NCAA Midwest Region Overview
Next year, Louisville and Duke will become Atlantic Coast Conference rivals.
For now, however, the Cardinals and Blue Devils will battle for supremacy in the NCAA Tournament's Midwest Regional.
Louisville was given the region's No. 1 seed on Selection Sunday. Duke, perhaps surprisingly, was seeded second in a bracket that also includes Big Ten power Michigan State, Pac-12 tournament champion Oregon and coach Rick Majerus' final team at Saint Louis.
The Midwest also has a local flavor, with Colorado State of Mountain West Conference gaining the No. 8 seed and Saint Mary's of the WCC getting a berth in a Tuesday night play-in game against Middle Tennessee.
If any team other than Louisville or Duke advances to the Final Four, however, it will be an upset.
The Cardinals come off a 78-61 victory over Syracuse in the Big East Tournament championship game, while Duke hopes to rebound after losing to Maryland in the ACC semifinals. The defeat likely cost the Blue Devils a No. 1 seed, perhaps the one given to Gonzaga.
Against Syracuse, Louisville trailed by 16 with 15:50 remaining. But the Cardinals' defense, which will key its chances in the NCAA Tournament, turned the game around.
Louisville outscored Syracuse 27-3 over a devastating eight-minute span to win the Big East and earn the No. 1 overall seed in the Big Dance.
"Our press is pretty much like controlled chaos," said Louisville's Peyton Siva, the tournament MVP. "We're going to press. We're just going to run and trap, run and trap. ... For a minute there, we were running around the court with our head cut off and got a couple of steals."
Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim agreed, calling the Cardinals "the best pressing team that I've seen this year."
If the regional seeding stands, No. 1 Louisville and No. 2 Duke will eventually meet in the Midwest finals.
The Blue Devils are led by one of the top power forwards in the country: Senior Mason Plumlee averages 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds.
No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 16 North Carolina A&T/Liberty
Records • Louisville 29-5; North Carolina A&T 19-16; Liberty 15-20.
Conferences • Louisville, Big East; North Carolina A&T, Mid-Eastern Athletic; Liberty, Big South.
Outlook • The Cardinals' last loss was a five-overtime classic against Notre Dame. The North Carolina A&T-Liberty winner will be overmatched against a team that can struggle on offense but feeds off a suffocating defense. Louisville is led by Russ Smith, who averages 18.1 points per game.
No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Albany
Records • Duke 27-5; Albany 24-10.
Conferences • Duke, Atlantic Coast; Albany, America East
Outlook • Duke boosters are unhappy over the No. 2 seed, considering the Blue Devils beat Louisville in November (76-71). Duke also defeated Ohio State and did not lose to a non-ACC opponent. Albany qualified by upsetting Vermont in the conference tournament finals.
No. 3 Michigan State vs. No. 14 Valparaiso
Records • Michigan State 25-8; Valparaiso 26-7.
Conferences • Michigan State, Big Ten; Valparaiso, Horizon League
Outlook • Michigan State makes its 16th straight tournament appearance the third-longest in the country. But the Spartans went 3-4 down the stretch. Valparaiso could be dangerous after defeating Wright State 62-54 in the Horizon League final.
No. 4 Saint Louis vs. No. 13 New Mexico State
Records • Saint Louis, 26-8; New Mexico State, 24-10
Conferences • Saint Louis, Atlantic 10; New Mexico State, Western Athletic
Outlook • The Billikens will be heavily favored, but New Mexico State won the WAC tournament as the No. 3 seed. The Aggies were led by 7-foot-5, 330-pound center Sim Bhullar with 16 points, 15 rebounds and 5 blocks in a victory over Texas-Arlington.
No. 5 Oklahoma State vs. No. 12 Oregon
Records • Oklahoma State 24-8; Oregon 26-8.
