Here is our evaluation of the Midwest Regional of the men's NCAA Tournament:
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.
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.
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.
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.
8 Colorado St. vs. 9 Missouri: C Colton Iverson and the Rams lead the nation in rebounding margin. The Tigers have six players in double figures but aren't as talented as last season.
5 Oklahoma St. vs. 12 Oregon: The Cowboys got a tough draw against the Ducks, a team many feel was under-seeded. Intriguing matchup is Marcus Smart vs. two freshman Oregon guards.
4 Saint Louis vs. 13 New Mexico St.: The Billikens, the top team in the Atlantic 10, went 3-0 vs. Butler and are deserving of a high seed. The Aggies are 18-2 since the calendar flipped.
3 Michigan St. vs. 14 Valparaiso: The Spartans have been in the top 10 much of the season. The Crusaders aren't as potent as when their coach Bryce Drew played in OKC.
6 Memphis vs. 11 Middle Tennessee-St. Mary's winner: The athletic Tigers will be tested whether it's Middle Tennessee or St. Mary's, both capable of posting an upset.
7 Creighton vs. 10 Cincinnati: Doug McDermott leads the nation in scoring (23.1 ppg), but Bluejays must play some defense. The Bearcats were 4-7 late but have some big wins.
2 Duke vs. 15 Albany: The Blue Devils finally lost with Ryan Kelly in the lineup but should coast against Albany, not near the threat as conference rival Vermont was in 2005.