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NCAA Tournament: Bracket breakdown — Midwest Regional

BY MIKE BALDWIN, Staff Writer, mbaldwin@opubco.com Published: March 17, 2013

Here is our evaluation of the Midwest Regional of the men's NCAA Tournament:

MIDWEST ANALYSIS

The Midwest might be the toughest regional. Louisville is the No. 1 overall seed, but Rick Pitino's squad is in a region with two of college basketball's coaching legends — Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo. The Cardinals, riding a 10-game winning streak, are on a roll and are the team to beat. Louisville junior guard Russ Smith (18.1 ppg) is the top weapon, but the Cardinals win with defense. The Blue Demons are capable of giving Krzyzewski his 12th Final Four appearance and maybe his fifth national title, but they must navigate through a challenging bracket just to get to the Final Four. Michigan State is gritty but has fallen just short in several big games. To reach a Final Four, the Spartans can't have a slip up.

UPSET SPECIAL

Middle Tennessee over Memphis: The Tigers are athletic, but the Blue Raiders are capable of advancing if they first dispose of St. Mary's in a first-round game in Dayton. Some feared Middle Tennessee might not get in after going 19-1 in league play but was upset in its conference tournament. The Blue Raiders, thankful they're not NIT bound, take advantage with a couple of wins before running into Michigan State.

FIRST-ROUND MATCHUPS

(play-in games)

No. 16 seeds: North Carolina A&T vs. Liberty: A&T finished sixth in the MEAC but got hot in the postseason tournament. Liberty junior G Davon Marshall is a 3-point sharpshooter.

No. 11 seeds: Middle Tennessee vs. St. Mary's: The Blue Raiders had a 17-game winning streak end in their post-season tournament. Gaels once again are among nation's top scoring teams.

SECOND-ROUND MATCHUPS

1 Louisville vs. 16 A&T-Liberty winner: The Cardinals face some potentially difficult matchups down the road but should coast against the North Carolina A&T-Liberty winner.

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