The Duke Blue Devils find themselves as the 3 seed in the Midwest Region. There is no shortage of good teams in the Midwest. If Duke is to reach the Final Four in Dallas they will have to win 4 games in a row against some tough competition.
Second Round: Mercer
The 14 Seed Mercer Bears are the Atlantic Sun regular season and tournament champions. They come into the game with a 26-8 record. The Bears have a lot of experience, starting 5 seniors. Their best player is guard Langston Hall. Thornton, Cook, and Sulaimon will have to guard well on the perimeter to keep Hall in check. Duke should have the size advantage for one of the few times this year. I’d expect Duke to continue to go inside with Jabari Parker and look to create a lot of second chance opportunities with offensive rebounds.
Third Round: UMass or Tennessee
Tennessee won their opening round game against Iowa on Wednesday and will face the 6 seed Massachusetts. The Volunteers were one of the last teams selected to participate in the tournament, but are actually ranked 10th in the Ken Pomeroy Rankings. UMass started the year 16-1, including wins over New Mexico, Clemson, and Providence, but finished the year 24-8, losing 6 games in the Atlantic 10. Tennessee’s size and athleticism appears to be the tougher matchup for the Duke defense. It would be very important for Parker and Amile Jefferson to avoid foul trouble. Tennessee can shoot well at times but are strong and physical enough to play inside.
Sweet Sixteen: Michigan, Wofford, Texas,or Arizona State
The Blue Devils would most likely face the Michigan Wolverines in the Sweet Sixteen. Michigan won the Big Ten regular season and lost in the Big Ten tournament finals to Michigan State. The Wolverines were in contention for the last number 1 seed before falling in the conference finals. Texas was a bit of a surprise in the Big 12 this year. They sport a 23-10 record and wins over Kansas, Iowa State, North Carolina, and Baylor. Arizona State received an at large bid out of the Pac 12. They are coached by former NC State head coach. Herb Sendek.
Elite Eight: Wichita State, Louisville, Kentucky, Kansas State, NC State, St. Louis, Manhattan, or Cal Poly
The number 1 seed in the Midwest is Wichita State. The Shocker are undefeated on the season, but have received plenty of criticism for the lack of competition they faced in the Missouri Valley Conference this year. The favorite to emerge from the top of the region is reigning National Champion, Louisville. Many feel the Cardinals are the most underseeded team in the tournament. Louisville stormed through the American Athletic Conference tournament after tying with Cincinnati for the regular season crown. The Rick Pitino-Mike Krzyzewski coaching matchup will always be intriguing. If their is a dark horse candidate for a breakout team in the Midwest Region, it would be Kentucky. The Wildcats feature one of the most talented lineups in the country and started the season with high expectations. Kentucky has experienced a few speed bumps along the way, but still finished second to Florida in the SEC and took the Gators to the wire in their last game in the SEC tournament finals.
The Midwest Region may be the most difficult in the entire bracket. Duke will have to play their best basketball of the season to move on to Texas for the Final Four. It will take a lot more than the combination of Jabari Parker and Rodney Hood for the Blue Devils to emerge as the winners of the region.