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March Madness Midwest Region: Purdue Eyes Different History

The Midwest Regional is full of programs that are trying to live up to the expectations, with Purdue and Tennessee the top two seeds despite falling short in their conference tournaments. Despite a disappointing regular season, Kansas is getting plenty of love in the March Madness odds.

The cries that Virginia didn’t belong in the NCAA Tournament are only getting louder after the Cavaliers trailed by as many as 27 points in a 67-42 loss to Colorado State in a First Four game, with the winners advancing to meet up with the Texas Longhorns. The first round begins with Oregon meeting up with South Carolina in Pittsburgh on Thursday and Friday’s TCU-Utah matchup completing the regional field.

March Madness Midwest Region: Purdue Eyes Different History
Lance Jones #55 of the Purdue Boilermakers | David Berding/Getty Images/AFP

When looking at our odds of winning March Madness, Purdue is third at +700 and Tennessee is sixth at +1600 to lead the Midwest Region teams in the odds of winning the national title

Here’s a quick breakdown of the Midwest Region as March Madness is about to heat up.


Purdue Ready for Different Ending

The first time a No. 1 seed in the March Madness bracket fell to the No. 16 seed, it was the Virginia Cavaliers on the wrong side of a stunning upset. The following season, Virginia won the national title.

Will history be repeating? Purdue pulled off the first part of that rare double with a loss to Fairleigh Dickinson in last year’s tournament. Now the Boilermakers look to make a deep run in the tournament.

The winner of the Montana State and Grambling First Four game gets to face Purdue and National Player of the Year front-runner Zach Edey. This might not be the best year to be the No. 16 seed in Purdue’s bracket.

Either Kansas or Gonzaga could be waiting for Purdue in the Sweet 16. That could be quite the test for the Boilermakers.


Knecht, Tennessee Ready to Rumble

The tournament is full of star players for national title contenders who began their careers playing at mid-major programs. It might be hard to find many who had a bigger impact this season than former Northern Colorado star Dalton Knecht.

Knecht led Tennessee to the SEC regular-season title with some monster games. He dropped 40 points on Kentucky, 39 on both Auburn and Florida, 37 on North Carolina, 36 on Georgia and 31 on South Carolina.

The question is, does Knecht have enough help for Tennessee to make a run at the Final Four?

Jonas Aidoo has gone from averaging 5.1 points and 4.9 rebounds as a sophomore to putting up 11.9 points and 7.7 rebounds this season while Zakai Zeigler is another double-digit scorer who once again is among the national leaders in assist/turnover ratio.

Tennessee’s early exit in the SEC tournament probably cost the Volunteers a No. 1 seed in the March Madness bracket.

The Volunteers could be tested by No. 7 Texas and a regional semifinal between Tennessee and Creighton could be a fun matchup.


Injuries to Monitor

The big news is that Kevin McCullar, the top scorer for Kansas, has been ruled out of the NCAA Tournament. McCullar and Hunter Dickinson were held out of the Big 12 tournament loss to Cincinnati, but Dickinson is expected to play for the team that came into the season as the national title favorite. 

Oregon will continue to play without Keeshawn Barthelemy, Nate Bittle and Jesse Zarzuela. While all averaged more than 10 minutes per game, they have combined to play in just 28 games this season. That didn’t stop Oregon from winning the final Pac-12 tournament.

Myles Stute is expected to play for South Carolina.


Who is on Upset Alert?

This list starts with Kansas. Without McCullar and Dickinson, the Jayhawks lost to Cincinnati by 20 points. It remains to be seen how McCullar’s absence will impact Kansas on the court and alter the college basketball odds for the Jayhawks.

It will not be a surprise if this is the region with the fewest amount of early upsets.


Five Players to Watch

1. Max Abmas, Texas: Another mid-major transfer who had no problem adapting to tougher competition, Abmas was a four-year starter at Oral Roberts who averaged 23 points in his four NCAA Tournament games.

2. Hunter Dickinson, Kansas: Dickinson was viewed as the top transfer in the country heading into the 2023-24 season. The numbers (18 points, 12.2 rebounds, 55% shooting) look pretty good but even with another high-scoring star in Kevin McCullar, Kansas has underachieved. With McCullar out, this is a chance for Dickinson to lead the Jayhawks on a deep NCAA Tournament run.

3. Zach Edey, Purdue: The 7-foot-4 Edey is a matchup nightmare for most teams. He is averaging 27.4 points and 10.6 rebounds over his last 10 games and he looks to cap his collegiate career with a national title.

4. Ryan Kalkbrenner, Creighton: There is no truth to the rumor that the NCAA Selection Committee chose to put all the elite 7-footers in the Midwest Region but it does feel like that. Kalkbrenner is one of the three Creighton players averaging more than 17 points.

5. Dalton Knecht, Tennessee: Knecht averaged more points and a better 3-point shooting percentage playing at Tennessee than he did at Northern Colorado, which is rather impressive. He did play in the CBI as a freshman at Northern Colorado but this will be his first NCAA Tournament experience.


A Look at the Schedule

The Virginia-Colorado State game got things rolling in the Midwest Region. No. 3 seed Creighton is a double-digit favorite versus Akron as is Tennessee against Saint Peter’s. The Oregon-South Carolina matchup could be the most competitive among the Thursday games with the Las Vegas odds listing the Gamecocks as 1½-point favorites.

Purdue doesn’t play until Friday with the winner of the TCU-Utah State game drawing the Boilermakers unless there is another No. 1 vs. No. 16 upset. 



Questions Of The Day

Which team had the best odds to win the Midwest Region title?

Top-seeded Purdue is the favorite to emerge out of the Midwest Region with +175 odds followed by Tennessee at +325 and Creighton at +450.

Are any lower-seeded teams favored in the first round in the Midwest Regional?

No. 9 TCU is favored by 4½ points against Utah State in the first round.

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