Conferences • Oklahoma State, Big 12; Oregon, Pac-12
Outlook • The Ducks will have a chip on their shoulder. Despite winning the Pac-12 tournament, they were seeded 12th. Oregon beat UNLV and Vanderbilt, but an otherwise soft nonconference schedule obviously caught the attention of the selection committee, as did back-to-back losses at Colorado and Utah to end the regular season.
No. 6 Memphis vs. No. 11 Middle Tennessee/Saint Mary's
Records • Memphis 30-4; Middle Tennessee 28-5; Saint Mary's 27-6.
Conferences • Memphis, Conference USA; Middle Tennessee, Sun Belt; Saint Mary's, West Coast
Outlook • Memphis is Conference USA's only representative in the tournament. The Tigers were rewarded with a No. 6 seed, but the winner of the Saint Mary's-Middle Tennessee play-in game won't be a pushover. The Gaels, who lost to Gonzaga three times and defeated BYU twice, are led by guard Matthew Dellavedova.
No. 7 Creighton vs. No. 10 Cincinnati
Records • Creighton 27-7; Cincinnati 22-11
Conferences • Creighton, Missouri Valley; Cincinnati, Big East
Outlook • This is one of those mid-major-versus-power conference matchups that makes the first round of the tournament so interesting. The Bluejays are one of the nation's best offensive teams. They rank 24th in scoring (75.4 ppg) and are first in field-goal percentage (.508). The Bearcats have lost eight of their last 12 games.
No. 8 Colorado State vs. No. 9 Missouri
Records • Colorado State 25-8; Missouri 23-10
Conferences • Colorado State, Mountain West; Missouri, SEC
Outlook • One of five MWC teams to reach the tournament, Colorado State starts five seniors. The Rams could be difficult for up-and-down Missouri, coached by Larry Eustachy, a former assistant at the University of Utah and ex-head coach at Utah State.
He's only a freshman, but Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart was named the Big 12's Player of the Year. He averages 15.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 4.1 assists and could be the No. 1 player taken in the NBA Draft.
The No. 1 overall seed in the tournament, Louisville is 13-1 since a three-game losing streak in mid-January. The Cardinals won three games in the Big East Tournament by an average of 16 points.
St. Louis is playing for coach Rick Majerus, who died on Dec. 1. The Billikens own a victory over New Mexico and have beaten Butler three times this season. They have won 15 of their last 16 games.
Player you don't know
Creighton's Doug McDermott averages 23.1 points and 7.2 rebounds. The 6-foot-8 forward plays best in the biggest games, like a 34-point, nine-rebound performance against rival Wichita State.
Best time for a fast break
The Blue Devils probably lost a No. 1 seed when they stumbled in the semifinals of the ACC Tournament. The loss was bad news for Albany, which will have a tough time with this matchup.
Midwest Regional schedule
P First round
Tuesday, at Dayton, Ohio
• Liberty vs. No. 16 North Carolina A&T, 4:40 p.m., truTV
• No. 11 Mid. Tennessee St. vs. Saint Mary's, 7:10 p.m., truTV
Thursday, at Lexington, Ky.
• No. 1 Louisville vs. Liberty-North Carolina A&T winner, 4:50 p.m., TBS
• No. 8 Colo. St. vs. No. 9 Missouri, 30 min. following, TBS
Thursday, at Auburn Hills, Mich.
• No. 3 Michigan St. vs. No. 14 Valparaiso, 10:15 a.m., Ch. 2
• No. 6 Memphis vs. Middle Tennessee State-Saint Mary's winner, 30 minutes following, Ch. 2
Thursday, at San Jose, Calif.
• No. 4 St. Louis vs. No. 13 New Mexico St., 12:10 p.m., TNT
• No. 5 Oklahoma State. vs. No. 12 Oregon, 30 minutes following, TNT
Friday, at Philadelphia
• No. 2 Duke vs. No. 15 Albany, 10:15 a.m., Ch. 2
• No. 7 Creighton vs. No. 10 Cincinnati, 30 minutes following, Ch. 2