The top seed in the Midwest is a surging Kansas team, and Auburn is the No. 2 seed. That is a very good pairing even though the Tigers slowed down in the second half of the season.
Beyond those two programs, the region is light on teams that you could see winning it all. Wisconsin, Providence and Iowa are not teams that the markets are believing in much, and a team like LSU looks like it is dead in the water after losing its coach on the “eve” of the tournament.
This region looks like it is really well set up for the top seeds to advance.
Here is a quick look at the games that have nice values in the first round.
Midwest Region Best Bets
#5 Iowa Hawkeyes vs. #12 Richmond Spiders
The Spiders did a great job winning the games they needed to win to get the automatic bid in the A10. Unfortunately, that is not going to prepare them well to face an Iowa team that is riding high after winning the Big 10 Tournament. The Hawkeyes are awesome on offense, and the Spiders are not even in the top 100 nationally in defensive efficiency. Iowa has just two losses in February and March and should have no trouble getting its offense going in this one. Once that happens the Spider will be lucky if they can keep it respectable. Their best out-of-conference win this season was against Toledo. That might say it all.
#3 Wisconsin Badgers vs. #14 Colgate Raiders
This is another game where the Big Ten should have an easy time of it in the first round. Wisconsin lost its last game of the regular season against Nebraska, costing the Badgers an outright Big Ten title. It might have leaked into their performance against Michigan State in the league tournament too (another loss). If you think Greg Gard is a good coach then he should be able to get the Badgers back on track against Colgate. The Raiders dominated the Patriot League but, other than a surprising win against Syracuse, struggled against high-level competition, including losses to the likes of Pitt, St. John’s and NC State, none of which are in the NCAAs. Wisconsin does not need to play its best game to get this win and cover, but I think the Badgers will be motivated. Johnny Davis might be the best guard in the country, and that alone might be enough.
#6 LSU Tigers vs. #11 Iowa State Cyclones
This is not just an emotional play about LSU losing its coach at this stage of the season. You could also play it the other way and say that Iowa State was lucky to get invited to the Big Dance and thus is prime for a one-and-done kind of performance. This one quite simply comes down to defense. LSU finished the season fifth nationally in defensive efficiency, and the Cyclones were 10th. In a game where every possession is going to be a fight, you want to grab the points, especially when you are getting more than a possession like you are in this one. Both of these teams are capable of getting opponents off their games. Look for that to happen in favor of the Cyclones. They can cover, upset and advance.