call it a gauntlet so often.
Doubting Kansas's ability to win this region is absolutely ridiculous. There are so many upstarts in this particular bracket that could absolutely bring out the best in Frank Mason and his teammates. There's a hilariously decent chance that Kansas could meet the Big 12 Championship winning Iowa State Cyclones, who are ranked fifth in the Midwest, by the Sweet Sixteen. For the record, the Cyclones have earned +800 odds to win this region.
The next best bet according to the oddsmakers is No. 2 Louisville, and I am more than happy to tell you that this particular squad is not the bracket-busting, defensive stalwart that we're used to seeing under Rick Pitino. The Cardinals were crushed by the high-flying guard combo Duke has during the ACC Tournament, and too many teams over the last month have come close to dropping ninety points on them. I don't like the Cards at all this year.
The No. 3 Oregon Ducks are another stay away play, simply because they don't have big man Chris Boucher any longer. Thankfully, the Ducks have a favorable set of potential opponents in the first weekend so I'm not all the way out on them, but I have a hard time thinking they could get past the Sweet 16.
The Michigan Wolverines are worth a look at +800 after a rousing showing in the Big Ten Tournament, which they won. I don't know if the debacle they had with the plane was the fuel that they needed to push them over the top, but if they show up to the tournament playing lights out like that then they're going to be super fun to watch. I don't think you can rightfully doubt their mental resolve.
It should also be mentioned that any hopes for No. 6 Creighton (+3000 to win Midwest Region) probably ended when Maurice Watson had to turn himself in to law enforcement.
There's a lot of filler in this quarter of the bracket. If you scan this region as intently as I've tried to, it's hard to come away with any other conclusion than Kansas emerging with a Final Four bid.
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