Sweet 16 Preview: Midwest Region

Sweet 16 Preview: Midwest Region

This article is part of our Sweet 16 Preview series.

East Region
West Region
Midwest Region
South Region

Two of the four remaining double-digit seeds left in the NCAA Tournament are in the Midwest Region, and they are far from the only upsets we've seen thus far! Oregon State needed to win the Pac-12 tournament to get in the dance and the Beavers have now won five games in a row as an underdog to reach the Sweet 16. Meanwhile, Syracuse was a bubble team for most of the season and has rode the hot hand of Buddy Boeheim, who has scored 25+ points in six of his last nine games.

Speaking of upset stories, the under-seeded Ramblers of Loyola Chicago have won eight in a row after knocking off top-seeded Illinois while holding Ayo Dosunmu to a season-low nine points. Stout defense has been their calling card, as the Ramblers have allowed just one opponent to score over 60 points in their last 20 games. Houston is the only team in the region that's been able to live up to their seed, and it needed a 14-2 run over the final five minutes to sneak by Rutgers.

Tip-off: Saturday, March 27

No. 8 Loyola-Chicago vs.  No. 12 Oregon State

Key Matchup: Cameron Krutwig vs. Roman Silva. I mentioned Krutwig as being my player to watch in the initial Midwest Region preview, and the big man hasn't disappointed, providing 14.5 points on an efficient 13-of-24 shooting with 8.5 rebounds over the opening weekend. Kofi Cockburn wasn't able to

East Region
West Region
Midwest Region
South Region

Two of the four remaining double-digit seeds left in the NCAA Tournament are in the Midwest Region, and they are far from the only upsets we've seen thus far! Oregon State needed to win the Pac-12 tournament to get in the dance and the Beavers have now won five games in a row as an underdog to reach the Sweet 16. Meanwhile, Syracuse was a bubble team for most of the season and has rode the hot hand of Buddy Boeheim, who has scored 25+ points in six of his last nine games.

Speaking of upset stories, the under-seeded Ramblers of Loyola Chicago have won eight in a row after knocking off top-seeded Illinois while holding Ayo Dosunmu to a season-low nine points. Stout defense has been their calling card, as the Ramblers have allowed just one opponent to score over 60 points in their last 20 games. Houston is the only team in the region that's been able to live up to their seed, and it needed a 14-2 run over the final five minutes to sneak by Rutgers.

Tip-off: Saturday, March 27

No. 8 Loyola-Chicago vs.  No. 12 Oregon State

Key Matchup: Cameron Krutwig vs. Roman Silva. I mentioned Krutwig as being my player to watch in the initial Midwest Region preview, and the big man hasn't disappointed, providing 14.5 points on an efficient 13-of-24 shooting with 8.5 rebounds over the opening weekend. Kofi Cockburn wasn't able to put up much resistance, as Krutwig picked up his sixth double-double of the season with a massive 38 percent usage rate. He'll get another tall test in the 7-1 Silva, although Oregon State has yet to face off against a true big in the NCAA Tournament thus far.

Loyola Chicago will Win IF: It can hold its own on the glass. Loyola has won the rebounding battle in all five of its postseason games thus far, and while Krutwig has played the largest role in that area, Tate Hall and Marquise Kennedy have been key contributors off the bench. It won't be an easy task against the Beavers, who outrebounded Oklahoma State by a 52-32 margin in their Round of 32 victory. In addition to Silva's size advantage, Warith Alatishe has been one of the best rebounders in the country with 14 double-digit rebounding games this season.

Oregon State will Win IF: It is effective when driving to the basket and able to get to the free throw line often. Loyola Chicago doesn't commit many fouls (just 12.8 over their five tournament games), and the Beavers are a 77 percent free-throw shooting team coming off a game in which they made 32 attempts from the charity stripe. It's an area they're reliant on, as they aren't a particularly efficient shooting team, and things won't be easy offensively against Loyola's top-ranked defense.

Player to Watch: Jared Lucas, G, Oregon St. Although Lucas often takes a backseat to Ethan Thompson, he's been the most consistent and reliable option for the Beavers this season. Lucas has reached double figures in nine consecutive games and is averaging 14.2 points and 4.2 rebounds since the start of the Pac-12 tournament, while connecting on 16-of-41 (39 percent) of his three-point attempts. He'll have his hands full against a Loyola squad that has only given up seven total threes in the NCAA Tournament, however.

Prediction: Oregon State has defied the odds this season to go from being projected to finish last in the Pac-12 all the way to the Sweet 16, but their dream season ends here. We all know how good Loyola's defense is, but its offense doesn't get enough attention. Braden Norris, Lucas Williamson and Keith Clemons are all lights-out shooters from deep, and that gives Krutwig the room to work 1-on-1 in the post. Oregon State doesn't have enough firepower offensively and is unlikely to reach the 60s.

 No. 2 Houston vs.  No. 11 Syracuse

Key Matchup: DeJon Jarreau vs. Joe Girard. Jarreau suffered a hip pointer that limited him to one minute in Houston's opening-round victory over Cleveland State, before battling through it with 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting in a comeback win over Rutgers. Jarreau was in obvious pain during the game and will likely be at less than full strength against Syracuse. He'll face off against fellow point guard Girard, who has contributed six rebounds and seven assists in both tournament games thus far along with seven total three-pointers.

Houston will Win IF: It isn't bothered by Syracuse's length and 2-3 zone. Two teams that have given Houston problems recently are Rutgers and Memphis, which both feature lengthy lineups. The zone forces teams to shoot the three ball well in order to score consistently, and the Cougars average nine made threes since the start of the AAC Tournament, with Quentin Grimes and Marcus Sasser each making over 2.5 per game.

Syracuse will win IF: Its able to get someone to step up alongside Buddy Boeheim. Boeheim has been phenomenal thus far with 55 points in two games, connecting on 57 percent of his long-range attempts. Alan Griffin has typically been the second option, but his struggles defensively have decreased his minutes significantly, with Robert Braswell taking his place and being used in a minimal role on offense.

Player to Watch: Quentin Grimes, G/F, Houston. With Jarreau dealing with his injury, Grimes has upped his production, leading Houston with averages of 20 points and 6.5 rebounds while connecting on 9-of-17 threes in its two tournament games. The Orange will have to be careful about letting him find his spot in the zone, as he can clearly take advantage of it. He's also been a key contributor on the defensive end with an average of two steals over his last four games.

Prediction: Houston has found itself in difficult spots recently, coming back twice late against Memphis and again against Rutgers when trailing by nine with less than five minutes to play Sunday. The Cougars aren't reliant on a certain player to carry them and their experience has come in handy in close games. Syracuse has had a nice run, but against worse competition, and it isn't as good as the Cougars on either side of the ball. I see no reason to avert from my pick last week of Houston over Syracuse.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ryan Pohle
Ryan Pohle breaks down golf bets and covers college basketball for RotoWire.
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