John Feinstein's Midwest Region Analysis
Jayhawks may be No. 1, but they can't take it easy
A lot of people seem to think that Kansas has a cakewalk to Indianapolis through this region. Not so.
There are at least four teams that are capable of beating the Jayhawks: Ohio State, Georgetown, Maryland and, believe it or not, No. 10 seed Georgia Tech. If you were thinking Tennessee was the fourth team that can beat Kansas because it did beat Kansas earlier in the season, forget it: The Vols will be fortunate to get past San Diego State in the first round.
Okay, to begin at the beginning. Kansas will beat Lehigh in the first round but not before C.J. McCollum, the Mountain Hawks' freshman guard, turns a lot of heads. The kid can play. Northern Iowa-UNLV is a first-round game well worth seeing. The winner may hang with Kansas for a while but it isn't going to win.
Maryland should beat Houston in the tournament's AARP special: 64-year-old Tom Penders against 65-year-old Gary Williams. The key to this game though will be which Greivis Vasquez shows up: the ACC player of the year or the guy who shot 6 of 21 against Georgia Tech in the ACC tournament, including one of the worst shots of his career (the ridiculous step-back three-point attempt in the final minute with Maryland down two).
The Terrapins' second-round opponent should be Michigan State, which also plays a surprise conference tournament winner (New Mexico State) in the first round. The Spartans, as usual, are a mystery entering the tournament. They weren't very good down the stretch, but that's often the case. Then Tom Izzo figures out a way to get them going, and they beat teams they shouldn't in the NCAA tournament. Ask Louisville or Connecticut last year.
Still, that's a highly winnable game for Maryland. A matchup with Kansas in the round of 16 would be just a tad tougher, but there would be zero pressure on Maryland. For one thing, it would be the first time Maryland has advanced that far since 2003. For another, no one likes being the underdog more than Gary Williams.
The bottom half of the draw starts with Ohio State, which edged out Georgetown for the final No. 2 seed. You can bet the Buckeyes would rather face Oklahoma State than Georgia Tech in the second round because Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal are dangerous if their guards can get the ball across half court.
Georgetown should play Ohio State in the round of 16. The Hoyas won't have any serious problems with Ohio and should beat the San Diego State-Tennessee winner (it says SDSU here) to meet the Buckeyes in St. Louis.
If Maryland can catch lightning for one night and the Hoyas can get by Ohio State, they'd meet in the region final. If it somehow happens, watch that game closely: You won't see it in these parts any time in the near future.